Life’s a Bowl of Cherries!

Canning supplies are available from Lehmans.com or at Lehman's Kidron retail store.

Canning supplies are available from Lehmans.com or at Lehman’s Kidron retail store.

When people find out that I believe in preparing for an uncertain future they assume that I have a bunker full of # 10 cans and MRE’s. I’m sorry to disappoint but nothing could be further from the truth. What I actually have is an ordinary farmhouse basement and it probably looks a lot more like your grandmother’s basement used to than it does a bunker. Continue reading

Meatless Monday: Quick Asian Supper

You need to have these items in your stores cupboard for this emergency supper:

Amish Egg Noodles are available at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Plain Chinese egg noodles
(1-2 blocks per person, the type that only need boiling for a couple minutes)
-or-
fine egg noodles
2 tablespoons miso paste
2 tablespoons tahini
2-3 segments edible dried seaweed, chopped/snipped into small pieces
Bottled soy sauce

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Please Welcome…Kathy Harrison!

Photo courtesy of Kathy Harrison, used by permission. See more about Kathy Harrison at http://en.gravatar.com/justincasebook

Applause all around! Kathy Harrison, noted expert on sustainable living prepardness and author is joining the ranks of Lehman’s bloggers. We’re so pleased to have her expertise.

Author of A Place at the Table, and One Small Boat, both discussing her experiences in foster parenting; and Just In Case: How To Be Self-Sufficient When The Unexpected Happens, Harrison is also known for her appearance earlier this year on National Geographic’s “Doomsday Preppers” show, where her peaceful, community-centered approach to self-sufficency put her in stark contrast to many of the other folks profiled in the series. Continue reading

Nature’s Garden: Edibles in the Woods and Fields

The woods path near our homestead.

I went walking our land yesterday, looking for wild edibles. I always like to bring a set of wild plant identification cards with me, so I can flip through the photos of different edible plants and familiarize myself with them as I’m trying to find matching foliage along the forest floor. Continue reading

Five Fabulous Campfire Treats

Why does everything seems to taste so much better when cooked over a campfire? Maybe it’s that smoky, slow-cooked flavor, or maybe it’s just the fresh air. Whatever the reason, campfire cooking is an enjoyable summertime tradition that’s well worth preserving.

While there are some great recipes out there for campfire gourmets, I’m all about keeping it simple when we cook out. Here are five of our family’s favorite, no-fuss, campfire treats. (Obviously most of these aren’t exactly health foods—that’s why they’re only occasional indulgences!)

1. S’mores
The classic campfire choice, s’mores are traditionally made by sandwiching a roasted marshmallow and a piece of chocolate between two graham cracker halves. My ever-resourceful husband attempts to improve on this classic treat by adding peanut butter or Nutella, or by substituting cookies for the graham crackers.

Available at Lehmans.com or at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

2. Biscuits
A new family favorite is biscuit dough, wrapped around the end of a thick, well-oiled dowel rod or stick, and cooked over the fire. Spiral the dough around the end of the stick, then smooth it out, pressing firmly (see photo at right). When cooked, it will slide off easily. The Lehman’s biscuit roaster makes cooking biscuits even easier. Whatever your method, fill the finished product with butter, jam, pie filling, peanut butter, chocolate, or marshmallows—or whatever else sounds good to you.

Available at Lehmans.com or at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

3. Fruit pies
Fruit pies are simple to make with a pie iron. Butter two slices of bread and place them in the pie iron, buttered side out. Add canned pie filling (homemade, if you have it!), close the iron tightly and set in hot coals until outsides of the bread are crisp and brown, turning occasionally. You may want to try filling the pie with peanut butter and jelly, cheese or pizza ingredients instead.

4. Popcorn
Another perennial favorite, popcorn is as easy to make over the campfire as it is at home and makes a delicious and healthful snack. Add a little oil and your favorite kind of popcorn to a long-handled popcorn popper, hold it over the fire and shake.

Available at Lehmans.com or at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Or make your own hobo-style popper by folding a large piece of foil into a pouch to hold the popcorn and oil (leave plenty of room for the popcorn to expand). Tie to a stick and dangle over the fire, shaking frequently.

5. Banana boats
Slit a banana lengthwise (leave the peel on). Stuff with chocolate chips and mini marshmallows. Close it up again and wrap in foil. Cook over the fire until chocolate and marshmallows melt and banana is soft. Scoop out with a spoon and enjoy!

Lisa Amstutz is a freelance writer and editor. She lives on a six-acre hobby farm with her husband, four children and small menagerie of farm animals. Lisa is co-author of Local Choices and author of seven nonfiction picture books.

Small Scale Wheat: Seed to Bread

Available at Lehman’s.com and Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

As a young farmer who grew up in a city, I get the opportunity to discover agriculture anew, to figure out systems, new to me, that humans have been using for thousands of years.  This year’s experiment is small-scale grain production.

I finished my wheat harvest in the first week of July, and it was exciting, surprising, and a lot of work, both mentally and physically, to figure out how to get flour from a grass. There are many steps to this process that I had not experienced prior to this adventure.  The first was using a scythe.  What a dance!

Available at Lehman’s.com and Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Keeping the tool sharp and close to the ground, sweeping the blade across the wheat with a rock of my hips, it was a challenge to make the cut straw fall with the heads of wheat all pointed in the same direction.  Despite my inexperience, I was able to cut my 20×20 foot patch in a matter of minutes, gather it into bundles, and transport to my porch, where it sat and dried, waiting for the next step.

Threshing was the big challenge.  I know that people who grow wheat on a larger scale would want to have a threshing floor, where they can beat the wheat and let the berries fly out of the hulls, to be swept up later.

