Jan 17, 2018

Why and How to Prune Blueberries

Pruning Blueberry Bushes
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"He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."

John 15:2

When we purchased our mountaintop homestead about a year and a half ago, we were blessed to discover four blueberry bushes. Not all of them are large, but they are an excellent addition to the potted blueberry plants we brought with us from suburbia. (Because if there's one thing I've learned about blueberries, it's this: I can't ever seem to grow enough of them for my family!) Last year, for the first time ever, I even had enough blueberries to preserve a few for winter...Happy dance!

Still, the blueberry bushes that came with our property hadn't been pruned in years, so last weekend, I gave them a good trimming. Why prune blueberry bushes? Well, pruning will eventually make your harvest bigger - and the individual berries will grow bigger, too. Pruning also helps keep the plant healthy, warding off disease. Plus, a well pruned plant is also considerably easier to harvest from.
My blueberry bushes were a tangled mess. Pruning was in order!

When to Prune Blueberry Bushes

The best time to prune is when the bushes begin forming buds. For me, that's right now. If your winters aren't as mild as ours, you probably won't see buds until early spring.

How to Prune Blueberry Bushes, Step by Step

1. Begin by removing all dead branches. This encourages new growth and keeps the plant productive and healthy.

2. Now remove any branches that cross each other, especially if they are touching. If you let crossing branches stay on the plant, it becomes harder to find fruit and may prevent (and will always slow) ripening of the berries.






3. Next, remove branches that point toward the center of the bush. Such branches reduce air circulation, which can cause disease. In addition, a more open bush gives more light to the fruit, which helps berries ripen.

The large buds are future blueberries. The small stubs are future leaves.
4. Finally, remove any branches that don't have new growth. They may not be dead, but if there are no buds on them, they are sucking energy from the plant without giving you the benefit of food.

What to Do with Blueberry Prunings

You may wish to burn or chip your blueberry prunings. Wood ash is a great addition to organic gardening soil, and chips are a wonderful mulch. But you might also want to keep at least some blueberry branches for homestead rabbits or pets like hamsters or guinea pigs. These creatures have teeth that continue to grow throughout their lifetime; chewing branches is absolutely necessary for them to keep in tip-top shape - and blueberry branches are safe chewing material.
I'm saving these prunings for our rabbits.

Fertilizing Blueberry Plants

After you're done pruning, take a few minutes to fertilize the plants. Blueberries love acidic soil, and very few of us have enough acid in our gardens to make them productive and happy. (Not sure what the acidity is in your soil? Use a simple home test kit; I use this one. For blueberries, the soil pH should be at least 5.5.) Coffee and tea grounds can help add acid to the soil. Even better is an inch or two of Sphagnum peat. You may also use commercial fertilizer that's made especially for blueberries and rhododendrons. I use Down to Earth's all natural acid fertilizer. Just sprinkle whatever fertilizer you're using around the base of the plant, then water it in well. (Don't dig it into the soil, or you risk damaging the plant's root system.) Having trouble getting your soil acidic enough? Plant blueberry bushes in very large pots, instead. We did this successfully for many years.

Related Posts
* How to Grow Honeyberries
* Mini Blueberry Pies



Jan 9, 2018

Frequently Asked Questions about the Keto Diet

This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

I regularly recieve messages from readers asking me about the keto diet (through which I've lost 45 lbs., reversed my diabetes, and just generally got a whole lot healthier). A few questions come up again and again, so I think it's time to answer them right here on the blog.
 

Q: Can you recommend a place to learn how to do the keto diet?

A: I do the original keto diet, also known as theraputic ketogenic. It's perfect for diabetics and others who need to control medical problems. I eat 20 grams total carbs per day. Some people who claim to eat keto count net carbs (carbohydrates minus any fiber in the food). Diabetics should not do this because all carbs affect blood sugar. Some people claiming to eat keto eat up to 30 or maybe even 40 carbs per day and still lose weight - but if that kind of keto diet isn't working for you (you're not losing weight or you have mad cravings for carbs), do yourself a favor and stick to 20 grams or less per day, total. It's do-able - and not even very hard.

For more details on what the keto diet is and what to eat while on it, click here.

Q: How can I tell if I'm in ketosis?

