Snuggling in at Autumn

My partner of these past three decades loves having a real fire in the home. While we lived in England we had to make do with one of those gas fires with  fake coals to mimic a real fire. But it wasn’t the same. To live in a house without a real fire is akin to exile for Tony.

This is partly because fire was his first friend. Born the second of a pair of premature twins in 1950, before incubators and hospital births were standard practice in Ireland, his farmer’s-daughter granny  took charge and improvised.  She built up the turf fire, nailed a thermometer to the wall, pushed the twins’ cots close to the hearth, tented them to protect them from drafts and then proceeded to keep them there for the first three months of their life.

She maintained a steady 70 degree temperature in the room, tossing sods of turf on the fire and raking out the ash like an ancient temple goddess.  The ‘Miracle Twins of Milford’ put on weight and survived. Tony started out in this world weighing no more than a bag of sugar, but grew over six feet tall with one of those fast-acting metabolisms that require a lot of feeding; he’s one of those enviable humans who can eat their weight in cake and not put on an ounce. Continue reading

A REALLY Old-Fashioned Weekend

Norm and I are “Living Historians,” which means that we demonstrate life in the past.  Our time period of choice is the 1870s.  This means that when we are demonstrating our skills, we are dressed in clothing of the 1870s and use tools that were used back then.

When we go away for a weekend or longer for special events or educational events, we live in that time period, for the most part.

We recently returned from Pepin, Wisconsin, which is the birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Now Laura, as many people know, was the author of the “Little House” books, a story of her life and her family as she grew up in Wisconsin, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota.  She was born in 1867 and lived until she was almost 90, dying in 1957.  Her books have served as research material for me in my learning my character and learning about my chosen time period.  If she mentioned it, it happened.  If she didn’t mention it, more research was needed to see if what I wanted to do was “period correct.” Continue reading

A Place in the Country (Part I)

When considering a major life change, it’s best to take some time to review options, consider consequences, and make plans. At least, that’s what I hear from assorted life change gurus.

But if my husband and I had listened to them, we would never have moved to the country, bought a former Amish farmhouse, and taken the immersion course in country life. And we would’ve missed an experience that’s enriching us every day.

We started out sensibly back in 2007, looking at hundreds of houses online. We knew we wanted something near our family business. And we wanted an older home, with a big kitchen. And, of course, being a semi-city girl, I had to have the mod cons (modern conveniences), especially air conditioning.

And then, in February 2008, we walked into this 14-year old Amish farmhouse just outside Ashland, Ohio. It had been converted, so it had electricity and water, but that was about it. There was a wood cook stove the size of a Volkswagen burning merrily away as we walked into the kitchen. The entire first floor of the house was hardwood, gorgeously shiny. There was a small wood burner in the living room too, and the whole place was so toasty warm! The kitchen was the size of a two car garage—almost. I remember looking at my husband as we walked in the door and saying, “This’ll do just fine.” He looked at me like I was insane, and said, “Do you think you might want to look at the rest of the house too?” Continue reading

Our Mistake, Your Gain.

Economical Cast Iron Food Mill

Economical Cast Iron Food Mill

Our mistake is your gain. You’ll notice that the prices of our Economical Food Mill, Stainless Steel Stock Pot and Stainless Steel Funnel have been deeply cut. It turns out these products are not up to our standards of quality, but they are still serviceable. Now they’re available in limited quantities, at bargain prices.

Economical Stainless Steel Stock Pot/Pint Canner

Economical Stainless Steel Stock Pot/Pint Canner

These items remind us that it’s important to carefully test and evaluate the products that we offer to make sure they measure up. We know you depend on Lehman’s to offer products that are high-quality, functional and useful. Although functional and useful, the mill, stock pot and funnel show workmanship issues that should have been caught.

The Food Mill has a short table clearance, so you’ll need to put a standard 9”x13” pan under it when processing foods. While its workmanship is rough, it will work on small or occasional food processing jobs.

Stainless Steel Funnel

Stainless Steel Funnel

The Stainless Steel Stock Potis ideal for making up to 21 quarts of stew, soup or chili; boiling lots of water for cooking seafood or corn-on-the-cob; and cooking big batches of foods for later canning or freezing.  It may also be used as a water bath canner to process pint jars or smaller ONLY. It does NOT allow for proper water coverage to process quart jars, so we do not recommend using it for processing quart size or larger jars.

The Stainless Steel Funnel is ideal for a variety of household jobs, but you may find that the fit is a bit tight for small-mouth jars and a bit loose in wide-mouth jars.

Mouthwatering Pear Preserves

Mmmm. Wow. Oh my goodness. I can’t pull myself away from these things!

Just one more bite- Wow. These pear preserves are like warm bits of sweet heaven melting in my mouth. Somebody pry this jar away from me- please. Okay, I’m good. No really, I can do this.

