Blackberry Jam – Easy Refrigerator Recipe

We planted several berry bushes on the Homestead this year, but the only bushes producing a decent amount of fruit this year is the 2 blackberry bushes we planted last year.  I love watching all the kids go out for a mid day “snack” as they stand at the berry bushes and eat the blackberries right off the plant.  The berries were disappearing like hotcakes and I thought the kids were eating them all.  Turns out, the birds were enjoying the berries just as much.

We covered the bushes with some netting and viola, enough berries to make a small batch of jam.  By “small” batch I mean literally…1 jar.  I found this super simple non-canning recipe from food.com and we got right to work.

 

Step 1:

Pick 3 cups of ripe berries and wash.  Put a plate in the refrigerator to chill.

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Step 2:

Mash the berries in a small stainless steel pot until you reach your desired jam consistency (we like a little bit of chunkiness in ours).

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Step 3:

Add 1 1/4 cups of sugar (we used organic raw sugar), put on the stove and heat on medium until all sugar is dissolved (this happened almost immediately).

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Step 4:

Raise the heat to medium/high and boil for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Step 5:

Test the jam by putting a little bit on the chilled plate and see if it stays in a mound.  If it does, you’re done!  If not, keep boiling.

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Step 6:

Poor into a glass jar, put the lid on and let it cool.  Once cooled, put in the fridge (or open it up and enjoy warm jam on homemade zucchini bread, mmmmmm).  The jam should last several weeks.

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Super easy right???  I can’t wait to try all the other berries next year! Anyone else have good easy jam recipes to share?

Mama Nice

Our First Adventure With Ducks

“Ducks are cute”, I said.

“Ducks would be a great addition to the Homestead”, I said.

“The kids that visit will love them”, I said.

“I heard ducks are friendlier than chickens and will bond to their owners”, I said.

Papa Nice just smiled and I was on my way to researching duck breeds, how to care for ducks, and repainting an old coop to make a duck house.

Step 1: Take an old, flimsy coop…add a new roof, new paint and new hardware. Viola!

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Step 2: Research duck breeds.

I decided I wanted Pekins.  Pekins are big and friendly.  The chances of a hawk picking them up out of the yard would be rare.  So I called the local feed store and ordered 2 female Pekins that would look like this:

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pekin duck

Step 3: Pick up ducklings from feed store.

Off I went to the feed store, with 5 little kids, to pick up our 2 female PEKIN ducklings.  But when we got there, the feed store ordered Khaki Campbells and didn’t have any Pekins.  It would take WEEKS to get them in.  When you have 5 little kids excited for ducklings and 2 ducklings that now don’t have a home, what do you do?  You take home the ducks that you didn’t order.  “No problem”, I said, Khaki Campbells are nice ducks too…I think.  I’m not even sure what they look like though.  I guess these are Khaki Campbells and the kids love them.  They are so cute….

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The ducks have grown a lot since we got them back in April.  Only…. they are much darker than Khaki Campbells and they are more skittish than any duck breed I had researched.  Alas, I have discovered that we do NOT have Pekins (which I ordered), or Khaki Campbells (which I was told I was given), but rather Black Runner Ducks.  Good layers, but skittish, flightless and not very big.  Sigh.  I don’t even know if they are both female.  Apparently they will lay a lot of eggs (if they are female) and I hope that they will settle into the Homestead and become more friendly and comfortable with us.

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For now…”Ruby” and “Fudge” will continue to have free reign of the backyard and will spend their day’s swimming in their pool and eating bugs.  Maybe I expect too much from my animals.  They are ducks after all.  Ducks that now have a great life at the Nice Family Homestead.

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🙂 Mama Nice

Think Before You Speak…

I struggled to find something to write about this month….do I write about the new ducks? Choosing homestead animals? Update on the garden? Pest control? There are many ideas floating in my head, but at the moment my mind is not on Homesteading.  Instead, my mind is fixed on how to train my children to be thoughtful, considerate, kind, loving and generous human beings.

I grew up with a sister and I had no idea what it was like to have little boys in the house.  God has a sense of humor though and blessed us with 2 boys and a girl.  To top it off, they have two boy cousins down the street, and 2 boy cousins out of state and the boys out numbered the girls quickly.  Add to that the fact that I babysit little boys and most days my house is full of yelling, fart jokes and someone crying because their teeth just got knocked out on their cousins head (true story).

