Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Merry Christmas!

In the Kitchen

We had a lovely Christmas with prime rib and figgy pudding.  Joshua suggested that we make figgy pudding because it is a traditional Christmas dessert.  (I also made an apple pie; just in case the figgy pudding didn't turn out).  

The figgy pudding turned out great!  We even steamed it for 3 hours.  If this is to become a regular thing, I will have to get more appropriate hardware...click on the picture above to see the recipe we used.

Not too much else to say right now...here is the Christmas letter that Henry put together for this past year:

We hope that you all have had an enjoyable and productive 2015. This year will be remembered climate-wise as very unusual for us. We had very little snow. Henry was out doing field work the last week of January under temperate conditions. Last time something like this happened was when we were living in Florida. Winter rains tapered off in March. We had rainfall in mid-May and that was essentially the end of all precipitation until the last week of October. Overall, dryland crops struggled in our area. Winter wheat yields were far from their 100 bu/A average.

We had a very hot summer, so the long days, abundant sunshine, and late first killing frost, led to Denise having one of the best gardens since we moved here. Along those lines, this year Denise has been doing a lot of research as to what it might take to start a small farm so that Mark will have a job when he graduates from high school. She met a gentleman that provided her space to grow sunflowers. She would take these as cut flowers, along with jams and herbs that she prepared to our Farmer’s Market, Saturdays in July and August. It was very successful for her and she plans to increase her offerings each year. Her goal is for Mark to sell pastured eggs. They might also like to have u-pick raspberries/blueberries, Christmas trees and pumpkins on Mark’s farm, otherwise known as, reMARKable farms.

This summer, the boys transitioned into new schools. Joshua started middle and Mark high school. We had some concerns about Joshua as each year of grade school he would say things are getting too hard. To our surprise he is doing well and really seems to be enjoying 6th grade. One thing that really helps is that he is able to get most of his homework done in his study hall. He has joined the Speak Out club which is appropriate as he is never short on words. He showed his Guinea pig at our county fair and won Grand Champion! He has continued participation in Special Olympics Bowling and Swimming. Mark started 9th grade and has surpassed Henry in height. He finally discovered ice cream, thus we can’t keep enough on hand. Denise continues to make progress working with him before school on using his iPad to communicate http://remarkablecommunication.blogspot.com/ With it being such a hot summer, Mark took full advantage of our city pool, as well as the rest of us. Mark, as well as Joshua, has continued therapeutic horseback riding.

Grandmom Linda was out to visit for Mark and Joshua’s birthdays and to celebrate her birthday with Denise as they share the same day (September 14th). Denise and the boys made their annual end of the school year visit to Kansas. The boys had a great time visiting all of their cousins. Denise and Henry got to see Shania Twain on tour in Spokane, WA on September 12th. Denise completed her first year as the Executive Director for Families Together and had several successful events. She continues to work as a Support Broker to write Medicaid plans to help obtain services to assist individuals with disabilities.  She started knitting this fall and has made us all winter hats.

Wishing everyone a Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Henry, Denise, Mark and Joshua Wetzel

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sourdough bread

Sourdough Bread

I was reading more about fermenting foods and the sourdough bread was listed.  I started to do a little bit more reading and it was said that the probiotics that help with the fermenting eat some of the gluten and that "some" people can eat breads made using sourdough because the gluten level has been decreased.  I tried spelt wheat a couple of months ago because I had heard that the gluten levels were lower in that but it still did not agree with me.  I like the idea of eating more fermented foods so I am going to try this. 

 These probiotic microorganisms:

1. Digest and assimilate (properly absorb) the foods you eat. Without adequate beneficial microflora in your gut, you can’t absorb nutrients in the foods you are eating.

2. Are necessary in order to maintain a healthy intestinal tract.

3. Contain uniquely balanced proteins, fatty acids, cellulose, minerals, and innumerable other nutrients our bodies need.

4. Provide vitamins B1 through B6 from lactobacillus and B12 vitamins from wild yeast. Wild yeast multiplies aerobically. This is because they have oxygen in them (not free radical oxygen ions) that feed your blood cells and not cancer cells. Most plant proteins including grains, seeds, cereals, beans, nuts, and some grasses form gluten. However, sourdough microflora has all the amino acids available, without the protein that forms gluten.

5. Depletes damaged starch in bread, thus diabetic people should not get insulin shock. It is a misconception that whole wheat is better than white flour for diabetics (the Glycemic difference is only 1%).

