Gigi Blog » The life and loveliness of Gigi's World

Gigi Blog bio picture
  • Welcome to the Gigi Blog!

    Blessed to be a mother to half a dozen girls & one boy. Wife of an undertaker.
    Photographer. Homeschooler. Daughter of the King. Chicken and goat raiser.
    Lover of Jesus and all things pink and vintage. ♥

Walter & Lazarus

“The day after Billy Whiskers was sold to the Biggses,
he was shut in a small yard to keep him out of mischief.
Feeling lonesome, he thought that he would jump the fence and look around a little.

He was getting cross-eyed looking through the palings of the fence which were very close together,
so suiting the action to the thought, he vaulted over the fence…”
-Billy Whiskers

 

 

Sometimes Abby questions why we keep Walter, our male goat … yes, he can escape from every pen, jump a five foot fence, he can be a bit smelly at times, he can walk a tight rope and eat all the trees in sight  but won’t clear the weeds and bush we wanted him to clear… but he is also the kindest, most gentle billy goat you will ever meet.
He jumps on the trampoline with the girls.
Sleeps at the back door like a dog when accidentally left out of the barn at night (oops).
Greets all visitors with a smelly side rub.
He’s Lyla’s animal sidekick.

And plays with babies on the grass.

 

 

 

 

Walter is supposed to be on the *other* side of this fence… ahem.

 

P.S. Having a billy goat around the house certainly has given our family lots of fun and interesting stories and memories.
So many, in fact, that it inspired us to read Billy Whiskers, a book written in the early 1900s, about a mischievous billy goat who gets into loads of trouble. He is lovable and likeable but full of bad goat-like habits. We love this series of books and it is a definite must for our home library.

 

The Provision Room

“Run down and get the cinnamon, will you, Joey?” said Polly.
“It’s in the ‘Provision Room.’”
The “Provision Room” was a little shed that was tacked onto the main house,
and reached by a short flight of rickety steps; so called, because Polly said,
“It’s a good place to keep provisions, even if we haven’t any; and besides,”
she always finished, “it sounds nice!”
-Five Little Peppers

 

 

 

With this year’s canning, it seemed time to organize the canning room, which was indeed, a scary mess of a “room” in our over 100-year-old ‘basement’. I did not mind the dirt floors (indeed, they are ideal for a basement in many cases) but the shelving and set up was quite an eyesore. The entire room was just not lovely. A bee flew into my bonnet and I began to dream of a room on the other side of the basement – a fresh start -with the jars lined up according to category (fruits, meats, vegetables, and so forth).

With much hesitation and a bit of protest, Mr. Gauthier lovingly put together all the shelves (found here – a steal of a deal). Once the shelves were established, I organized the jars and food items, carrying over hundreds of jars of pickles, preserves, beans, soups, stews and fruits from one side of the basement to the other. It took me a long time in between naps, homeschooling and life in general.

 

Mr. Gauthier also insulated this little “room” we have (really, it is a stairwell under our porch that opens into the basement) to be a cold room. We shall see how it works. I still do not have a thermometer so I am unsure of the temperature. It has a dirt floor and insulated walls. Sadly, while doing this room, Abby was sprayed by a skunk that was (again!) hiding out in this room ….. the house still stinks when you walk in from the outside! The poor thing – he also accidentally spray foamed his hands, coat and pants as the bottle exploded all over him! Let me tell you – if you have ever seen or used that stuff, it is nasty. And impossible to get off your skin. We tried everything but nothing worked in removing it. He was rendedered helpless for a day as he spent hours trying to remove and pick and scrape and cut off the spray foam from his hands. It was not a fun day for him, that is to be certain.

But in the end, the room was finished – or rather, what is to be done, was done.  I would like to clear out one side that has my photography business boxes and supplies in totes but they are still there for now.

 

We call it the Provision Room – we have just finished reading the book, Five Little Peppers, and the idea of calling such a room accordingly fit perfectly. Plus, you do indeed need to go down a flight of very rickety stairs to enter the basement!

 

 

 

Please forgive the quality of the photos. These are taken in a completely dark basement with absolutely no natural light. All I had was one tiny, ridiculous light bulb that did not give off much light.

