Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Our very exciting announcement

As you probably know, we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

And I'm not just saying that.  It's true.  

When we started offering homesteading and wilderness summer-campy kind of events for kids, many adults asked if we ever offer retreats for adults.

We have taught many adult classes at our homestead before, but never done it in a retreat-style, where people spend the night and get fed meals.

But now, we do!!!

We will offer one weekend retreat this year, October 15 and 16, at our beautiful homestead in the Upper Skagit Valley at the edge of the North Cascades wilderness.

This will be a time to...

  • slow down
  • connect with nature
  • unwind in gorgeous scenery
  • learn homesteading skills
  • learn wilderness survival skills 
  • eat healthy, farm-grown food
  • connect with like-minded, earth-conscious people
  • ask us questions about homesteading and wilderness skills

We are offering our homesteading and wilderness skills weekend camp to teach you new skills and empower and inspire you to live a more self-reliant, wholesome, simpler and healthier life.

To some extend, this retreat will be flexible and can be customized to what people most want to learn.

On the agenda this time around: 

Saturday, October 15:

10 am: Tour of our homestead, Orientation of sleeping quarters and accommodations

11 am - 2 pm: Choose between Gouda Cheese Making or Primitive Wilderness Skills (shelter, fire, cordage)

2 pm - 5 pm: Choose between Soap Making or Tracking and Wild Edibles in the Forest

6 pm: Home-cooked dinner

7 - 9: Campfire gathering, at the homestead or one of our wild creeks

Sunday, October 16:

8:30 am: Milking goats

9 am: Farm-fresh breakfast

10 am - 3 pm: Choose between Goat Raising Course or other topic of choice or Bow Making Course

3 pm - 5 pm: Choose between Canning or Sauerkraut Making or Archery

Students have several options for accommodations at our homestead:






... and in hotels, motels, air B and B and campgrounds very close by.

We are located at the edge of the North Cascades Mountain wilderness in the Upper Skagit Valley, Washington State, where the scenery is mind-blowingly beautiful!

We are 2 hours Northeast of Seattle, 1 1/2 hours Southeast of Bellingham, and easily accessible by scenic Highway 20.

You could fly into Seatac Airport and be at our homestead in two and a half hours, spend the weekend with us, and then extend your vacation hiking, sightseeing, or exploring!

For more info or to sign up, please fill out this form, and we'll be in touch!

* indicates required

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The height of summer!

This is us in the kitchen.  We are harvesting, preserving, preparing and cooking so much food that's coming from our land, these days we need all hands on board.  

In this particular picture, I am blissfully licking raw chocolate for my chocolate truffles, cause it's my medicine, and I need to eat six four of them every day.

Luke and Steve are cutting up apples for dehydrating.  Kai and Eva (not pictured) are picking apples in the orchard.  We are picking apples every single day, and I already made gallons of applesauce.

We are also peach-rich, thanks to a prolific organic grower that sells boxes of them.  We have canned a lot of peaches with honey already (here's the recipe and tutorial), and since there are lots more where that came from, we also eat them fresh with cream.  

Have you ever eaten peaches with cream?  Do it!  Right now!  No, wait - read to the end of this post, and then go get some!

Talking of sweet fruits: we are drowning in figs.  It's not a bad problem to have, really, since I'd rather be drowning in figs than say, goat manure, but it puts the pressure on: what to do with them?  

If in doubt, just add cream (to the figs, not the goat manure, okay?).

And the blackberries?  The BLACKBERRIES!!!  We have already picked and frozen a ton, and every time we walk the goats to pasture, we pick more.  Straight into our mouths.  The goats love them, too.  Of course, we also manage to save some for desert every night, with - you guessed it - cream.

The whole garden is producing veggies of all kinds.  We eat lots of Greek salads with our homegrown tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, my Feta cheese, and Kalamata olives.

Soon, I shall make dilly beans.  And something with zucchini.  Does anyone want zucchini?  No?  I thought so.

Not only food stuff goes on in the kitchen, but also soap making.  I love my goat milk soaps, and I had a bunch of people custom order some.  So here I go.

You can imagine that with all this work, we insist on playing hard.  And we do.  Our local rivers are an amazing playground, with deep, cold, green pools to jump into (or do backflips, as my sons do, to my big dismay).  

Steve took one of his deer hides (he hunts with a wooden bow he made himself) to the creek the other day to stretch it there, and the boys were happy to help.  I sat there with my knitting, watching them proudly.  Not just because my husband is easy on the eyes (isn't he, though?), but also because I love how involved our kids are with these wilderness skills.  A few weeks down the road, they might sew a shirt with this tanned hide.  

All in all, things are going great.  We are getting ready for our wilderness and homesteading summer camp for kids this weekend.  