6. Produce acids, which will break down and remove some of the glutens from the bread. Acids do not allow mold and most bad bacterial growth. Alkaline with high pH allows mold growth and toxins. Mold ferments at a higher pH, allowing bad bacterial growth and the secretion of toxins. The absence of acids is abnormal, even animals have acid stomachs to kill bad bacteria.

7. Offset the effects of phytic acid, which robs your body of precious minerals.

According to Wikipedia:

Phytic acid is found within the hulls of nuts, seeds, and grains. In-home food preparation techniques can reduce the phytic acid in all of these foods. Simply cooking the food will reduce the phytic acid to some degree. More effective methods are soaking in an acid medium, lactic acid fermentation, and sprouting.

Phytic acid is a strong chelator of important minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, and can therefore contribute to mineral deficiencies in people whose diets rely on these foods for their mineral intake, such as those in developing countries. It also acts as an acid, chelating the vitamin niacin, which is basic, causing the condition known as pellagra. In this way, it is an anti-nutrient. For people with a particularly low intake of essential minerals, especially young children and those in developing countries, this effect can be undesirable.
“Probiotic lactobacilli, and other species of the endogenous digestive microflora as well, are an important source of the enzyme phytase which catalyses the release of phosphate from phytate and hydrolyses the complexes formed by phytate and metal ions or other cations, rendering them more soluble ultimately improving and facilitating their intestinal absorption

8. Dissolve proteins by producing protein enzymes, thus loosening multiple peptide bonds so that you can absorb more amino acids into your body. They dissolve four gluten-forming proteins: albumin, globulin, prolamin, and glutalin. They also produce alcohol that dissolves the most stubborn water insoluble protein bonds. These bonds are the reason why so many people have gluten intolerance.

9. Inhibit the growth of bad bacteria by: (1) creating a more acidic environment (2) producing anti-bacterial agents, and (3) absorbing all the B vitamins from their surroundings leaving none for the harmful bacteria.

10. Have most everything needed for optimum nutritional absorption. To absorb calcium, you need magnesium. To absorb magnesium, you need vitamin E, C, etc. Most of these are in the sourdough microorganisms, thus providing optimum absorption.

I ordered a FREE sourdough starter from 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Starter.  Click on the picture above to check out their website.  Here goes!  

It's alive!!!

Sunday, December 13, 2015


In the Kitchen/Garden

I have been meaning to start an inventory of items that we have on hand.  I am going to try and get a good idea about how much we eat each year so I have an idea of what and how much to grow.  I made a lot of applesauce in 2014 (because I had access to a free apple tree!) and we are still eating it (although we are almost finished...I think 2 jars left)...  

Obviously, the idea is to figure out how much we would eat and then store that amount.  Because of the applesauce issue, I started putting a reminder on my phone that just says "applesauce" and it repeats monthly and this will remind me to eat it!  It might seem odd that we would have that food and not eat it but I often get caught up in getting dinner on the table and a hundred million other things going on and sometimes forget.  I also made a "pumpkin" reminder to help me to remember to bake pumpkin items this winter.  We had 2 bags of pumpkin left over from last year and I used them right away so nothing has gone to waste.  Mostly the storage would be for the winter and spring months because once fresh veggies/fruits arrive, we go back to eating that most of the time.


Speaking of Inventory...here is a nice short video on Recordkeeping for your garden...

I guess it is time to think about next years garden....look what I got in the mail yesterday...

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Spaghetti sauce...

In the Kitchen

I decided that on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving I would can up my spaghetti sauce.  I had been gathering tomatoes all summer and putting them in the freezer.  I ended up with about 50 pounds of tomatoes...

I ended up canning 12 quarts of spaghetti sauce...looking forward to making some lasagna this next week!

I could tell that when I was right in the middle of all this canning that I was not feeling my usual self. The next day, I woke up with a sore throat.  I was kept going and by Sunday it was pretty much unbearable.  Went to the Quick Care to find out that I had strep throat.  Thank God for antibiotics!  It was cleared up right away!

So, with Thanksgiving and being sick, I did not get too much more accomplished.  I did knit a hat for Joshua (which he wears pretty much continuously!) and a hat for Mark that was too big.  So, Henry took the hat and he just folds the brim up and it works for him.  I will make Mark another hat.


I signed up for the Cultivating Success Beginning Farmer program.  It will begin in January.  Click on the logo for the website...