 

 

The girls helped by hanging up the onions in netting so as to keep air circulating around them and to help avoid rot.

 

Everything is stored in a category – jams and fruit preserves, pie fillings and such along one wall. On top, other supplies for baking or such.

On the other wall, tomatoes, tomato sauces, etc. and soups and stews of all kinds. Also, some pickles and relish. At the very end, some squash and pumpkins.

On the third wall, vegetables and such.

 

 

We wrapped up four bushels of apples and pears for storing – last year, we had them outside and they froze so this year, we are trying inside in the cooler basement.

Here is the scary room-under-the-deck that opens into the house. This is where we have met many a skunk or two. It looks very scary, doesn’t it? There is no light – but the top opens (or rather, it used to open before it was spray foamed) to the side porch. Here I have potatoes, some cabbages {I want to see how well they keep whole}, turnips, sweet potatoes and lots more potatoes stored.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bins in the middle of the room hold wheat berries and oatmeal, which is bought in huge bulk bags.

 

 

 

There is bulk noodles and rice on top of the shelves, as well. I buy in bulk from a local Mennonite store, as well as a group bulk order.

I will update how storing the whole vegetables go, perhaps, in the spring.  We are hoping the room is cold enough – with the new insulation, it should not drop cold enough to freeze the vegetables.

 

There is a scene at the beginning of the Walton’s Christmas movie that I have always loved – it is right when the mother goes to the Provision Room to collect apples to make her applesauce cake for Christmas. She is humming and full of joy, even though they are awaiting the arrival of their father and husband who is late due to a snow storm – there is also a depression across the country and yet, there she was, humming happily collecting a few apples for her children to enjoy.

This scene always struck me as a picture of motherhood – it inspired me to have such a room and such joy and satisfaction in the basic tasks of homemaking.

{Linked up with Strangers & Pilgrims}

 

 

November 12, 2016 - 7:07 pm

Robin North - Lovely room! This is exactly what I have dreamed of having. I never learned how to can though. It’s on my bucket list. Every year I say I am ging to try but chicken out.

November 2, 2016 - 9:18 am

admin - Lauren, I just used totes from WalMart, but the oats and barley and wheat berries that I use daily are upstairs in my pantry, stored in stainless steel garbage cans. (I would like to do this downstairs in the Provison Room but I have not yet purchased the containers. I would not choose to use plastic but since my items are still in their original bags, I guessed it would be okay.
The bulk oats/wheat berries are from a bulk ordering program, which, funny enough, is also sold at a local Mennonite store (for a slightly higher cost than the bulk ordering program). I can purchase from either, which is very convenient! I have just put in a new order for bulk dried beans and cinnamon, as we use both a lot as well. I keep bulk barley, oats, flour, wheat berries to grind flour and organic cane sugar (which I find expensive).

November 2, 2016 - 8:28 am

Lauren Mirecki - What an awesome room! Where do you get your oats from in bulk? And do you find the totes keep it air tight enough? I have huge bags of flour from Costco but I need to put it into bins and I’ve never been able to find oats since we moved from being close to a grain mill.

November 2, 2016 - 6:36 am

admin - Maike, good question! I was afraid of that! Abby removed the potatoes before he was sprayed.
Jen, yes, just open a jar, warm on the stove (they are already cooked – no need to boil), add some butter and maybe brown sugar and you are ready to serve for dinner. :) And yes, you could use them for soups and stews or even making carrot cakes and muffins…

November 2, 2016 - 5:01 am

Maike - Don’t the potatoes etc take in the skunk smell?

The big room looks so nice and tidy.
I’m not sure if I could keep it that nice especially if children might be involved in bringing food upstairs. But it sure must make you feel more relieved to have that part of the house look lovely now too. It makes me feel so much as if I’m part of the Anne of Green Gables stories. :-)

November 2, 2016 - 1:55 am

Terri Presser - That is absolutely awesome what a provision room. Thanks for sharing at good morning Mondays. Blessings

November 1, 2016 - 8:02 pm

Brenda (Gigi's Mom)b - Looks amazing, Gillian! Great job, Abby!!! Love the name of Provision Room. xo

November 1, 2016 - 2:41 am

Rebecca - Yay!!! Thanks for sharing! It looks so wonderful!!!

