In todays world, the desire to get back to basics is becoming more and more desirable. Our hope is that you will find some of the knowledge we share a benefit to you, to get closer to your dream of a healthier lifestyle, less dependent on assembly lined, processed, manufactured items.

Our goal is to help you find ways to use modern conveniences to allow you to live the life you want to live, and raise your family with the traditions that are important to you.

Grab a cup of coffee, or a glass of tea, and join us as we share our lives, our family and our knowledge with you.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Crackers, Crackers, Crackers!

When the winter weather is blasting, there is nothing more satisfying, than a home-cooked meal. In the mood for chili during a recent cold spell, Papa was disappointed that we were out of saltine crackers.  I had seen recipes for saltines and they sounded very simple, so I decided to try them for myself. They were as simple as they sounded and with a little practice for the right thickness, these will be one less thing that will be purchased for the Matthews' Home in the future!  The chili is made with ground venison that I killed last fall, homecanned pinto beans and homecanned chili sauce that I put up last summer. It took about 5 minutes to brown the venison and dump everything in the crockpot. Then when it was time to eat, about 15 minutes for the crackers. This is "fast food" at its finest.

In my research to find saltine recipes, I found that most were the same basic recipe. A few had baking powder added.  This time I used the basic recipe without the baking powder but will try adding a teaspoon of baking powder next time to see which I like best.

The basic ingredients:  1 C. all-purpose flour
                                  1/2 tsp salt
                                  2 TBS shredded butter
                                  6-7 TBS water
                                  melted butter
                                  additional salt

Mix together flour and salt. Shred butter into bowl with hand grater. This technique makes mixing the dough much easier than trying to "cut" it into the flour.  I always have a hard time cutting my butter into biscuits etc.  It seems to me that cold homemade butter is much harder than what you buy at the store. It makes me wonder just what else is added to the purchased butter....but I digress.  After mixing to the point of looking similar to cornmeal, add the water 1 TBS at a time until you have a soft dough that is easily rolled out with a rolling pin.

Divide dough into two or three sections. Using extra flour to keep dough from sticking to countertop and rolling pin, roll out dough until very thin (1/8th inch works well).  Transfer your rolled dough to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  A side note: baking on parchment paper makes clean up so easy.  Since your food has never touched your baking sheet, simply wipe with a damp cloth, dry and put away.  The parchment also seems to make baking more even, without worry about those older dark sheets causing over baking.

Brush with extra melted butter and sprinkle with extra salt.  At this stage you could brush with olive oil and add other herbs to taste for a special treat.  I scored mine with a serated wheel that I purchased for a quarter at my local thrift store. It is perfect for this process, but you can also score with a pizza cutter. I also used a fork and made some holes in the crackers....just because it made them look more like the crackers we are familiar with.

Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheet once for even cooking.  Watch them closely the last few minutes, they can burn quickly at the last stage of baking.  They will also harden as they cool, so they may be a little soft when first removed from the oven.

Once they cool enough to break apart without burning your fingers, break apart and eat immediately or store in an airtight container.  Next time you find yourself out of saltines, try this simple recipe. You may find that you, too, will cross saltines off your grocery list forever.

Stay tuned. I also made wheat thins, but want to tweak my recipe and process just a bit to make them more flavorful before I share it.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Winter projects

One of the myths of Modern Pioneering and Homesteading is that there is little work to do in the winter. For the original Homesteaders, the winter was a test that was often not passed, with failure costing the ultimate price.  Many died during the winter months, from lack of preparedness, malnutrition, succombing to elements or other reasons.

Thankfully for us, our lifestyle prevents the deadly cost of winter, but the reality is, there is just as much work to do in the winter keeping the animals safe, warm, well fed and watered as there is in the warmer months.  If you want to make the summer ahead the most productive and efficient, you must plan ahead.  You must complete projects that don't get finished during the planting/growing/harvesting seasons.  Currently we have two major projects in the works that will benefit our lives for many seasons and years to come. We are building a greenhouse and remodeling a building to create a harvest kitchen/butchering area and milking area to use throughout the year.

I will eventually post on both projects on their own, with more detail, but for now here are some sneak peaks at these two projects.

Our new greehouse will be small, but hopefully large enough to start all the seedlings we will need and to get a fodder system started for feeding the chickens, turkeys and rabbits. It is 8 x 12, and will have cost us just about $200 to complete. We utilized several used pieces and at this point, I am very happy with the project.  We have moved it outside so that we have our shop back available to use for other projects, but the plastic has not been placed on it yet. As soon as the weather cooperates a bit, we will get this finished up and I will start some seedlings.