Course Description

This course has students take a realistic look at their goals and resources, and helps them evaluate what type of small acreage enterprise is right for them. Students are exposed to various types of farming and ranching systems, guest farmers speak to the class, and field trips are taken to local farms. Students complete a whole farm plan.

Course Format and Dates

This course is offered as a series of webinars and regional workshops from January 14 to March 31, 2016.  The series focuses on improving small farmers’ and ranchers’ capacity to evaluate the feasibility of enterprises and assess their resources. It will involve an introductory webinar, three full day workshops and related farm tours**, and an end of course potluck and evening seminar.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

I made a hat!


I don't consider myself a really crafty person.  However, for some reason, I really have an interest in learning to knit or crochet.  I picked up an adjustable loom that can be used for knitting and weaving.  I tried about 4 different projects and was just not having any luck.  Finally, I found a video describing in great detail (which is exactly what I needed) how to make a hat.  So, I got to work and knitted this hat.  It is a little hard to tell but it is VERY small!  Good thing I have a new niece that was just born this past week because it is going straight to her!

So, it's back to the loom to add a couple of pieces into it so I can make a bigger hat.  The hat was supposed to be for me...

Should have watched this before I began...

We got a load of firewood delivered to our driveway.  We will be renting a splitter on Friday and this will be a great way to work off some of that Thanksgiving meal!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Peach Bourbon Jam

In the Kitchen

A short blog post today.  I have a terrible headache that I just cannot shake :(

Yesterday, I made some Peach Bourbon Jam!  Something new that I have not made before.  Smelled really good (and tasted good too!).  I took some of the jam and mixed it with dry onion soup mix this evening and spread on top of pork chops that are cooking in the oven...can't wait for dinner!

Also, made some cookies and froze some of the cookie balls before baking.  Now, I can make fresh baked cookies like everyday for the boys when they get home from school...they sure are spoiled!

Made some red and dandelion wine salt and seasoning packets this week too.  Way ahead of schedule on the Christmas gifts!  Did some weaving on the loom but I think I am going to jump right into some simple knitting...to be continued...

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Canned Cranberry sauce

In the Kitchen

A short blog post this week...super busy almost every single night this past week with parent-teacher conferences and the boys were home from school on Thursday AND Friday.  Things seem to be slowing down a bit now...yeah!

Today I made homemade cranberry sauce and canned 2 half-pints of it.  I am going to send one to my mother-in-law in her Christmas gifts.  This is really the first time I have ever made cranberry sauce.  I can't stand the jelly like stuff that comes in a can so I usually just don't bother but this recipes changes everything.

I like the fact that you can make this ahead of time and "can" it so the big day you just open the jar and done!  It was easy to make and I had a little bit extra so I put it on my panna cotta that I made earlier this week (the panna cotta is a new favorite!!!).

Click on this picture to get the recipe I used for the cranberry sauce...

Also, in the kitchen, I was getting tired of looking at this steamed up window while washing my dishes (I like to look out into the neighborhood)...
So, I read an article about using shaving cream as a de-fogger.  So, I decided to test this and used shaving cream on the bottom window...you spread it on and then wipe it off (I used a bit too much...)
Next time it steamed up...the bottom (shaving cream window) did NOT fog up as much!  I wonder how long this will last?
I also have this problem in my car.  The window fogs up so bad and it takes FOREVER for the defroster to clear it.  So, I put cat litter in an old sock and placed it by the windshield.  I was told it would absorb excess moisture...so far, so good!!!

One finally note...I bought a knitting loom today!  First project will be a stocking hat for me...to be continued...

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Natural cleaner

Around the Homestead

A couple of months ago, I taught Joshua how to clean the bathroom!  Now, it is his duty to do each weekend (I even made a YouTube video of how to clean the bathroom so he could reference it...).

I walked in a couple of weeks ago, to check how he was doing, and I could hardly breath.  He really, really, really likes to spray a lot of cleaner.  It was a bleach cleaner and he had it all over the place and all over him...

So, I was listening to this podcast the other day and they were talking about using vinegar and other natural cleaners.  I have made some "homemade" cleaners in the past but I have never found one that I really liked.  She described one that was super simple...just fill a jar with citrus peels and then fill to the top with vinegar and let sit for a couple of weeks.  Citrus is known to be a great cleaner and it helps to cover up the vinegar smell.  So, I made some this morning and it is stewing...

