What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy and Westinghouse


Meet Westinghouse, a mighty cute squirrel with a busy, bushy tail for a mighty cuter squirrel.  This was my first ever crocheted stuffed animal. I stuffed the be-jeebers out of him and his tail is so bushy he can't stand up by himself (poor lad), but I like him and the children do too.

I don't know if I have it in me or not, but I am TOYING with the idea of crocheting a Texas Longhorn for Andrew for Christmas.  He is kinda obsessed with them and I haven't found any stuffed ones that are nice (and relatively inexpensive). But I am currently working on three other projects and they are, as usual, coming along s-l-o-w-l-y. 

Hurricane Sandy is drawing near and we should be feeling the affects of it early this afternoon and until Tuesday night.  PA and NY has been put in states of emergency and we have been amply warned that there will be extended power outages and likely, many road closings and property damage-especially on hilltops  (That'd be US.). 

I was a bit freaked out about it because Matt was/is on the road-traveling...until he called a bit ago and said he should be arriving home before the worst of it begins and staying home until it is over.  I was worried to tears about his safety on the roads.   I can deal with pretty much anything, as long as Matt is okay.

I have drawn off as much drinking water as I can store right now (mental note: get a few large drink storage containers one of these days!), have plenty of wash water stored and rain barrels set to capture more, got 24 lovely rolls of toilet paper (you know how much I love THAT!) at my disposal, took a shower this morning, bought quite a few more canning lids if a few candle-lit canning days are in my future, consolidated as much of the most valuable freezer things in ONE freezer, not to be opened unless for emergency canning, and have oil lamps refilled and at the ready. 

And now we wait.

I might be having a bit more time to crochet in the next few days...

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Firm Foundation


I have been meaning to do a post on the goings-on of Matt and his many projects but, you see, the man is always GOING.   I soon realized I couldn't possibly do just ONE post of all the things he has done/is doing because it would be impossible to fit it all into one post!  So I'll try to break it down into more manageable bits.  Even still, I bet you will be feeling vicariously tired by the time you finish reading these posts.

The biggest of Matts' big jobs (so far, that is) was repairing the foundation of our house.  When you buy a home one of the first things you look at is the foundation and smart people run (very fast!) away from homes without good ones.  (We missed that memo apparently.) 

It was in HORRIBLE shape- with cracks throughout and actual HOLES in spots.  The North and South ends of the front part of the house would have to be entirely rebuilt.  (The back half of the house is a stone foundation and is still fine, despite the fact that it is a hundred years OLDER than the front half.  How's that for irony?!)

We paid Matt's brother to use his excavator to dig out around the foundation.  While the foundation was dug, we decided to fix a drainage problem around the house too- so he dug a nice neat path through my entire front yard as well.  (Lovely.)


 They fixed the drainage problem by laying down a new pipeline.  Before, the gray water would overflow into the basement.  Now it follows the appropriate path into the ground.  Thank GOODNESS.  Basements smelling like gray water is beyond nasty.


Then, Matt spent nights after work taking out the wall, brick by brick.

After the wall was taken down~ then he had to rebuild them.  Mix sand and mortar to make concrete, haul bricks.  Mix more sand.  Level them.  Mix more sand.  Build them.  Let them dry. Parge it.  Tar it.  Bury it. 


And then, when he was done the first side,  he had to do it all over again on the other wall.  



It took several weeks from start to finish.  There were several nights when the house stood without hardly a foundation at all- big gaping holes on either side.  I can tell you, I was nervous just to be in it with four rambunctious children.   

As you can see, he had many helpers and watchers throughout the whole process. 

The truest sort of handy man, we are very blessed to have him.

