Thursday, August 28, 2014

Crockpot Yogurt

I recently discovered that I am able to eat dairy products.
After avoiding them for over 40 years,
it's a treat being able to enjoy a greater variety of good, wholesome foods.
(Okay, the chocolate ice cream doesn't really count.)

Another area in my diet that has been drastically altered has been by choice.
Refined sugar wreaks havoc on my body,
causing skin breakouts and yeast infections,
so I do my best to keep it out of my diet.
I'm a label reader and a scratch cook,
so it's not that hard to do.

Having recently been diagnosed with osteoporosis,
I was encouraged to take a calcium supplement twice a day.
I merely crush it (those pills are HUGE) and add it to yogurt.
With few exceptions, the yogurt on the grocery store shelf 
had more sugar in it than I wanted to consume.  So, I decided to make my own.
When I found this recipe for crockpot yogurt, I was sold.
I'm not one to buy gadgets that serve only one purpose,
so this recipe allowed me to employ my crockpot for yet another use!
It's so easy and it tastes fabulous!  
This recipe is for a small amount,
because I wanted to make sure I liked the results,
but you can double or triple the recipe.

My friend Jackie, at Born Imaginative has been exceedingly encouraging and helpful.
You can find her post on the subject here.
How much do I love that I can cross another item off the grocery list forever?
Gettin' to be more of a homesteader every day!

Crockpot Yogurt

Place 2 C of whole milk in crockpot.  
Turn crockpot on low for 2 ½ hours. 
Unplug crockpot.

   After 3 hours, mix in yogurt starter (about a 1/4 C of  plain yogurt).
Wrap entire crockpot pot in a heavy towel to insulate overnight.
(Crockpot remains unplugged.)

In the morning, it will be done.
If you like your yogurt a bit thicker,
Jackie suggests adding some nonfat powdered milk
when the yogurt starter is mixed in.
Add whatever flavorings you like-
vanilla, jam, honey or whole fruit.

Be sure to save a bit of plain yogurt from each batch
so that you can start the next one.
This keeps well in the fridge for at least a week.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Maple Hill Hop 45

Maple Hill Hop

Welcome to 
The Maple Hill Hop.
This is a hop for folks who love the outdoors.
Feel free to post about anything that's going on
in your neck of the woods.
(Please share only outdoor posts.)

Summer is winding down here in Central Florida.
There's a subtle change in the air.
We are blessed to continue to enjoy an array of blooms.

 The lantana is drought tolerant and thrives in the heat of summer.
The only care they require is a pruning several times a year.

 The beautyberry is an explosion of color.
This year we have more berries than ever before.

Another Florida-friendly plant, 
it adds interesting texture and height to the garden.
The berries are enjoyed by wildlife.


In our back bed, the coleus a friend gifted us with is doing well.
This bed doesn't get as much water as some,
but this plant doesn't seem to mind one bit.

The hibiscus shares a space near the coleus.
We've had an abundance of blooms on this new(ish) addition.

This plumbego had recently been severely pruned,
but it's bouncing back thanks to a few good thunderstorms.
This plant serves as a buffer for the front part of our house,
as we don't have gutters to filter the rain.
The plumbego absorbs most of what falls in this area.

The moonflower plant on the east side of the house
provides a constant shower of giant, fragrant blooms.
They are much like morning glories in their appearance and growing habits.

The dried seed pods  provide us with a never-ending supply
so that we can enjoy these for years to come.

This spider plant greets visitors.
Propagating this plant is a simple matter of
pulling off the sprouts you see at the ends of the vines
and placing them in soil.

The front walk was lined with these native petunias.
When they are in bloom,
there are tons of periwinkle flowers lining the walkway.

Several transplants of this native salvia were placed 
throughout the back beds.
The color is what sold me on this beauty,
but the velvety foliage and the way they sway in the breeze are so appealing.

It was so exciting to see a pumpkin finally appear!
We had tons of male flowers, but no females.
I thought maybe they were just awaiting the right time.

Unfortunately, this morning I found our hopes dashed.
The squash had turned brown and was squishy.
I'll be tearing out the whole vine to make room for an herb garden.

 This basil plant began so well.
Then it started getting eaten by some small green grasshoppers.
I just let it go to seed in hopes that we can start again next spring.

 The zinnias never disappoint.
They are a constant in our garden every summer
and it's gratifying to know that they will always be here.

 With a rainbow of colors to choose from,
there's sure to be some you can't live without.

What's going on outside where you are?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Planting Pineapple

One of the easiest fruits to grow here in Central Florida
is pineapple.
The flavor of these homegrown beauties is unlike anything
you'll find in a can at the grocery store.
I've grown these myself, so you know it has to be easy.

This is a pineapple patch at Faye & Lynn's homestead.
They use the metal trash cans to cover the plant when it gets near pickin' time,
so that the raccoons don't get to it first.

Here is Lynn's method of assuring a healthy, productive plant.
The top of the pineapple is saved.
It can be dried for a couple of days in the shade outside,
but it's not necessary.

Lynn uses  needle nosed pliers to remove the bottom-most leaves
from the crown of the plant.
Gloves help protect hands from thorny leaves.

You can see the ones closest to the neck are the most dried out.

By just removing a small handful of leaves,
the pineapple has a better chance at becoming productive.

The small brown patch you see here is the beginning of roots.
By eliminating the outer leaves, the roots have more opportunity to attach to the soil
and thus, start growing.

See how many more roots there are now?
Lynn whittles down until a small knob is formed.
That's what gets planted.
Pineapple plants like full sun and are surprisingly drought-tolerant.
Give them space, 
because many times, they will quadruple in size.
They can also be grown in containers.

This tropical wonder loves the heat!
The plant produces one fruit at a time,
but will continue to produce,
treating the gardener to sweet, juicy pineapple over and over.

When the base of the fruit turns from green to mostly brownish-orange,
it's ready to harvest.
Simply twist at the base and it will come right off.
You're set to enjoy one of the most delectable and refreshing tidbits
that ever came across your plate.


Back to the Basics

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Maple Hill Hop 44

Maple Hill Hop

Summer is movin' right along here in Central Florida.
The gloriosa daisies don't seem to be fazed by the soaring thermometer.

They keep on blooming day after day,
regardless of the relenting sun.

Others are providing seeds to ensure future blooms.

 The bright magenta jewels on the native beautyberry
are appealing to birds.

fading zinnia

 Lantana adds a pop of yellow to the back bed
and pollinators just love it!

 More yellow can be found on this thryallis located in the east side bed.

 This Florida-friendly plant just thrives in the scorching temperatures.

 Underneath, the sweet potato vine fills in as a ground cover.

The morning glory vine edges the square-foot bed.

This bed is being turned into an herb garden,
and the vine adds a soft border.

The pumpkin vine decided to jump the trellis and take over the square-foot bed.
This thyme in the middle is not giving up its coveted spot.

The birdbath provides ample shade for our feathered friends.
The ferns are filled with anole lizards and baby frogs.


It was great to discover the monarchs taking up residence
on the native milkweed again.

 There has been a noticeable decline in the number present this summer.
Hopefully, they are only behind schedule, 
and we'll have a few more months to enjoy hosting them.

What's going on outside where you are?

HOP to it!