 Also, this is great because I rarely buy oranges but the boys love them so we will be getting our vitamin C!  We are also working on spraying an area 2 times...

The podcast I was listening to is called Pioneering Today.  I really enjoy the podcast and her blog.  Click on the picture and you will go to the vinegar cleaner recipe.


I picked up this book at the library last week.  

Here is the intro from her website: "IN 1979, MOM AND DAD plunked their ideals and $40,000 down on some of the poorest farmland in one of the poorest counties in New York State. They dreamed of living off that land, of their children living off that land. And from the first night I laid my head down to rest on Sap Bush Hollow Farm as a child, I never wanted anything else. As I grew to adulthood and began a family of my own, I realized that this little farm was more than just a pastoral dream. It was an antidote to industrial food, climate change, harried living and social injustices. But how was one little grassfed livestock farm high in the mountains going to support two families? I looked to my Appalachian neighbors, who had lived well up here for generations, with little to no cash. If they could do it, so could we. We would simply have to learn to make what we couldn’t buy. I would become the radical homemaker."

I would say that the book pretty much reflect this intro....it was a nice read.

In the Garden

I think I will rip out my last tomato plants today.  It looks like we might have gotten between 1 and 2 inches of rain yesterday!  I have gallons of tomatoes in the freezer and when I have a free day, I am going to make sauce from all of it.

In the Kitchen

I finally cut into some pumpkin to make our jack o lanterns yesterday...took all the "scraps" and through them into the crock pot to cook down and make some pumpkin for recipes.  Also, roasted pumpkin seeds this morning.  Joshua asked if I was making fries (it's 8:30 in the morning...).  He just smelled them and they are delicious...

Also, collected my dried herbs and put away...thyme, rosemary, and basil.

Happy Halloween 2015!

Sunday, October 25, 2015


Winter Activities

Since things are always slower for a farmer in the winter, I have decided to resume my "couponing".  Not sure if that is really a verb; anyway, 4 years ago when we first moved to Moscow, I didn't have a job.  I made sure the boys were doing well in their new schools.  Then, I needed something to do to keep me busy.  Couponing was all the rage since the country was in a bit of a repression/depression at the time.  So, I started learning about "how" to coupon.  I was pretty religious about it for about a year, then, I got a couple of part time jobs and got busy.  I still think you can get some great things for free if you are patient.  Also, I was SO busy this past summer with the sunflowers that I rarely had time to get to the store until we were totally out of something.  This is the worst time to buy things because you are pretty much going to have to pay full price.

I have starting to keep an eye to the Sunday circulars and I use the Krazy Coupon Ladies website to find the best deals.  My goal is to try and stock up for the next year.  Then, I can stock up again next fall.  Furthermore, it seems that people are not as coupon crazy as they were a couple years ago.  I got to the Rite Aid last week and was able to buy some moneymakers (where you actually make money on buying an item!).  That was crazy rare back when I began.  The moneymakers would all be sold out right away!

I should clarify that I am talking about couponing mostly for personal care items i.e. deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, lotion, etc...  I am hoping to stock up for a year and then I can concentrate on other activities in the summer when I am busier. 

Here is my best deals for October...spent less than $9.00 on all this over the month...

Maybe in November, I will keep track of how much the items cost and what I paid for them.

In the Garden

I cleaned out one of my 3 beds and planted my garlic.  Place a really thin layer of pine shavings over the top.

Picked a beautiful cauliflower last week.


University of Idaho Homecoming parade yesterday...Joshua rode on the 4-H float!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Enjoying the Indian Summer and getting our 3 Sister's Garden started...

In the Garden

Plans are moving ahead with the 3 Sister's Garden,  We put down a layer of compost.  It is 12 feet by 12 feet big.  Then, we placed cardboard over the compost and small wood chips on top of the cardboard.  

I think the idea is that the cardboard cuts out the light and then the grass will die and the worms will come up to the surface to feed off the rotting grass and then will come up into the garden this way...we will see...

The weather has been incredibly warm here in north Idaho.  I even watered my garden this past week. My kale is making a come back (I had pulled all but 2 plants due to the aphids), the fall lettuce is almost ready to pick and I harvested the most beautiful broccoli last week.  I am still picking tomatoes, zucchini and patty pans.  There are also cauliflower and cabbage growing (and broccoli!).  It looks like it "may" get down to freezing this next weekend...