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I realize that “boys will be boys”, but I’m also learning that boys especially need training to be polite, considerate and loving.  Those characteristics don’t come easy to them (at least not the ones I have).  Sure my boys love to cuddle (even at age 10) and they prefer time with the family over friends…but their natural way to communicate and bond is through roughhousing, inappropriate jokes and amping each other up to the point of injury.  The other thing I notice is that there is a constant need to be “first” at just about everything!  First to brush teeth, first to make a joke, first to pick a bugger….a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g.  This leads to a lot of arguing over “who was first” and the result is a bunch of mean, insulting comments at each other.  Not so loving…

What’s a mom to do?  Well…. I continue to read the books on raising boys and on my best days I put the professional suggestions into practice.  However, our boys are bombarded with inappropriate joke telling, abrasive and downright rude TV shows.  Not to mention the political figures in our country can’t be nice to each other, or the sports stars, or the musicians…and they are supposed to be examples for our boys to look up to!

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I know that what we do at home matters so much.  The influence we have on our boys in their everyday life has the ability to overpower the media and peer influences.  As I was searching for more ways to train my kids, I came across something so simple.  The idea to THINK before you speak.  Is what you are about to say True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary or Kind?  It so simple, yet so powerful.  It’s easy enough for my boys to wrap their heads around and put into practice.

I created my own version of the saying below.  The idea is so simple (thank you to whoever came up with it) and yet if we ALL followed these 5 simple rules before we spoke, the world would be changed.

THINK chalkboard poster

To print click here: THINK chalkboard poster

Would you consider trying this in your homes and working together to make the world a better place?  Let’s raise kind, truthful, inspiring and helpful boys!

🙂 Mama Nice

Summer Fun On A Budget

It’s hard to believe that summer is only a couple months away and before you know it, the kids will be home from school.  For some parents, that puts you in a panic of “what am I going to do with my kids all summer?!?!?”  Here are a few ideas and tips that I have used over the years that have made the summertime enjoyable for both myself and my kids….oh yeah, and I didn’t break the bank either!


 

  • Create a Daily Schedule:  Although the idea of sleeping in and waking up whenever you and and your children feel like it all summer long, the reality is that more chaos will ensue unless you plan properly.  Creating a Daily Schedule will help you keep your sanity and your kids will actually feel less stressed knowing what the day will bring.  NOTE: It doesn’t have to be the SAME schedule each day, but consistency certainly helps.

summer fun picture chart

  • For younger kids, use pictures like this one:(free printable picture cards here)
  • For older kids that can read, simply use a chalk board or dry erase board and write the schedule each day.
  • Sample Schedule:
    • Breakfast
    • Chores
    • Free Play Time
    • Project (craft, cooking, science, etc.)
    • Snack
    • Games & Outside Play
    • Lunch
    • Water play
    • Workbook/Quiet Time/Reading Time
    • Free Play
    • Snack & Short TV Show
    • Dinner

Summer Chores

2015 Chore Chart

 

  • I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to fit chores into our daily schedule during the school year.  The kids are swamped with homework and activities and at the end of the day I just want them to relax and be kids.  I want them to go outside or play a game.  So…when summertime comes around, it’s time to instill those good habits of completing chores and participating in the general upkeep of our home.

Projects

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  • Use what you have around the house to come up with projects.   It’s amazing what you can do with plastic cups, paper plates, straws and a camera.  Some of our favorite projects:
    • Cooking (Popsicles, smoothies, cookies, trailmix and of course cheerio necklaces)
    • Bubbles (giant bubble wands, colored bubbles on paper, bubble popping)
    • Crafts (painting with colored ice cubes, giant chalk drawings, cards and letters to send in the mail)
    • Check out Pinterest for lots and lots of budget friendly ideas!

Games

  • We love a friendly game or two in our house.  Keep it simple and enjoy the time connecting and having fun!
    • Scavenger Hunts (Photo Hunts, Treasure Hunts, Collections)
    • Obstacle Course (time each other for those that are more competitive)
    • Backyard Maze (grass getting long? mow a maze and run through it before mowing the rest of the yard)

Water Play

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  • You don’t have to have a pool to have water play time!  The hot afternoon is a great time to get wet and cool off.  We have a small pool, but here are some other ideas:
    • Water Balloon Toss
    • Water Balloon Baseball
    • Limbo using a hose
    • Sprinkler
    • Water Bottle Squirt Tag
    • Car Wash
    • Bicycle Wash
    • Wet Sponges and Targets

Quiet Time

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  • We order the Summer Bridge Books every year and the kids complete 4 pages a day. We also participate in the local Library Summer Reading program where the kids earn prizes for reading (reading together as a family or listening to a book in the car count too!)