And now, thanks to his hard work, Hopestead House has a firm foundation.  And a yard of dirt.  ;-)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Proper Edjercatin' takes time (and does not include pumpkins)

Well, as you can see, now that the school year is in full swing again, I am having a hard time keeping up the blog! Having two children needing to be properly and formally edjercated has thrown me for a bit of a loop.  The only way to accomplish everything in a day (and sometimes, not even then) was to give up my precious few hours in the middle of the day of quiet time.  I used to use this time for blogging and other "me time" things and now it is most often filled up with history and science.   Giving it up has been a sad, sad change for me.  I really *LIKED* that mid-afternoon break.  But it does work well for school~ we can accomplish our agenda for the day and it provides a quiet atmosphere (the littles still rest) for the topics that require more thought and discussion, like History and Science and for activities like castle building and the like.

That means, though, that you will have to be patient with me.  And I will have to be patient with myself.  And I will have to be patient with the children who require more of my time than every before.  Blech.  Patience has always been such a hard thing for me, too.  ;-)

I'll blog whenever I can eek out a few minutes in the day.  EEEeeeeeeeeekkk.

Here are a few photos from our yearly trip to the pumpkin farm.    It must be done- it's TRADITION!


This, by the way, is not a grumpy look- though it looks that way.  She was actually delighted and enraptured by the pigs and this is her "Why dost thou bother me with photographs whenst I gaze upon these lovely swine" look.  The tear?  I think because it was cold.  Or, she was moved to tears with love.  ;-)

It was this moment that I thought what a beauty she is and how...grown up she looks to be mine.

And for Rebecca, an answer to your question in the comments box about the fritters- Why YES.  I *DID* make them.  And they were goooood.  :-)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Quilty As Charged

Remember when I told you about the GORGEOUS, know-your-socks-off quilt that was being auctioned off at the Amish auction down the road from me? You remember...the one that I had to leave with bushels of apples instead of bits of fabric expertly made into art? Yes, that one.


Here it is, in all its glory:  

(I TOLD you it was amazing!)

At that auction, the quilts were BARELY being bid on (I think most of the people at that auction were, like I was, in the market for produce.) and I felt awful because I knew how much work went into those lovely, amazing quilts and how awful it would be if nobody would buy them!  When it got to the cathedral window quilt especially, my mind kept going back to the row of Amish women sitting at the back of the barn, and what they must have been thinking when their immaculate workmanship was not being appreciated and it got me so worked up, I actually started to cry.  I had to GET UP and leave, it was that bad.  I wanted that quilt sooooooooooooooo bad and I wanted those ladies to know how wonderful it was and those five minutes of bidding were TORTURE, pure and simple.

Fast forward a few days and I decided, with the Masts' permission, I would put the quilts on the internet to (hopefully) broaden their interest base to include more than just apple shoppers or the people that pass their front yards.   And Sam gave it to me.  The permission, that is, not the quilt.  :-)

So I went and took pictures of my the cathedral quilt one day in his barn on his handy-dandy quilt displaying contraption, along with three other quilts that did not sell at the auction for the price that he needed for them and I have started an Amish Etsy shoppe on their behalf.

All the quilts are Amish made and have perfect, teeny hand-stitches and hand-quilting.  NO machine stitching anywhere.  If you happen to have an affinity for quilts, or Amish, or both...you simply MUST go check these quilts out.  You know the source, so you know you are not going to get an "Amish Made" quilt that isn't AMISH. 

If they sell well, maybe they will give me some more to stock the shop.  We shall see.

Here is the AmishQuilts shop on Etsy. 

Even if you aren't in the market- you really must look.  It is eye candy. 

And it is nearly Halloween-the SEASON for candy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012



Two Saturdays ago, I went to a local auction (the auctioneer is Amish, so it was an especially neat auction to go to, with all the Amish ladies, children and babies running around.)  They were selling quilts and produce, among other things.

The quilts were uh-maze-ing, but I just couldn't afford them.  In particular, they had a cathedral quilt which was divine.  Ever seen one of them?  I admit, the coveteousness was pouring out of me and pooling at my feet.  I was tempted to forego my "cash only" system so that I could make installments on it.  ;-)

But I had gone for apples.  The last two dozen or so went for $13.00 a bushel.  (Up from last year but much lower than "town" prices) and I got five bushel.  I hope to get a few more bushel of Crispin Apples later this month, as they are good keepers and will keep us in fresh apples for most of the winter.  But the Macs were specifically for preserving and cider making.