October 31, 2016 - 6:57 pm

Sarah - Wow! Your provision room is fabulous!! It does look so old-fashioned and makes me think of a Grace Livingston Hill book I read. I am sorry to hear of all that your husband went through, but I am sure he is pleased to have such a well stocked room as reward for his troubles. : )

Lovelyn & Jack ❤

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers…”
-Anne Shirley

 

 

October is one of my favorite months for so many reasons … and it is also Lovelyn Angelica Joy’s birthday month! This year, we celebrated her sixth birthday. How she became a little six year old is beyond me – I need to remember to treasure and slow down every day and cherish each of my sweet young ones. They grow so fast right in front of our eyes. She is such a blessing to our family – a true servant’s heart, gentle, peaceful and very caring. She truly lives up to her name.

A few months ago, she adopted a floppy eared bunny that we found for free. She named her new bunny-friend Jack – and they are such a cute little pair. Jack is the boss of the barnyard, believe it or not, beating up the other male bunnies. He is a bit of a bully but so loving and affectionate to his owner.
We love you, Lovie! xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 29, 2016 - 6:43 pm

Rachel Joy - I remember when Lovelyn was born! We made aaaall those mini bath fizzies. Haha! I cannot believe it’s been 6 years since then! Happy, happy birthday little Lovelyn Angelica Joy! We share a middle name and our birth month. :) <3

Preparing for Winter: {Canning} Carrots

Almanzo ate four large helpings of apples ’n’ onions fried together.
He ate roast beef and brown gravy,
and mashed potatoes and creamed carrots and boiled turnips,
and countless slices of buttered bread with crab-apple jelly.
‘It takes a great deal to feed a growing boy,’ Mother said.
-Farmer Boy

 

 

 

 

What’s this?

Another canning post?

It may return to life as normal (or is this the new normal?) someday but for now, it’s still time to be busy in the kitchen, prepping for winter, filling up the pantry and preparing to put away food.

I actually woke up in the middle of the night last night, sat up and calculated how many weeks of winter there are for our family. Yes, I know.

If we have approximately six months of cooler/cold weather here in the north when vegetables are  not able to grow, that makes 24 weeks of needing a supply of food. Even in my groggy sleep, I calculated how I could feed our family without using the grocery store, unless completely necessary. Why, do you ask, do I care so much? Well, have you look at where your food is coming from in your local grocery store? Have you noticed that our garlic is shipped from China and sold in our local grocery stores, even though garlic is easily grown here in our area? Have you seen that even the baby cookies {President’s Choice} are also made in China? If you start reading labels on your food products, you will find out that most of the food – especially during the off-growing season, are not produced locally at all, even the items that are easily grown in our area during the summer. [Here is another article to read.]We have known this for a while – of course, that goes hand in hand with growing our own vegetables and raising our own meat (only chicken and ducks, so far – however, we have not purchased meat from the store in years as we purchase our beef from a local farmer).

The more you can produce for yourself and your family, the better off you will be.

So, with my estimate, we would need 24 weeks of hearty vegetable servings to feed the family, with a little extra for days we need to double recipes, etc.
I counted the butternut squash that had been harvested from the garden – and can you believe it, there are 24. God is good! One squash a week will certainly be a blessing!

Our corn that we shucked and cut off the cob, grown from a local organic farmer around the corner, has been bagged and frozen. Guess how many bags? 24 bags of sweet corn.

Praise the Lord!

 

Now it was time to fill the Provision Room with those lovely, beautiful vegetables that we all love and adore – carrots.

 

While we did not grow enough in our garden to sustain us for the winter months, we did grow some for eating during the summer. They are all gone now, sadly, however I know how many beds of carrots I will need to plant next season. In the meantime, there was a lovely sale of local carrots  sold in bulk recently, something I had been waiting for patiently.

I was able to purchase 50 lbs. of carrots with intentions of canning them for the winter. I knew I would need approximately 24 jars of carrots, with 10 extra jars for those additional meals or perhaps even for baking.

I have tried to store carrots in my basement but they mold too quickly. I would prefer to keep them whole but I knew that I would not be able to do that – at least, not this year. So canning was the other option.