A: Ketosis is a medical term that means your body is burning fat, and therefore making ketones (a chemical all of us have in our liver). The keto diet is named for this process, which is integral to its health and weight loss benefits.

But truly, don't worry about ketosis. Don't waste your money on ketone test strips, either. They aren't all that accurate, with results varying according to hormones, how hydrated you are, or even how long you've been eating keto. If you're eating 20 total carbs a day or less, YOU ARE IN KETOSIS, or very soon will be.

Q: Can you recommend some sites that show the science behind the keto diet?

A: Start with 23 Studies on Low Carb, Low Fat diets, for an understanding of how wrong those diets are. Then go here to read a little about scientific studies supporting keto eating.

If you are diabetic (type 1 or type 2), I also highly recommend the educational files over at the Reversing Diabetes Facebook group.






Q: Where can I find keto recipes?

A: There are some right here on this blog! (And I'm sure I'll be adding more.) I also keep several keto recipe boards on Pinterest. (Currently, I have over 600 keto recipes pinned).

A lot of people want me to recommend a keto cookbook, but honestly, most of them are awful, containing recipes with way too many carbs.

I do think Kristie Sullivan (of YouTube's Cooking Keto with Kristie) has some brilliant, very loww carb baked goods recipes - but they should be eaten only occassionally. I have Kristie's Journey to Health cookbook, and while I like the baked goods (and the pork rind pancakes - sounds awful, but trust me, they are great), I really haven't liked any of her savory dishes. They are much, much too rich and dairy-dependant for my family.

About a week ago I ordered The Everyday Ketogenic Kitchen, and I can truly recommend it. Check out the author's blog All Day I Dream About Food to sample her recipes. I love them!

Related Posts:
http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/08/myths-about-keto-diet.html#.WlE61nlG0dg

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/04/how-i-reversed-my-diabetes.html#.WlE6knlG0dg


http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/02/11-ways-we-should-have-known-i-had.html#.WlE6jHlG0dg



Jan 6, 2018

Weekend Links

Join me on Instagram!
In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site! 


"We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good."

2 Thes. 3:11-14

_______________________________

* I'll admit, I'm struggling with my schedule these days. I am homeschooling, homesteading (though it's a "quieter" season), home keeping, working part time as a freelance writer, and rehearsing for the role of Miss Hannigan in a community theatre production of Annie. This blog is a labor of love and I promise, I haven't forgotten it - or you!

* In other news, I've been eating keto for about a year now. 45 lbs. gone, blood sugar in the normal range, normal cholesterol, normal blood pressure, and feeling better and healthier than ever!

* Everything You Know About Cholesterol is Probably Wrong. "The best way to thwart those LDL particles, Krauss says, is not by avoiding saturated fats, as we’ve long assumed. Saturated fats don’t affect the LDL particles, but sugar and carbohydrates do. 'Taking away eggs and milk has virtually no effect on the bad guys,' says Krauss. 'But you can make a really big improvement if you cut the sugar out.'" 

* My kids got sick right before Christmas. As soon as they did, I started taking my vinegar, salt, cayenne pepper anti-cold and flu remedy. Worked like a charm!

* Did you get a veggie spiralizer for Christmas? (I got this one, and love it!) Here are some tips on meal prepping with one. (Hint: You can also dehydrate spiralized veggies in "nests" if you want longer term storage.)




* Stuffed Mega Meatballs recipe. My family loves this! You could really use any meatball recipe you like, but do be sure to stuff it with cheese. (Keto/Low carb hint: You don't need flour, pork rinds, oatmeal, eggs, or any other filler to make fantastic meatballs! Just leave those ingredients out.)


* Did you know you can start seeds RIGHT NOW and end up with heartier, more productive plants? 

* 7 Ways to Improve Soil Quality for your best garden yet!


Oldies But Goodies: 




Dec 28, 2017

Top 5 Most Popular Posts for 2017 - Plus Top Posts of All Time!

This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

2017 is nearly at an end, which means it's time for reflection and maybe some new goals. This year has certainly been a life-changing one for me: Reversing my diabetes (and most of my other health complaints) through a keto diet; hubby no longer commuting 92 miles one direction in order to get to work; and my need to do more to help support my family financially. And one of the things I always do around this time of year is access this blog.