Field Trips

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  • The summertime is a great time to see new sights and try new activities.  There are lots of inexpensive places to check out when you’re ready to tackle a “Field Trip” day:
    • Creek Stomping (pack a lunch, wear a bathing suit and go walking in a creek)
    • Playground Review (visit different playgrounds and have the kids journal their reviews)
    • Library Programs
    • Get a group together to visit a zoo or museum and get the group discount rate
    • Check out Kids Bowl Free and find a local bowling alley
    • Try a real treasure hunt and go Geochaching

Got any good Summertime Boredom Busters?  Please share in the comments!🙂 Mama Nice

Homestead Items For Sale

The Nice Family Homestead is busy planting, creating and prepping for more additions to the homestead.  We will have some fun new projects and info to present in the coming season, but while you wait… have you heard about the items for sale on the homestead?

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Check out our Etsy Shop for Homestead log forms and homemade crafts.  Items added monthly.

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Not interested in crafts and organizing forms?  How about eggs and pork?  We currently have the following items for sale:

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  • Dozen Chicken Eggs … $3.75

(unfertilized eggs sizes vary in shape and color)

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  • Gloucester Old Spot Half & Quarter Hog pre-order (raised on pasture with minimum natural grain -processed in November).  Contact us for pricing and information.

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Until next time!  Happy Homesteading!

🙂 Mama Nice

 

 

 

Our Favorite Seed Starting Products

 

Who’s ready to start some seeds??  We are, we are!!  We like to start our seeds early and simple around here.  Anything high maintenance just gets left behind and unattended to.  So when it comes to starting seeds indoors, the easier the better.  Here are some of our favorite products & tips for starting seeds.

1. Find a big south facing window and set up an open shelf (even better if there is a heat vent under the shelf).  We use this Ikea shelf:

ikea wood shelf

2. We pieced together this seed starting tray kit.  It’s heavy duty and will last many many seasons.  Fill the pots with soil/seed starter, plant seeds, fill the bottom tray with water, put the hood on and let it go for a bit.  The system will create a moist greenhouse (remember it’s by a window with lots of sun) and when the seeds start growing, use the vents to control air flow and prevent mold.

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3. Once the seeds have started to grow, the stems need to be strengthened so they don’t get long and leggy.  We clip a small fan like this to the shelf to simulate wind which helps to strengthen the plant.

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4. Lastly, I found this super cute water bottle to gently spray the plants and tops of the soil.

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Pretty simple right?  This is what our setup looks like:

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Stop back next month to see how the seeds are growing and what to do next!

🙂 Mama Nice

 

Our First Adventure Raising Pigs

We have 3 acres on our homestead, which isn’t a lot of acreage to raise meat animals, but we wanted to raise more than chickens.  After researching beef cows, dairy animals and pigs…we settled on pigs.  Not just any kind of pig, but pasture fed Gloucester Old Spot pigs.  We read that GOS pigs have a docile personality, were great with other farm animals, and needed minimal grain to grow to butcher weight.  We found a local breeder and back in April we put our deposit in for 2 piglets.  In June we got the call to come pick them up.  The piglets were around 40 pounds and ready to leave their mama.

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How cute are they???  Pig 1 and Pig 2 quickly stole our hearts and we enjoyed playing with them for months…. until they grew too big to be safe for little children.

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The pigs are now 7 months old and about 250 pounds.  They are still very gentle, but they eat a lot more and find ways to escape their pen.  The electric fence no longer works for them, as they have discovered how to pile mounds of dirt up the side of the fence, forcing it to collapse (covering the electric part) and creating a land bridge to freedom for themselves.  So….they are now in the cattle fence pen only and are fed grain and some fruit and veggies.

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They are scheduled to be butchered during the week of Thanksgiving.  If the meat is as good as we have been told, we will raise even more pigs next year.

If you have a small homestead and are looking for a low maintenance, quick adventure in meat animals, I highly recommend smaller pasture raised pigs.

🙂 Mama Nice

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