Mushroom Log Tower
How to Grow Mushrooms on Logs
By Erin Huffstetler | 10/14/2015 | 3 Comments
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Last week, I took advantage of the gorgeous fall weather, and set up some mushroom logs on our weekend homestead. We’ve been working on our cabin for over a year now, but this is our first farm-related project on the property.

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How to Make Hot Pepper Powder
How to Make Ground Hot Pepper
By Erin Huffstetler | 09/07/2015 | 3 Comments
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Cayenne pepper is a definite pantry staple. It’s used in chili recipes, in taco seasoning and in so many other dishes that call for a little heat. So, today, I’m going to show you how to grind your own. If you don’t have any cayenne peppers, just use whatever hot pepper you do have (I’ve been using jalapenos with great results).

How to Make Ground Hot Pepper

Prep Time:

15 mins

Cook Time:

24 – 72 hrs

What You Need:

Dried hot peppers
A spice grinder
An empty spice jar
A wide-mouth funnel
Gloves

What You Do:

Dried Jalapeno Peppers

First step: dry your hot peppers. You’ll find complete instructions here.

Be sure to pull on a pair of gloves to protect your hands from the Capsaicin in the peppers. It can be pretty irritating stuff.

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How to Make Crushed Pepper Flakes
How to Make Crushed Pepper Flakes
By Erin Huffstetler | 09/04/2015 | No Comments
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Alright, now it’s time to show you why a girl who isn’t crazy about spicy foods is suddenly so excited about drying hot peppers …

Today, I’m going to show you how to use dried peppers to make crushed pepper flakes. Next week, I’ll show you how to use them to make three more common spices that everyone keeps in their spice rack (even can’t-take-the-heat girls, like me).

So, let’s get this pepper-fest started, shall we?

How to Make Crushed Pepper Flakes

Prep Time: 15 min

Cook time: 24 – 72 hrs

What You Need:

Dried hot peppers (any variety will do)
A spice grinder
A spice jar
A wide-mouth canning funnel (optional)
Gloves

What You Do:

Dried Pepper Closeup

Start by drying your hot peppers. If you missed my post on that, you’ll find it here. Traditionally, pepper flakes are made with red peppers, but there’s no reason you can’t make them with green peppers. In fact, making your own pepper flakes gives you the opportunity to choose a pepper that matches your heat tolerance. I used jalapeno peppers because they’re on the milder end of the hot pepper spectrum, and because, well, I got a bunch of them for free.

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How to Dry Peppers
How to Dry Peppers
By Erin Huffstetler | 09/02/2015 | 5 Comments
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I’ve never really been a fan of hot peppers – I’m not big on spicy foods. But it turns out, I just hadn’t found the right way to use them yet, and now that I have, I can’t get my hands on enough of them.

I have four things that I’m going to show you how to make over the next week, and they all call for dried hot peppers, so today, I’m going to start by showing you how to dry peppers.

Let’s get started!

How to Dry Peppers

What You’ll Need:
Hot peppers (any variety will work)
A knife
A cutting board
A dehydrator (optional, but a big help. Scroll to the bottom of the post for instructions on drying without one)
Gloves

First things first … don’t skip the gloves. The Capsaicin that gives peppers their heat can irritate your skin. A thick pair of kitchen gloves is ideal, but if you don’t have any, doubling up on latex gloves will also work (that’s what I did). Believe me, I’ve made the mistake of handling hot peppers ungloved, and you don’t want to go there.

Some people dry peppers in their oven, but I don’t recommend doing it that way. As the peppers dry, the Capsaicin will get into the air, and it can become extremely irritating to your eyes, nose and lungs. To avoid all of that unpleasantness, I just take my dehydrator out on the porch, and dry them in that. It works like a charm, and it gives me an excuse to get outside for a little while.

What You Do:

Cut the Peppers in Half

Wash and dry your peppers, and cut off their stems. If you’re working with larger peppers, like jalapenos, cut them in half lengthwise. This will help the peppers to dry out faster. But, don’t scoop out the seeds – they’re what give the peppers their heat, so you want to dry them, too.

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Beef & Butternut Squash Chili
Beef & Butternut Squash Chili
By Erin Huffstetler | 10/16/2014 | 1 Comment
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Butternut squash is a fall staple in our house, so is chili. It was only natural, then, that the two would eventually end up in the same bowl. And let me just say, the results are crazy good. Butternut squash chili is delicious; it’s colorful; and it’s loaded with all sorts of good-for-you stuff. This is the kind of meal that you’ll want to add to your regular rotation because it comes together quickly and leaves you with leftovers for the next day.