So let me ask: What are my readers (you!) needing from me? Please, let me know in the comments below!

Another way I learn what readers want is to look at this blog's most popular posts from the previous year, and for the entire life of the blog. (Did you know I've been writing this blog since 2009?! Holy smokes!)

Most Popular Posts from 2017


# 5. Catnip for Human Medicine 
This popular post was inspired by the catnip patch that came with our homestead - and which our cat (who also came with our homestead) adores. I was surprised to learn catnip is so beneficial for humans, especially for helping us relax. It also repels mosquitos better than DEET. Find out what else catnip is good for by clicking here.

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/07/catnip-for-human-medicine.html#.WkVtLnlG0dh

# 4. How to Get Out from Under the Laundry Pile
A lot of you struggle to keep up with your family's laundry, and in this post, I give you my best tips for how I make laundry easy and stress-free. 

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/11/how-to-get-out-from-under-laundry-pile.html#.WkVtZHlG0di

#3. Can I Use My Instant Pot Pressure Cooker for Canning?
The Instant Pot electric pressure cooker (buy it here) hit the world by storm in 2017, and my third most popular post definitely reflects that. In it, I dispell myths about using pressure cookers as pressure canners. Be sure to read it before you can!

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/06/can-i-use-my-instant-pot-pressure.html#.WkVtnnlG0dh

#2. Cauliflower Chowder Recipe
Combine the Instant Pot and a keto recipe and you get my second most popular post from 2017. This is actually a revised version of a non-keto, non-Instant Pot recipe I posted in 2015. It's been a family favorite, so when I went keto, I was thrilled it was easy to make low carb. It's also easy to make in the Instant Pot (or slow cooker/crock pot, or the stove top). 


http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/03/cauliflower-chowder-recipe-low-carb.html#.WkVtx3lG0dh

 #1. 50 Low Carb and Keto Thanksgiving Recipes
When I started eating keto in December of 2016, I never dreamed that keto recipes would turn into the most popular posts on my blog! It's really a testament to this healthy diet, which truly works for treating type I and type II diabetes, cancer, Lyme disease, epilepsy, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, metabolic disorder, sleep disorders, pain, infertility (especially PCOS), multiple sclerosis, and other diseases - not to mention for losing weight, especially when the pyramid diet fails. (I've lost 45 lbs., my husband has lost 60 lbs.) Keto works, my friends!

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2017/09/50-low-carb-and-keto-thanksgiving.html#.WkVt9XlG0dh






Most Popular Posts of All Time


#5.  Easy Refrigerator Pickled Beets
Here's a little secret: I hate pickled beets. But my family loves them - and, apparently, so do you! This post from 2014 continues to be among my most read. 

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2014/08/easy-refrigerator-pickled-beets.html#.WkVuJ3lG0dg

#4. The Best Free Apron Patterns on the Net
I'm glad I'm not the only one who loves a good apron - or two, or three, or...Since 2011, this post has pointed ya'll to some pretty awesome, free patterns for my favorite kitchen accessory.

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2011/05/the-best-free-apron-patterns-on-net.html#.WkVuX3lG0dh


#3. 6 Ways to Teach Kids the Books of the Bible
I'm so happy at least one God-centered post is popular on this blog! ;)

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2011/06/6-ways-to-teach-kids-books-of-bible.html#.WkVuiHlG0dh


#2. How to EASILY Clean Ceilings & Walls - Even in a Greasy Kitchen!
It turns out, greasy kitchens are my specialty. I also specialize in finding "lazy girl" ways to clean. This post from 2014 combines both these "talents."

http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2014/09/how-to-easily-clean-ceilings-walls-even.html#.WkVurHlG0dh

#1. How to Train Chickens
This has been my most read post since 2012, which cracks me up! I'd have never thunk it. But I guess hubby and I are pretty good at getting our hens to cooperate and do the things we want them to.
http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2012/07/how-to-train-chickens-and-get-them-to.html#.WkVu1nlG0dh






Dec 6, 2017

Best Ever Cranberry Bread Recipe

There are some things I hear a lot: "Do I have any clean underwear?", "When's dinner ready?", and "Mom, mom, MOM!" are in the top three. But around Thanksgiving and Christmas, I also frequently hear "This is the best cranberry bread ever!"