All the critters are great, too.  Chickens are laying, goats are producing.  What more could you ask for?

PS: I have a very exciting announcement to make, and I will do that in the next post.  Watch for it!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Ways to connect with us

Darlings!  I am so astonished how much my blog readership has grown over the short four years I've had this blog.  I am blown away that most of you think we are so cool.  Who would have thought?  I love sharing our lives with you and inspiring and teaching you how to live simpler, healthier and more wholesome.  Or is it wholesome-ly, since it's an adverb?  I don't know.  English is my second language, after all.

The only hard thing about this rising popularity is that I now get lots of emails of people asking for advice, or asking to come visit the farm, or asking to spend some time with us.

And although I would love to connect with every single one of you, invite you over for tea, or chat on the phone, here's the thing: 

I can't.

We are running a homestead, which is a full time job by itself.  We also homeschool our three children, which is a full time job as well.  And on top of all this wonder-full-ness, we run several businesses (my husband has his own salmon habitat restoration business, I create and design online and in-person courses, write articles for magazines and am a life coach), and together we teach retreats, workshops and summer camps.

So you see, we are spread a tiny little bit thin.  

It's really important for me to serve you.  Like, that's my soul's purpose - to make people's lives better (and animals' lives, too... that's why my critters are all so spoiled).

The good news: there are lots of ways to connect with us and get our undivided, personal attention!

Here are some of the ways how:

  • Our Marblemount Homestead Facebook page.  Come on over, hit "Like", and connect.  You can ask questions, and I can answer them in service to other people, because the chance is if you have a question, other people do, too.

  • Instagram is an awesome tool! I'm on it every day, posting beautiful pictures and interacting with folks.

  • My Pinterest page is full of tutorials, all about homesteading, preserving food, hiking, and everything else you want to know about.  All for free.

  • If you are a visual learner, visit my Youtube channel.  You'll see what I mean.

  • I'm starting to think about doing a weekly (or bi-weekly) Facebook live streaming event, where I make myself available to answer your questions.  Or maybe a teleconference phone call?  Or google hangout?  Which would you prefer?

  • Also, in the future I will have membership groups that will include private mentoring.  I'll let you know more when I'm done developing these.

  • I haven't advertised this on the blog, and most of you don't know this: I am a transformative life coach, and I have been coaching women for years on transforming their limiting beliefs and changing the patterns in their lives that hold them back from creating what they want.  Talk about my soul's work!  You can find out more here.

One of the best ways to connect is this:

(and it helps buy food for the goats... and the chickens... and the ducks... and the pigs...and our children...)

Take one of my online courses.  Wait!  Don't skip over this part, because you think online courses are not what you would like.  I know you would like mine.

They are actually really fun and entertaining, and self-paced, so you can start whenever you like and take as much or as little time as you want.  You get my movies (me in the kitchen and garden, oh my!) and e-books, and you can download them and keep them forever, watch and read as many times as you want.  And best of all, you get to interact with me LIVE, ask as many questions as you want, and have me hold your hand.

The bottom line is this: I am so happy you are here, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing our lives with us!


Did you know that I make no money from blogging, and that I'm offering a lot of content for free?  So if you want to support us, please buy our online courses and learn great skills at the same time!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

How to can peaches with honey - a tutorial

It's summer.  Peaches are ripe.  Everything is ripe: berries, fruits, tomatoes...  It's heaven, man!

But wait!  Winter will come, it really will, and all this delicious abundance shall be a distant memory.

Unless you preserve it.  But many people associate preserving with lots of sugar: sweet jams, syrup-y canned fruit... 

We preserve peaches by canning them with honey, which is healthier than sugar, tastes like manna from the heavens, and looks pretty.

Let me show you exactly how I can peaches and what you need to create these jars of gold.

You can modify the amount of peaches, of course.  My canner happens to fit 12 quarts in it, so I made enough to fit into 12 jars.

What you need:

  • 12 mason jars (it doesn't matter if they are wide mouth or regular)
  • Canning funnel (optional, but it really hepls when pouring the syrup)
  • Knife
  • 18 pounds peaches (or less, of course, and adjust the recipe accordingly)
  • 3 cups honey
  • water for hot water bath and for honey syrup (6 quarts for syrup, and half the canner full for canning)


Prepare your equipment

Make sure the mason jars are all nice and clean. Some people say you need to bleach everything – I never do. I just run them through the hot dishwasher. Some people say the jars need to be hot when you put in the peaches, otherwise the jars will crack. I don't follow that train of thought and never had a problem with my method (but please do read all my tricks and tips to prevent the jars from cracking!)

Fill the hot water bath canner halfway with water and start heating it up, so it will be almost boiling by the time your jars are ready to go in it.