On a different front, we have decided to renovate this building. For the past few years is has been a catchall for various items, stored chicken feed and house broilers, pullets and turkeys on the back side.

 The siding has been completed thanks to Hammer Down Construction and Fencing, LLP, a local construction crew that branched off BKR Construction.  You can also contact the original BKR Construction that specializes in complete structures in larger area than just Southwest Missouri.  I recommend both whole-heartedly.  I'll post more pictures as we complete this project. The plan will be to have a harvest kitchen in the area with the white door where will butcher, can, dehydrate, make cheese, etc.  This area will also serve as a place to store our homecanned goods. The back lean-to will be completed into a milking parlor, where we can milk Serena out of the weather and have the milker washing, and cold milk storage in the harvest kitchen. Lots of pluses to our plan, not the least of which keeps much of the mess out of our family kitchen.

We have already completed our first Rabbit hutches. We need to make probably one more for growing out. But when we get culled down, we may have enough room. No further rush on rabbit projects. Though we do have one set of 6 cages that need some work, but for now that can wait for spring and warmer temperatures.

When it looks like this outside, it makes indoor projects all the more appealing.

But for all the inconveniences we are given during the winter, God still leaves us with beauty beyond measure.  As much work is created during the winter weather episodes, there is also as much beauty. God gives the plants and animals a rest cycle, and Modern Pioneers can benefit from it as well.  As difficult as we may think it is, imagine what our ancestors went through, when mere survival was a the measure of success after every winter.

More baking gets done in the winter than the summer. I've been trying some new recipes and tweaking some old ones.  I've made soft pretzels, and have worked on a couple of recipes for bread made from my home-ground oat flour and whole wheat flour. All have been delicious.

Being a Modern Pioneer we are blessed to be given a time to get our ducks in a row for the next year, rather than making sure we survive to plant the next crop.  We are truly blessed to live the life we life. I snapped this picture of one of our grandsons a couple of years ago, after I got control of my laughter.  Even at his young age, he understood the importance of keeping your ducks in a row.

Now it's time to get to planning the garden. It will be planting time in a few short weeks.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Family Time

The temperatures have been frigid the past few days and the ground is covered in snow with a forcast for freezing rain and ice tonight. So far in the month of February we have had record high temperatures AND record low temperatures. One thing is true about Missouri weather...if you don't like it, just wait a few days and it will change. That had never been more obvious than this past month.

During the winter months, we stay busy planning for the next year and doing projects that we haven't had time for during the months that are busy with growing, tending and harvesting the garden and animals. Some things have to be done when they are ready, but others can be postponed until other demands are gone. I'll share some of bigger projects soon. But today, I thought I would share some pictures taken one afternoon a few weeks ago when the three oldest grandkids came to stay with us for a couple of days. The boys got BB Guns for Christmas, and not to be left out, our oldest Granddaughter was given one by Papa so that she could join in the fun.

I made them a target and Papa took them outside to get one of their first gun safety lessons.  They will eventually graduate from BB Guns to 22 rifles and then larger caliber if they choose to hunt, so the gun/hunter safety starts very early with our family.  Since the grandchildren are different ages, they had different goals and expectations when the afternoon of shooting began.

Jayde, who just turned 8, was all about aiming and hitting the center of the target.

Aden, who is 6 wanted to hit the target. Didn't matter much to him where he hit it, as long as he hit it.

Owen, who is 5 was happy just to shoot his gun. It didn't matter to him whether he hit the target or not.  The innocence of childhood is so wonderous.

Papa made sure that each of them knew how to turn off the safety before shooting, and how to turn it back on when finished. They all practiced how to carry their guns so that they were pointed in a safe direction at all times.

Everyone learned to pay attention to where everyone else was.  I got the honor of being safety watch and taking pictures. We had a great time and it took them longer to freeze out than I expected.

The youngest grandson, Bently will be 2 in May. He didn't get to participate in the gun safety lessons, but I had to share this picture.  His mama tried to interrupt the "Man Time" he was having with his Daddy, by having him come in to eat and get a dry diaper.  That was not an idea that was appreciated! 

Then, there is our youngest grandchild. Maddie Jo is currently 5 months old and loves the puppy and being outside. She will soon be outside with the rest of the bunch, keeping them all on their toes. She is currently suffering from RSV and some accompanying illnesses and being treated at a local hospital. She is responding well to treatments and is a tough little girl. We'll have her home and out and about very soon, I am sure.

Papa's favorite baby is our newest addition. Rastus is half Jack Russell and half Mount Feist. His favorite spot is on Papa's lap.

When it is cold and snow and ice make it unpleasant to be outside, there is nothing better than spending time inside, by the fire with family and friends, unless you add something home-baked and hot chocolate.