I’ve never really considered myself a pear loving kinda girl. But when my mother-in-law let me have full reign of her old pear tree, I didn’t waste the opportunity to gather as many as I could.

I wasn’t sure what I’d do with the pears, other than can them halved. But I knew I wanted to experiment. Boy, I had no idea what I was getting into when I gave this recipe a try. I think I’ll plant a pear orchard, just to have these pear preserves stocked for the rest of my life.

Mouthwatering Pear Preserves
Pears (still green; preferably Kieffers)
Sugar- lots of it

As for quantities, it doesn’t matter how many pears you have for this recipe, just add 2 cups of sugar for every 2 quarts of pears (approx. 14 small/med. pears). Though in my opinion, if you don’t have at least 6 quarts of pears, it’s probably not worth the trouble to can them, you won’t get more than three pints of preserves.

First thing you do, as always, is wash the fruit. Continue reading

Country Living Harmony

Autumn Equinox has a special meaning for me this year as it is the tenth anniversary of my own switch to Country Living.

My partner and I had spent all our adult lives living in cities. Tony went to college in Belfast, Northern Ireland, then Manchester in England. I went to university in Washington, DC and we met in London, England. We bought our first property in Leeds, West Yorkshire.

In 2000 we made the decision to move to Ireland. Part of our reasoning was to be more proximal to at least one of our families. But we were also eager to downshift and felt we had had our fill of city living. We can cope with quiet.

It took us around fifteen months to untangle ourselves from the life we made for nearly twenty years in West Yorkshire. It meant winding down and selling a business. It meant taking courses in consideration of career shifts. But mostly, it meant turning deaf ears to our friends (and family) who thought we were barking mad to leave our secure mid-life groove for the completely chancy move to a new country. Continue reading

The Season for Sauerkraut (and all its cousins)

Our family has tinkered with making sauerkraut for about a decade now but this season we have become fermentation fanatics. After attending a couple seminars and reading more from marvelous books from Lehman’s (Making Sauerkraut and Pickled Vegetables, Nourishing Traditions, and Wild Fermentation) we are understanding more of the health benefits and the culinary pleasures of lacto-fermenting foods. So our fridge and root cellar are starting to burst with sauerkraut and all its cousins – kim-chi, dill pickles, peach chutney, salsa, dilly beans, corn relish, garlic scapes and more. All of it is still raw and full of amazing enzymes, beneficial bacteria and fresh-from-the-garden goodness to keep us going through the winter months. Continue reading

Saving Summer: A few more canning queries

Beginner's Home Canning Kit

Beginner’s Home Canning Kit

As the summer days draw to a close, I’m still receiving many food preservation questions.  With the frequent rains that we’ve had in Northeast Ohio the gardens are still producing quality products.  I thought you might find some of the following questions helpful to you.  The resource information is from National Presto Industries and Ball Blue Book , Guide to Preserving.

  • I have a pressure canner.  Can I use it as a boiling water canner instead of buying one?  Yes, as long as you can have 1-2 inches of water over the top of your jars and room for it to boil you can use it.  Presto recommends removing the overpressure plug and the pressure regulator so that steam can escape when you place the lid on.
  • *What causes pickles not to be crisp?  There could be several reasons, see if any of these might help:
    • Cucumbers deteriorate quickly, for best results process within 24 hours of picking
    • Use a cucumber variety that is recommended for pickling
    • Use a cucumber that is prime quality, not overripe and be sure to remove the blossom end. Continue reading
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I Heart My NutriMill!

Can I just say how in love I am with my NutriMill? Seriously!

Before I got my hands on this beauty, I was working hard hand grinding our wheat. Every day I would stand at my kitchen counter and grind… and grind… and GRIND. It took a while. It’s definitely nice to have a hand grinder in case of power outages, and I love the one I have… but for everyday use it’s quite a workout to grind those 4-5 cups of flour needed to make one loaf of bread!

Call me a sissy, but I just couldn’t keep it up. We were seriously lacking in the baked goods department.

Something had to give. I needed more power! So I hopped online and read every review I could find on electric wheat grinders. They are definitely an investment, so you have to know that it’s gonna be worth it. After I’d compared all of the options out there, the NutriMill came out on top every time. I had to have her. Continue reading

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Making Elderberry Tinctures

This started out as a difficult post to write for some reason. I want to communicate what I am thinking about self-sufficiency, but know I am a long way away myself. This is to encourage us all in doing anything we can to be more homegrown in our outlook.

As a society we have gone outside the home for most of what we need and want in our lives. Food, music, health care, clothing. It’s all acquired from outside of our family and our community. So what happens when we jam on the dulcimer in the evening, sew some of our own clothes,  and make our own medicine? On so many levels, it awakens us.  Sure, most of our clothing comes from the thrift store, but we also use iTouch/iPhone technology. To mix homemade and homegrown into as much of our lives as possible – even in the littlest things – can change so much. Continue reading