Put your lid and rings into hot water. I just put mine in a stainless steel colander and put them in the hot water canner so they stay nice and hot, and it also sterilizes them in the meantime. I always re-use lids, as long as they are not dented or cracked. Other people claim you have to use new ones every time, but I never do.

Get the honey and equipment all lined up in a row, ready to do their duty.

Wash the peaches  

We buy boxes of organic peaches, but even if they're organic, it's still a good idea to wash them.

Prepare the syrup

Heat 6 quarts of water to boiling. Once it boils, turn off the heat and add 3 cups honey. You don't want the honey to boil, so don't put it in while the water boils. This amount of syrup is generous – you might have some left over. You will need more or less depending on how tightly you pack the peaches into the jar, but I like having too much syrup rather than running out of it, which messes up the whole timing.

Cut up the peaches

I cut them in eight pieces because my peaches this year were really big, and I want bite-size pieces. Remove the pits.

Enlist help here! I have two preteens that are eager to eat, so if they want to eat, they have to work. They oblige happily, because they get to snack as they work. Bottomless pits, these guys!

Pack the jars

Put the peach pieces in the jar, making sure to pack them tightly. Press down on them as you pack, but not too much so they squish and sqoosh and become all bruised and messy. Press down enough to encourage them to make more space for other fellow peach pieces.

Pack all jars before proceeding.

Pour hot syrup over the peaches

Grab your canning funnel and put it on top of one jar. Carefully pour hot syrup (the glass pyrex measuring cup works great for that) into the jar. Go slowly, lest you spill it all over and burn yourself. Fill liquid up to 1/2 inch to the top. 

Now comes the important part: run a knife along the sides of the jar to dislodge any air bubbles. Press against the peaches to release the trapped air bubbles. 

You don't want air bubbles in your canned jars because they will lead to spoilage and prevent the lids from sealing. If there is too much air, some of the peaches might stick out of the syrup and thus discolor or develop off-flavors.

See that air bubble in the middle? You don't want that. Run the knife along there, press against it, and it will die!

After the first jar is filled with peaches and syrup, wipe the top of the glass jar rim with a paper towel. You just want to make sure no peach pieces stick to it and prevent the lid from sealing. 

Now put on the lid and screw on the ring. I put one jar into the canner at a time. The water in the canner should be super hot by now.

Can, baby, can!

Grab the jar with your canning jar lifter and place the jar slowly, very slowly - VERY SLOWLY, hear me – into the hot water in the canner. 

The reason you want to be very slow and GENTLE here is so that the jars won't break. Although the syrup is hot inside the jar, the cold peaches will have cooled it off some, and you don't want to create a huge shock in temperatures (inner versus outer). 

Make sure the jars touch the bottom of the canner very gently. No shock waves, please, otherwise the glass will crack, and beautiful peaches and peach juice will spill and be wasted.

After all jars are in the canner, turn the heat on full and put the lid on.

The water should come a little bit above the top of the jars.

Now wait until the water comes to a rolling boil. The jars have to be canned for 30 minutes, but the 30 minutes don't start when you put them in. No, no! 

You start counting minutes the second the water is boiling. 

Now we're talking. Set your timer to 30 minutes.

Keep it boiling, but don't let the jars go crazy in there, shaking and hitting each other. You might have to adjust your burner to make sure it still boils, but not over-enthusiastically.

When the canning time is over, turn off the heat and lift out the jars, one at a time, with your canning jar holder. Careful here! It will be hot and steamy. 

Keep the jars upright, not tilted, and slowly and carefully lift them out of the canner. Just in case a jar broke and you don't know it, it's good to do this slowly so you won't get splashed. 

Gently set them down onto a towel on a counter, not touching each other, but allowing for plenty of airflow.

Now comes my favorite part. You don't have to do this if you don't have time, but it's so satisfying. As you proudly stare at your jars of steaming golden peaches, listen for this sound: “Ping!” This is the sound of the jars sealing. Ping! Ping! Ping! Oh, how I love the Ping!

The way you can tell a jar has sealed beside the pinging is the fact that the the lid will be sucked in and not be dome shaped any more. Also, the peaches will have migrated to the top, with the bottom of the jar looking like it has an inch or so of liquid on the bottom without any peaches.

See how the jar on the left didn't seal? The peaches touch the bottom and aren't pulled up. Why? I didn't put enough syrup in. Silly me. No worries. We'll have 'em for dessert tonight.

Let the jars cool completely. When that's done, I always take off the rings, since the lids will have firmly sealed and you don't need the rings anymore. I will wash them and use for more canned goods later on.

They will keep on your pantry shelf for a long time. Chances are, they won't last long, though, at least not in my household!