 

For canning carrots, you will need a pressure canner.

 

First, simply wash and chop the carrots up. If they are organic, you do not even need to peel them. There are loads of nutrients packed in the skin and just below so resist the urge to peel!

 

 

I prefer to use a cold pack method – which means the carrots were not cooked before canning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fill your jars to the elbow of the jar (leaving a 1″ headspace) and pour boiling water over your carrots.

 

 

 

It is always more fun to have your little helpers join you in the kitchen. It actually did speed up my work as I just kept on chopping while she gathered the pieces and placed them in the jars. Thank you, Lovelyn, for your help!

Process your jars in your pressure canner for 25 minutes at 10 lbs of pressure (for my altitude, this is what is required – check your altitude for the required weights for your area). Every pressure canner is different so make sure to read the directions for your own particular machine.

I took a picture of my “rustic” redneck setup of the propane burner outside so you could see how I do it. I have set up the wood pieces to block the wind from blowing out the flame (which can happen if it is windy). I would love to purchase a larger canner now that our family has grown in size but this is what God has blessed me with and I am using it to it’s full capabilities.:)

 

 

 

Once processed, allow the  pressure to naturally decrease in your canner.

 

 

 

When it is safe to open the lid, place your jars on your counter and leave undisturbed for 24 hours. Check for the seals the next day.

{This is not all the jars – there were still more in the canner!}


Place in your pantry, cold room storage or Provision Room and enjoy the fruits of your labour!

 

 

{linked up with Strangers & Pilgrims}

 

November 2, 2016 - 6:44 am

admin - Jen, yes, just open a jar, warm on the stove (they are already cooked – no need to boil), add some butter and maybe brown sugar and you are ready to serve for dinner. :)

November 1, 2016 - 8:39 pm

Jennifer Heemskerk - Hey there Gillian, I’m so enjoying your canning posts! I was wondering what you would use these carrots for? For example, do you just open a can of carrots and then cook them? Or would you add them to a stew? Or make carrot soup. I’m still wondering about how to use all of these canned veggies in a practical way. Thanks

October 26, 2016 - 1:32 pm

Tana Mason - God is good!! It’s such a blessing to be able to can and preserve what we grow in our own backyard. Please come share this at the Homesteader Hop https://www.floydfamilyhomestead.com/2016/10/26/homesteader-hop-26/

October 26, 2016 - 5:26 am

admin - Maike, surprisingly – with 7 girls in the house! – we have not had lice yet! I’m sure we will one day. It just is a part of childhood, it seems. Try a combination of tea tree and eucalyptus oil. You can mix it in the shampoo rinse. Add 5-20 drops to your shampoo and wash daily or even twice a day. Or create the same mixture of oils with coconut oil and massage it into the hair and roots. Another option is to mix a few drops of tea tree oil into 2 – 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Rub it into the hair and let it sit for an hour or so. Rinse and comb out. Hopefully that helps. They are a problem for most families at some point in our lives, unfortunately. Hoping your problem is solved quickly for your sake! {hugs}

October 26, 2016 - 5:21 am

admin - Yes, you got it, Tara- do what you can with what you have! If you are unable to grow your own food, you can source out good local produce (we are at the tail end of it this year) to can and pressure can for your family. There are great deals to be found right now. In the fall, you can drive down country roads and find free apples. Farmer’s markets will sell vegetables in bulk. Yes, homemade goodness is wonderful! Your children are blessed.

October 26, 2016 - 4:17 am

Maike - I’m having a question to a different topic. Do your children ever get lice (those little animal habitants that like to live on your head and make it very itchy)? If so have you found something natural that works well in the war against them?

October 25, 2016 - 9:29 pm

Tara C - I LOVE seeing all of your posts about canning! One day, I hope to have the ability to do this – grow our own produce, can and store it. One day :) For now, I do what I can with what I have and bake my kiddos school snacks. There are SO many yummy treats that can be made and frozen so that they have a little homemade goodness.