This past week, I attended a little workshop at the Troy Library about Beekeeping.  This might be a 4-H project for Joshua and I this next year.  Margo at the 12 Mile Market said we could have some space to put a couple of bee hives.  Click on the picture to visit the 12 Mile Market website:

12 Mile Market

So, I am going to be checking out a couple of books from the library this fall about beekeeping.

Here is a pic I got of a bee on my oregano...they LOVE oregano...

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Foraging apples...

In the Kitchen

Last week, Mark and I were out for a walk and saw this...

So, we did!  I took them home and made apple pie jam and apple butter.  Let me know if you are interested in purchasing any.

The apple butter just smelled SO good that I actually put some on a piece of bread and ate it!!!  I seem to have a gluten sensitivity and it has been months since I have tried eating any wheat.  I just could not resist!  It was delicious (and luckily, since I only had one slice, my tummy did not get too 
upset.)  I put some of the apple pie jam on some yogurt with granola.  It was great too!

Decided to try something new and make raspberry vinegar.  I also added some fresh thyme.  It has to sit for 3 weeks and then I can bottle it...probably for Christmas gifts.  Does not look too pretty now but the color is amazing...it will be better once I strain off the fruit/herbs.

Click on this picture (above) to learn about making Infused Vinegars.

Garden update

We are starting to work in the area that will have the 3 Sister's Garden...I may add in a pic later...

Otherwise, we are still picking tomatoes, zucchini, patty pans, broccoli, and I have fall lettuces that are finally starting to take off!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Super moon eclipse tonight!

At the Wetzel residence:

Just a quick update today.  We are going to keep an eye to the sky and watch the super moon eclipse tonight.  I started making moon pies but they didn't turn out so we are having these gf pumpkin cookies with cream cheese frosting instead...

In the Garden

I have thyme, rosemary and basil hanging in the living room to dry.  

I am planning to expand the gardening space for next year.  I have been working at revitalizing a couple of old flower beds that are right next to the house.  I was turning my compost bin last month and notice A LOT of worms in it.  So, I put down some dirt and then compost into the new gardening beds.  Then, I looked through my compost bin again to find those worms to add to the new garden area.  I covered everything up with some wood chips.  Hoping the worms will work their magic and get it all ready for next spring...

We woke up to a most unpleasant surprise...freezing temperatures.  This was not in the forecast!  I know that we cannot change the weather but I would have thrown my cover on the tomatoes if I knew it was going to be that cold.  Here is a picture of the patty pan squash...several leaves turned black. The changing of the seasons is coming...

In the Kitchen

My friend gave me a box of plums that they foraged from their neighbors tree (don't worry, the neighbors are in Japan...)  So, I pitted them and froze them so I can make some plum jam this winter (to take to the Farmer's Market next summer)!

We still have apples sitting in our garage from our picking 2 weeks ago.  I am finally getting around to processing some of them.  Mark loves applesauce so I cut the apples up and put them into the crock pot overnight.  Then, use the food processor to puree them up and process in a waterbath canner.  One full crock pot of apples yields 2 quart jars of sauce...got more to do tonight (after we watch the eclipse!)
For more details about making applesauce in a crock pot, click on the picture of the applesauce!

Sunday, September 20, 2015


Latah County Fair!

The fair is ending today.  Henry said he liked this chicken.  It is a Buff Orpington.  It is beautiful and a cold hardy breed.  It is not on my "list" of chickens because it lays brown eggs and there are other breeds that lay more prolifically.  However, I may consider some after a few years because they go broody and we may want to experiment with raising our own chicks at some point. 

Joshua got Grand Champion on his Guinea Pig (cavy).  Here is a short video of the judge making her final decision.  He was very excited!

And here is a picture of Joshua on "barn" duty at the fair...

Apple Cider

Last weekend, we went to Bishop's Orchard and picked apples.  I will be making some applesauce in a couple of weeks.  Also, we made some apple cider using their press.  Joshua did the supervising...

In the Kitchen

Okay...second try at canning peaches.  More successful and we just LOVE O'Henry peaches!

We have been so busy (see pictures of boy sleeping above), I thought I would have more to say!  Henry and I went to a Shania Twain concert and want to say THANK YOU to grandma for coming out (all the way from Pennsylvania) to watch the boys for us so we could get out!  

We had a great visit with Linda (grandma).  Denise and Linda share a birthday!  We celebrated with a salmon dinner and cherry berry pie!  Denise got a butter bell and a book about chickens...it was a perfect birthday!