Available at Lehman’s.com and Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

I don’t have a threshing floor, though, so I decided that I would rather trample my wheat in tubs, where I wouldn’t have to worry about the berries going every which way.  I was able to gather a group of eager adventurers to help me pop the heads off of all the wheat, throw them into tubs, and then to stomp barefoot on top of them.  The berries popped out of their hulls, some more eagerly than others, and after aggressive stomping for about five minutes we were ready to winnow a tub. Winnowing is one of the most romantic images I can think of—I imagine women in India or Ethiopia tossing baskets of wheat up into the wind, letting the chaff fly away while the berries fall back into the basket.  It’s a process that requires patience and skill.

I’ll admit it:  I used a fan.  Less patience and less skill are necessary.  I took the threshed tub of wheat and slowly poured it into a bowl, letting the stream of wheat and chaff pass through my electric-powered wind.  It is amazing and magical that it actually does work!  There was a great pile of chaff on my porch, and wheat berries in my bowl.  I poured and re-poured in front of the fan, scooping out the heads that had not shed all their berries, setting them aside for another threshing.  Once I had no more chaff flying out of my wheat berry stream, I poured the grain into my jar. I ended up with something like 2 gallons of wheat berries, maybe 14 pounds.

Available at Lehman’s.com and Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

I honestly don’t know how much wheat I should have been able to produce from my plot, but I do know that it is a satisfying feeling to plunge my hands into a gallon jar of wheat, knowing that I planted it, harvested it, threshed and winnowed it, and that I am now going to grind it (with a Lehman’s grain mill of course!) and turn it into food for myself, my friends, and my neighbors.  And now that I know the hours of work that went into my small harvest of wheat, I can truly appreciate the hard work of the people through the ages who have relied on grain crops for their sustenance—and as my neighbor rolls down the hill in his combine full of wheat, I can be grateful that so many good people are in the business of feeding people.

Bacon Makes Five Down-Home Foods Even Better

Fads come and go, but there are always mainstays that pop up to the top of the cultural charts every so often. Right now, bacon seems to be hot. Here in the country, we’ve always known that bacon’s a great treat.

One should have some standards, though. After all, who wants commercial bacon, filled with artifical smoke flavors, oversalted and made by machine? You want real bacon, made by real butchers.

My bacon comes from Marshallville Packing Company, which is about 20 minutes east of Lehman’s Kidron, Ohio store. Jim Tucker, the third generation partner in MPC, was gracious enough to give me an overview of how bacon is made here in Amish Country, Ohio.

“Once the pork comes here to the shop from our slaughter facility in Orrville, we tumble the bellies in salt, brown sugar cure and a little bit of liquid smoke for about 8 hours. Then we smoke them back in our smokehouse for 7 to 8 hours. The bellies are cooled, so we can slice them, and they go into stock, or out onto the cooler on the floor.” The Marshallville bacons are smoked over a mix of local hickory woods. In less than 24 hours, the bacon’s ready to sell. This freshness and careful handling is a hallmark of Amish country butchers.

“A couple of months ago, we couldn’t keep bacon in stock, we couldn’t make it fast enough. It went as soon as we stocked the coolers,” Jim said. “It was crazy.” He noted that Marshallville’s butchers are one of the few to make beef as well as pork bacon. “That gives folks a choice, if they can’t have pork.” Choose from regular cut, thick cut. I’ve found a great pepper bacon there too, but it goes fast.

Five Down-Home Dishes That Bacon Makes Better

Available at Lehmans.com or at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

1. Scratch-Made Macaroni and Cheese. Crumble crisp bacon on top before serving.
For a great white sauce recipe that’s spectacular with a cup of shredded cheese stirred in, see page 602 in The Encyclopedia of Country Living. Yes, you can stir the bacon in too, but don’t wait around. It’s the crispy texture that sets the dish off.

2. Real Bacon BLTs: you haven’t had a BLT if you’ve never had one with bacon made by hand, like at Marshallville. Use homemade Amish Country bread, plop some homemade mayo on, top with garden-fresh homegrown tomatoes, and taste the difference.

3. Homemade Ice Cream: Garnish homemade vanilla ice cream with homemade fudge sauce and a few bacon crumbles. Maple or butterscotch ice creams have a crazy salty-sweet vibe with a bit of bacon garnish.

White Hulless Popcorn

White Hulless Popcorn

4. Bacon-Tossed Popcorn: Again, a few crumbles of bacon to taste, with black pepper instead of salt. For the adventurous, sprinkle some sugar in.

5. Bacon Dipped in Maple Cream: The ultimate Amish Country indulgence. Sure, bacon dipped in chocolate is all the rage on the coasts, but that’s just because they haven’t discovered the heaven-on-earth taste of fresh handmade bacon paired with our maple cream. Put some out at your next family party. I guarantee you it’ll disappear in a hurry.

Super Easy, Super Tasty Homemade Mayo

Adding rich, homemade mayo to chicken salad.

Years ago when our children were much younger, I decided not to use store-bought mayonnaise anymore. I’d read the labels, and didn’t like what I saw. There are better commercial mayonnaises than others, made with simple ingredients, but most are a combination of bad oils, cheap fillers, and preservatives mixed together to keep forever. Continue reading

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Whip Up Homemade, Gluten-Free Ketchup

Ever since a reader asked about making homemade ketchup, I have wanted to find a minute do it. To really make it from scratch, I would have to grow the tomatoes, cook them down, put them through the sieve, and add all the ingredients. That sounds a lot like growing beet tops for making green smoothies or growing elderberries to make an herbal for cold and flu. There is an easier way! Continue reading