Cherries Galore!

We have a dwarf sour cherry that my parents planted when I was young (my children are the 5th generation to live in our home). I remember my mom picking and pitting cherries, the delicious things she’d make and the containers of frozen cherries saved for the winter. Now it’s my turn. I have a great respect for those who hand pit cherries and the hours of labor it takes to complete the task. I was gifted (probably at a birthday) a cherry pitter that definitely saves time and me from juice stained fingernails. Don’t get me wrong though, it still takes a good amount of time to pit 9 cups of cherries which is what went into the freezer the other day.

Our cherries started ripening in early June, a few here and there each day. The boys grabbed for the ones they could reach even though most weren’t quite ripe and were glad to say “they helped”. I excitedly checked every day and picked as many as I could reach. There are some years when the cherries aren’t worth picking. Sometimes they are infested with worms and other times the birds wait until I’m not watching and devour the whole lot of them. I don’t use chemicals on the food that I grow myself so it’s hit of miss what we get. Thankfully this year they all must be well fed elsewhere!

The first week of picking I eagerly pulled out my little pitter machine thingy(like my technical terms!?!) and happily prepared enough for cobbler which was requested by my boys. After the 3rd time in the same week and 4 cups each time, the novelty had worn off a bit. So now here I am in the 3rd week of cherry picking, the boys are no longer eager to help(there’s now blueberries and the few raspberries which are much sweeter to eat right off the plant!) and I just can’t let free food in my yard go to the birds. Unless it’s my chickens of course(wink). Besides the 3 cobblers, I’ve made a delicious sour cherry jam with honey as the sweetener(I use Pomona’s Universal Pectin) and froze around 12 cups of cherries so far.

So out I went to pick this morning. I see the end in site as the fruit is getting sparse and the birds are now having more interest in the overly ripe ones that I can’t always reach(even on a ladder I can’t quite get the top branches). So what to make? I’ll probably take a vote from the boys. Will it be pie, cobbler or into the freezer? We shall see!

I really do enjoy the harvest of everything in my yard. Growing our own food for the table, canner or freezer is such a rewarding experience! Blueberries and raspberries will be next to pick, at least I don’t have to pit those!

 

 

Soap isn’t Scary

I wanted to make soap for years before I actually attempted it. Soaping (as the makers of soap refer to the process of making soap) seemed daunting and mysterious because of the science behind it. My hesitation was made worse by a well meaning woman at the farmer’s market. I admired her soap each time I went(my first born at the time and it was an easier venture to do once or twice a month) and purchased from her several times. During one of our conversations, my interest in making my own soap was brought up. She smiled while glancing at my stroller and then told me that I should never attempt soaping around one so young. Lye is too dangerous and the misfortunes that could happen too severe.  That right there scared me from making soap.  I had visions of my toddler son being burned or my both of us. I put the notion of making soap myself aside.

Until a few years (and 2 kids later) my interest became too strong and I threw caution to the wind! I was tired of admiring and buying other’s lovely soaps. So what did I do? I realized I had a space that I could make soap and keep the lye safely from the kids and the kids safe from it so I went to YouTube and watched a dozen videos on the subject. I carefully chose a video I thought would be fool proof. I watched it several times, I had all the ingredients and safety equipment(I looked like I was prepared for a chemical spill on a far away planet!) and off I went on my soaping journey.

Everything went well and things progressed according to the video. When the mixture was poured into the mold and it was covered I thought “This is so easy! I can’t believe I waited this long to make soap!” I was so proud of my new experience!

The thing about soap is that  you can make it easily within a few hours (If you want the real scoop on making your own soap, check out the tried and true Soap Queen https://www.soapqueen.com/ ), the next day you cut it and then you wait…and wait…and wait, for 6-8 weeks. Waiting is hard so I made a few more batches using different recipes I’d found while I waited for that first one to cure. Good thing I did because that first try was TERRIBLE! I was so disappointed but thankfully that didn’t stop me. The next bars were much better. From there I’ve grown an developed my own recipes after researching oils and using Brambleberry’s Lye calculator https://www.brambleberry.com/pages/lye-calculator.aspx (Lye calculators are super important fyi, I test out even the rare already written recipe to be sure measurements are correct).

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Now about twice a year I make a plan for my (ever changing) recipes and then 7-10 batches of soaps. I use almost all natural and organic ingredients (every once in a while there’s some mica or glitter thrown in for “pizazz”) I finished my 7th batch yesterday and it’s ready to be cut. I may do another 1 or 2 just so I’m well stocked for gifts and my few patrons that enjoy a good natural soap bar.

I learned that soap isn’t scary and if I can do it, then anyone can. Don’t let a horror story(or 6!) deter you from trying to make your own soap or learning a new skill. But let me give you a warning of my own, making soap is addictive, it’s hard to make just one batch!

Welcome!

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Hey world, or the few (I’d be grateful for even a few!) people I expect to actually read this. I’m Nicole or in this case, the Queen of M.I.M., given the honor of this title by my very self. A little presumptuous, right!?!  All the other cool blog names were taken. I’m not a writer by any means so forgive the grammar fouls that may occur (please and thank you). This is purely for fun and maybe to inspire.

The main reason for this blog is to document my crazy constant craftiness (say that 5 times fast, I did and it was hard!), humble homestead and possibly a few quirky stories of life as a mom of boys. Oh yeah, did I mention I do all this AND have 4 boys? There’s a set of twins thrown in the middle which is a whole other adventure.  It may make the posts to come a little more… what’s the word…remarkable, that I’m able to accomplish all that I do and raise 4 energetic boys alongside my amazing hubby.  People swear that I must not sleep but I do! At least 8 hours, more if my boys gift me a morning in bed after 7 am(a rarity!).

We live on an acre homestead. I call it a homestead because I try to utilize as much of the space, as my loving hubby allows, to be self sufficient. My modest standard garden has recently been expanded for the many vine plants I have planned for this year, fruit trees and bushes are planted throughout the yard. I have chickens which we raise mostly for eggs but have at times raised for meat. That’s as far as our livestock goes…so far(wink). I’m always trying to convince my dearest that I could easily raise an angora goat, angora rabbit or small breed of sheep on our property. Having my own fiber to spin right outside my door would be a dream come true! I’m leaning more towards the rabbit(s) because of space and care wise. We’ll see what time brings!

So what are my crafty projects now??? For knitting: a baby blanket, shawl, pair of socks (I always knit two at a time to prevent “second sock syndrome”) and I believe there is a scrap-yarn-floor blanket somewhere hiding amidst my fiber.

That’s just the knitting!

Other projects that I’m working on… a large cross stitch started the year my twins were born(I’m determined to finish it THIS year), teaching myself to felt all the things, there’s always spinning to be done with the piles of fluff taking over my window seat, a small quilt(and many others planned), skirts I’m dreaming of sewing, gifts in the making (I can’t say what, it might ruin the surprise!), soap (or soaping as it’s referred to in the soap world), drawing, painting and a few more that I’ve forgotten or stuffed somewhere unseen.

My projects are constantly rotating and Pinterest is my great friend so I hope to have much to share with you soon!