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Front Yard Farming
Front Yard Farming
By Erin Huffstetler | 09/08/2014 | No Comments
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Remember all those volunteer butternut squash vines that came up in our front yard? We just harvested our squash this morning, and ended up with 24 for us, and a few damaged ones for the chickens. Pretty sweet deal.

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Butternut Squash - Not Ripe Yet
When to Pick Butternut Squash
By Erin Huffstetler | 08/21/2014 | 49 Comments
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This spring my husband added some soil from one of our compost bins to our front beds, and before long we had butternut squash vines coming up in the front yard. Nice!

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Tomatoes Dried in a Dehydrator
How to Dry Tomatoes in a Dehydrator
By Erin Huffstetler | 07/16/2014 | 6 Comments
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Living in the South, sun-dried tomatoes aren’t much of an option for me. It’s just too humid outside for tomatoes to dry out properly. But that’s okay because I can make the same thing in my dehydrator. I made my first batch of the season yesterday, and thought I’d take you through the process.

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Dehydrating Basil
How to Dry Herbs in a Dehydrator
By Erin Huffstetler | 07/09/2014 | 11 Comments
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Buying herbs always leaves me with sticker shock, so I try to grow as many of my own as I can. This time of year we pick herbs as we need them …

A few basil leaves for tomato sauce …

Fresh Dill

A big handful of dill for our salad dressing …

Sage Plant

A couple sage leaves to season a chicken or turkey …

Fresh Oregano

It’s a wonderful way to eat, but it’s not something that we can do during the winter months. So, I also dry our herbs. The process couldn’t be easier.

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How to Make a Hands-Free Berry Picking Bucket
Make a Hands-Free Berry Picking Bucket
By Erin Huffstetler | 07/05/2014 | 1 Comment
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Picking berries with two hands is a lot faster than picking with one. That’s just some of that real-world math that I’ve learned along the way. If you have a berry-picking mission in your future, take a minute to make yourself a hands-free berry picking bucket before you head out.

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Berry Cobbler in a Jar
Berry Cobbler in a Jar
By Erin Huffstetler | 06/20/2014 | No Comments
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Whenever I need help picking berries, I promise to make cobbler afterwards. That always gets me plenty of volunteers. I used that trick earlier this week when I wanted help picking mulberries. But instead of making my normal cobbler, I decided to try something different: I made little, individual cobblers in half-pint jars. It’s something I’d been meaning to try for a while, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

I spent some time trying to figure out how to pack all of the things that I love about cobbler into tiny jars. Then, I headed to the kitchen for a test run. And? My culinary experiment was a definite success. The berry filling was thick, not soupy. The buttermilk biscuit tops were cooked to perfection, with none of that doughy underside that you sometimes end up with. And the cobbler didn’t overflow the jars, either. Woo hoo! I love it when things come out right the first time.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I bake, I like to bake BIG, so I can enjoy tasty things for several days. And so, this recipe makes 12 servings. That’s three day’s worth of desserts for my family of four, or enough for a party.

Since these cobblers are in jars, they’re easy to transport, too. Just screw the lid on, and you can throw them in a lunchbox or take them on a picnic. And if you make them in freezer jars, you could even toss them in the freezer, and pull a couple out whenever your sweet tooth strikes.

Ready to give my recipe a whirl? Here it is.

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Mason Bee House
Our Mason Bees are Hatching!
By Erin Huffstetler | 03/12/2014 | No Comments
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Remember when we built two mason bee houses last spring? We were hoping to attract more early pollinators to our yard to pollinate our apricot bushes, which bloom before most bees and wasps emerge for the year.

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Lemons Ripening
Lemon Tree Update
By Erin Huffstetler | 10/28/2013 | 4 Comments
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Remember the lemon tree that I bought back in February? We just moved it inside for the winter, and I thought you might be interested in an update.

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Leaf Mold Bin
How to Make Leaf Mold
By Erin Huffstetler | 10/10/2013 | No Comments
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Raking leaves is a chore, so I like to make sure I get something out of the deal, and that something is leaf mold. Instead of piling my leaves up at the curb like most of my neighbors do, I save my leaves in wire bins, and allow them to break down into a nutrient-rich amendment for my garden. Sure, it takes a few years for the leaves to turn into leaf mold, but I’m willing to wait for a free soil amendment (especially one that I don’t have to lug home).

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Flagstone Sidewalk
Use Broken Concrete to Make a “Flagstone” Sidewalk
By Erin Huffstetler | 09/19/2013 | No Comments
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This sidewalk runs along the side of my house and connects the front sidewalk to the backyard. It used to be concrete, but after more than 90 years of use, it was in bad shape and needed to be replaced.

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