This past weekend I tackled them.  The end result was 28 qts. of applesauce, 35 pints and half-pints of apple butter, 2 bushels of the best small apples set aside to make homemade cider at our Church Harvest Party this Saturday and several dozen of the best big apples to be made into apple pie filling and for dehydrating.  (I still haven't done the last apples' worth of work.)  I found this recipe for apple fritters and I am thinking I absolutely MUST try it this week. 

 I have now officially exhausted my supply of quart jars so either I need to stop canning for the season or I need to buy more jars.  :-)

I have no counter space right now, which needs to be remedied except I have no room elsewhere to put the jars (my canning cupboard is chock full, as is a different cupboard I emptied for the overflow from the canning cupboard (which filled up in no time) AND two very large and deep shelves I used to use for kitchen tools that now ALSO house jars.  I have no idea where these will go. Nor do I know where the flats of onions will go or the many crates of winter squash and pumpkins that are littering my laundry room and kitchen floor.  (We never did get around to a root cellar this year....here is hoping for next!) 

What happy problems to have, no?

How was your weekend?  Did you have a good one?

Friday, October 12, 2012


You asked for more about the homemade peppermint soap I wrote about it in this post, and I am here to serve!  ;-)

My first ever attempt at soapmaking was, in my opinion, a smashing success.  (Such a good way to begin!)

Isn't it perdy?
I used one of the many wonderful recipes on this (amazing!)  soapmaking site.  This one using Beef Tallow, under recipes with Animal Fats, to be exact; mainly because I didn't have any of the fancy palm oils and such required by other recipes.  I didn't even  have beef tallow- I had a quart jar of sheep tallow given to me by some friends, who had rendered their own from their own sheep.  (Lovely people, they.)

I halved the recipe (because I only had a quart of tallow!) which made 12 bar sized loaves of soap and since I don't have any soap molds at this point, I used bread loaf and gift loaf pans from my kitchen and mini bread loaf pans from my childrens' PLAY kitchen- all lined with plastic wrap. You know you are in too deep when you raid your childrens' play kitchen for supplies.


I added peppermint oil to my soap until it smelled good (probably should have measured it in retrospect...she DID have a scent guide, after all.) and then I experimented with coloring.  Since I didn't have any fancy soap colorants, I just used red food coloring.  (I figured if I botched it, I just wouldn't give any away.)


I poured some pure white soap into the molds, to be sure we got a few "unmaimed" bars and then experimented with the coloring.  I added it to the bowl and stirred it and (duh!) it made it pink- not swirly.  So I poured it all into molds and to one of them, I added four food coloring drops onto the surface of the "loaf" and then swirled it with a chopstick until the coloring seemed to have reached everywhere.  (Very scientific, I know.)

The result, three different variations on a theme!  Swirly, Pinky, and Pure.


The next day, I fully admit to going over and sniffing the bars at random intervals throughout the day. 

I also fully admit to taking my soap with me on visits to show friends.  Lame, but true.

And now, to show you how SERIOUS I am about soapmaking....take a gander over at my "Putting By" list on my sidebar.  Scroll down until you see "OTHER" and what do you see?

I rendered lard.  4 gallons worth.  (I KNOW!)

I totally did.  I put armfuls of pork fat into big pots, melted them and strained them.  Let me tell you, I never thought I would be the kind of girl to render lard.  But, when the butcher shop is giving it away for free and soap-making requires LOTS, what is a girl to do?

And, in case you aren't fully shocked by now-brace yourselves.......ready?
 I fully intend to render Tallow from the beef fat given to me by the selfsame butcher shop. 

Yup,  that's me...the fat renderer.  

And PROUD of it.

And now~ a question for you soap-makers out there, if you please.

Is it normal to see a small film on the top of the soap or is that a sign that something is amiss?  If the latter, what can I do to avoid it in the future?