In fact, this simple quick bread has become a family tradition. I like to bake up a couple loaves for our family, plus more to give as gifts to neighbors, friends, and family. The flavors are heavenly - not just sweetened cranberries, but also cinnamon, nutmeg, and a hint of orange.

https://sites.google.com/site/proverbs31womanprintables/best-ever-cranberry-bread Best Ever Cranberry Bread Recipe

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup halved fresh cranberries
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange peel
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract

1. Place the raisins in a small bowl and cover with water. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Fold in the cranberries. Strain the raisins and fold into the flour mixture. Stir in the orange peel.






3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs lightly, then stir in the milk, butter, and vanilla. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

4. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire cooling rack and cool completely. Store at room temperature.


This post originally appeared in December of 2012.

Nov 30, 2017

How to Get Out From Under the Laundry Pile!

How to Get Laundry Done Easily
This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

Before I had kids, keeping up with the laundry was no big deal. When our first child came along, I still managed pretty well. But when our youngest child entered the household? Somehow, my ability to make sure everyone had clean clothes went amuck.

My husband began giving me withering looks when he discovered, in the wee hours of the morning, that he didn't have any clean shirts appropriate for work. My closet consisted of the laundry hamper, where I dug for the jeans I wore the day before - even if they were splattered with baby food. I even began making my oldest wear chocolate-milk stained jammies two nights in a row because I couldn't seem to keep up with the demand for clean laundry.

I won't say I have the laundry thing totally mastered. However, I have learned a few tricks that make the laundry pile easier to get through. Maybe some of my ideas will work for you, too:

* My best laundry tip is this: Instead of reserving one or two days a week for doing laundry, do laundry every day except the Sabbath. This keeps the laundry pile under control and makes the chore of cleaning clothes a lot easier. Through trial and error, figure out how many loads you must do each day; when my kids were younger, I did one load of laundry 6 days a week. Nowadays, I only need to do a load 4 to 6 days a week. Make your laundry schedule a habit, and it will soon become no big deal.

* Keep one laundry basket for every bedroom, if possible. As you pull things from the dryer or clothes line, sort them room by room into the laundry baskets. If you have time, fold as you sort. Then place the basket in the appropriate bedroom. Put the clothes away later, if necessary, or have the kids put away their own clothes.

* Easier yet, keep laundry loads segregated. By that I mean do one load that is only clothes for one child (or maybe all the kids), and a separate load that's just your clothes. This means you don't have to sort the laundry before folding it.






* Get the kids involved. Even toddlers can help with the laundry by bringing you dirty clothes and pulling out all the clean socks, or all of daddy's shirts, or all their own undies, for folding by you. Preschoolers can begin to help with folding and putting clothes away so that by the time they are in grade school they can do this chore easily. (No, they won't fold everything - or perhaps anything - perfectly, but a few wrinkles never hurt anyone.) By the time your child is 7 or 8, be sure he or she knows how to do a load of laundry without help.

* Treat stains before the clothes go into the hamper. If I put Spray N Wash Stain Stick on clothes as they go into the hamper, by the time I do laundry, those stains usually wash out. This saves me a lot of time because I don't have to soak or otherwise pre-treat stains. So, whenever clothes might come off, I keep a stick - including the bathroom and the kids' bedrooms.

* Wear clothes more than once. Truly, many clothes can be worn more than once without washing in between. Unless it's smelly or shows dirt, hang it up to wear another day.

* Buy fewer clothes. I know some women who literally buy their kids several wardrobes of clothes because they are always behind on laundry. If you follow the tips here, nobody will need as many clothes, which saves you both time and money.

* Hang any items that store on hangers as you take them off the clothesline or out of the dryer. It's a real time saver!

* Mark children's socks with their initials, using puffy fabric paint on the soles. This makes sorting so much easier.

* Don't separate darks from lights. This may seem revolutionary to some people, but I stopped doing separating darks from lights several years ago, and my family's clothes look just fine. If I'm washing new, dark clothes that I think might bleed, I wash them separately, once, with a cup of white vinegar in the wash water to help set the dye.

This post was originally published in October of 2009.