October 25, 2016 - 1:05 pm

Gramma Cardinal - yum, carrot cake and muffins! xxxxxxxxx

Using {all} of your Apples

“The cellar began to have its winter smell of apples and preserves.
After all the perfect apples had been picked,  Almanzo and Royal could shake the trees.
They shook the trees with all their might, and the apples came rattling down like hail.
They picked them up and threw them into the wagon. These were cider-apples.”
-Farmer Boy

The Autumn wind is whipping the damp laundry, once hung so neatly on the line, into a messy tangled line. Colored leaves are swirling about the green fields and the smell of fall is in the air.

…. there is the comforting aroma of homemade apple cider, warming on the woodstove … the incredible mixture of cinnamon and apple slices all tucked up gently into a warm pie in the oven … dusted with sprinkles of white sugar … the tucking away of homemade apple cider vinegar in the Provision Room … October is just wonderful. It is one of my favorite months, to be sure.

 

After all, who does not love apple season?

Every time we drive down our country road, I keep my eyes searching for loaded {free for the picking} apple trees. Many times, we have pulled our big truck over, unloaded the girls and buckets (after asking permission, if a land owner is available) and loaded up on apples. I have used these apples for many things … apple cider vinegar, apple cider, applesauce, apple butter, and apple pie filling, apple syrup …  and of course,  we are also storing apples to eat whole during the winter.

Having such canned items in the Provision Room is a must for this family. I do not think we could get through winter without having apples  or apple products in the house!

 

I have just finished making another 2 gallon batch of apple cider, which will turn into apple cider vinegar after some patient-waiting. Have you ever made apple cider vinegar? A dear friend of mine instructed me to use full apples, instead of scraps, to make the vinegar, as the scraps produce a watered-down version of your vinegar, she suggested. So full apples, we used.

 

 

To make apple cider vinegar, start off by pressing or juicing your apples. We used a juicer- you can find a similar one here.
Pour your juice into a glass jar, add the ACV mother a a couple tablespoons of organic cider vinegar. Cover  your jar with a cloth secured with rubberband and place in a dark, cool location for approximately six weeks. Check your vinegar periodically. I received a piece of a mother from my friend, but I have read you can take a piece of a “mother” from your organic apple cider vinegar from the store.

 

You can see the “mother” floating around in the cider.

 

 

 

Apple cider vinegar is amazing and definitely something you should keep in your pantry. It is known to remove toxins from your body,   soothe sore throats, help ease indigestion, clear away acne and blemishes on the skin, keep your animals healthy (we add it to our animals’ water), aid in losing weight, boost energy  {take a sip of it when you feel sluggish}, it can help whiten teeth and get rid of bad breath, fade bruises, and it will help control blood sugar levels.  It is amazing in so many ways! I also use it to make tinctures and fire cider.

 

 

With our excess apples, we also made apple cider to drink (which was made the same way – we just skipped adding the mother, as we will not be fermenting our batch of cider). I water bathed the jars to preserve the cider. You can read full directions for canning cider here on this very helpful website.  In some jars, I added a cinnamon stick to spice up the flavor. Just shake the jar before warming to unsettle the thicker bits of the cider.

 

 

I look forward to having some buttered popcorn and hot homemade apple cider in the middle of winter, as we gather around the cozy woodstove. It will remind me of the story of Almanzo Wilder in “Farmer Boy”. Doesn’t that just sound deliciously cozy?

 Then your apples all is gathered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin’ ’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and their sauce and sausage, too…”
-James Whitcombe Riley
When the Frost is on the Punkin’

Linked up with Strangers & Pilgrims

 

October 25, 2016 - 11:11 am

admin - Thanks, Liz.
Lyndy, thank *you* for your encouragement!

October 22, 2016 - 2:27 pm

jen - mmmm i just made some homemade apple cider yesterday :D

October 20, 2016 - 9:53 pm

Lynda Lu Gibb - You my dear ,are a tireless worker! Not to say you aren’t tired..but that you just keep going.. Praise the Lord for your diligence and willingness to persist in your pursuit for a God Filled healthy life for your family.. and thank you for this blog which brings blessings to all who read it. Thank you for encouragement.

October 19, 2016 - 6:43 pm

Liz - Mono Cliffs trails have a lot of ancient apple orchards if you’re still looking. Also pretty in the spring.