Nov 20, 2017

9 Reasons For Sheep on a Small Homestead

Why Raise Sheep
This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

A couple of weekends ago, we almost brought home sheep. We bumped into a wonderful deal with the "perfect" sheep for our homestead...but in the end, we didn't have housing set up for them yet, nor was our fencing quite complete. Our rule is to never bring home an animal until we are totally prepared to care for it...so we had to take a pass. But the very fact that we came so close to buying sheep would have surprised me when we first moved onto our homestead. After all, our land is mostly wooded; we don't have pastures, per se. How could we economically raise sheep? And why would we want to? Turns out, there are many good reasons for small homesteads to include sheep.

1. Sheep are excellent brush eaters. I always thought goats were the perfect animal for eating wild berry briars and weeds, but it turns out sheep are better at the job. They are generally less picky than goats. This is the number one reason we want sheep on our homestead; even using only the fencing we currently have, a few sheep can take care of half the weed whacking my husband currently must do. That's huge!

2. Their fencing needs are less expensive. Among larger livestock, sheep have the least demanding fencing needs. That's because they are mostly docile and pretty willing to go where you want them to...unlike goats, for example, who love to escape and explore, and therefore require better (and more expensive) fencing.

Courtesy of Andrei Niemimäki
3. Sheep don't require fancy housing. A three sided shelter made from scrap materials is all they need for weather protection. (Do bear in mind that you might want a four-sided shelter to help protect them from predators like wild and domestic dogs, bear, and cougar.)

4. Sheep are not expensive to feed. If they have good forage, that's pretty much all they need. (Depending upon your climate and the forage available, they might require supplemental hay.)

5. Sheep don't require a lot of time. They aren't needy creatures. Give them forage and clean water, and maybe, now and then, some molasses and treats (like apples), and they are good to go. Periodically, you'll need to trim their hooves and remove their coats, too. (Sheep coats, left to their own, weigh the sheep down and encourage disease.)





6. Sheep manure is excellent for the garden. This year, my best garden bed was layered with sheep manure - and it showed! Everything I planted in the bed thrived. Bonus: Sheep manure doesn't need aging or composting before you put it in the soil (i.e., it's not "hot").

Courtesy of Antony Stanley
7. Lamb chops and mutton. Need I say more?

8. You can sell their fleece. Even if you have a very small flock, you can probably find somebody who wants their wool and is willing to pay for it.

http://amzn.to/2hqpMQI9. You can milk sheep. People all over the world drink sheep's milk, and cheese makers prize sheep's milk as the finest. If you think you'd like to try milking your sheep (hey, the more versatile a homestead animal is, the better!) know that some breeds produce more milk than others. Interestingly, sheep's milk is higher in protein, vitamin C, vitamin B12, magnesium, folate, and calcium than either cow's or goat's milk. It's also widely considered the creamiest milk and is naturally homogenized (just like goat's milk). Even better, it's easier for human's to digest than cow's milk.


For more information on adding sheep to your homestead, I highly recommend Storey's Guide to Raising Sheep.


* Title image courtesy of Peter Shanks

Nov 17, 2017

How to Teach Toddlers and Preschoolers to Put on Their Own Jackets

Teach Little Kids to Put on Their Own Coat
It's been a while since my kids were toddlers or preschoolers (sniff!), but there was a trick I used to teach them to put on their own coats and jackets that I don't see elsewhere on the Internet or in magazines. I LOVED teaching my kids this trick because:

* It saved me time and hassle
* and it made my kids feel more independent. (What toddler or preschooler doesn't love doing it all by herself?)

When my mother saw me use this trick with my first born, she said, "Why not just teach her to put on her jacket the normal way?" Well, because toddlers and preschoolers, generally speaking, can't do it the way an adult or bigger kid does. But they absolutely can put on their own jacket by following these simple steps:

1. Place the jacket on the floor, the right side facing down. At first, you'll probably need to do this for your child, but it won't be long before he figures out how to "do it myself!"

2. Have your child stand at the head of the jacket and place his arms inside the sleeves. It will look like he's about to put on his jacket backward and upside down. (See photos.)

3. Have your child flip the jacket over his head. Viola! It's on correctly and you or your child can now zip it up.






This post is an updated version of one that originally appeared in October of 2009.