My dream stock pot

My husband and I completed our hunters safety course this evening in a sportsman type store. After we received our certification, we took advantage of the large store and v-lined for the camping and grilling section.  The hubs has a bbq/smoker team so we always make a point to check out the goods.  I on the other hand check out the stainless steel dutch ovens and the outdoor cooking supplies. 

Tonight, my husband called me over to a shelf that apparently I absolutely had to see. What he saw made me gasp. My jaw literally dropped to the ground as I wrapped my arms around my next must have. The largest stock pot that I have ever seen was sitting on the shelf just waiting for me to take it home. It was 100 quart stock pot that would take up at the minimum 2 burners on my stove.

All I could think of is how many tomatoes at once I could fit into it and process. Having 138 tomato plants makes you think of these things you know. I also thought of how much soup I could make for my friends and family. All of the sweet corn I can blanch. Oh the opportunities!

In attempt to gain size perspective, I had to have the hubs help me out. Look how large the lid is! Oh, this is definitely on my wish list. Of course I need to find a place to store it in the off season and I have to make sure it will fit on my stove but wow. I think it will be somewhere in my house in the near future.

My tour of a self sustaining farm using Aquaponics

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit a facility called Quakerdale.  The company that I work for has been a long time supporter of the organization and through them, I volunteer my time.  Quakerdale is based in the country south of Eldora, Iowa and has facilities throughout the state of Iowa.  They are a not for profit organization that provides a safe environment for hope and healing to children and also doubles as a family setting learning environment called the Promise Academy which produces NCAA level basketball players. This year, they started to convert their farm into a self sustaining farm that would produce its own food to help cut down on their expenses, while teaching the kids a unique learning environment, different levels of responsibility and potentially offer them job skills. 

Part of this facility included Aquaponics. I can't tell you how excited I was to see their set up.  I knew before hand that they had successfully created a aquaponics structure that was already producing vegetables.  The thought of having this system in my basement, allowed me to wake up well before my alarm clock went off.

I arrived for my tour and was greeted by Lalaina, a super sweet, incredibly focused young lady that I have had the pleasure of knowing for well over a year.  She was kind enough to take time out of her day to show me around their 600 acre farm.  We started in the garden where they had herbs and flowers in raised beds.  Of course it is September and this is their first year so things were looking as if they had the fall.  You know that time where you just allow things to go since you know it is the end of the season and the plants don't look as lush and beautiful as they do at the beginning of the growing season.  A little further off was where they had pole beans, tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos and maybe some other veggies that I failed to note.  This area will also grow with time. 

(I need to note that Quakerdale started this garden with volunteer help and through donations.  Since many of their employees are already stretched for time and responsibilities, the garden must evolve as time allows)

Next in line was my most anticipated part of the tour, Aquaponics.  Lalaina took me inside an out building where they had two large tables with grow lights, pea rock and plants! Inside! Aquaponics is the combination of fish raising and hydroponics.  The system filters water filled with the fish by-products through a pump which enters one side of a bed full of pea rock. This pea rock is where the seeds are planted which of course eventually grows, using the fertilizer of the fish as nutrients. As the water filters through the pea rocks, it essentially is cleaned and then dumped back into the fish containment area. This system will allow the facility to provide fresh produce and as the fish mature, fresh fish to the students.  By the way, all of the materials that Quakerdale used was repurposed and donated items.  They were extremely grateful for all of the help the community has given them.  What an incredible learning tool for the students and those in the community that help grow their self sustaining property.
This is the fish containment area where water is pumped out and
clean filtered water is pumped back in

Two large areas that will contain fish for their
outdoor aquaponics area

Lalaina then took me outdoors to what will eventually will be their outdoor Aquaponics area.  Being in Iowa, of course this area will be heated.  I can't wait to see how this evolves over time.  As I was taking this tour, I was sending pictures to my husband showing him what our next project will be.  If it will happen, I don't know, but a girl can dream.

Quakerdale also has two cows that they are currently trying to breed. Eventually this will provide their meat and possibly some to sell to raise more money.

Quakerdale has 6 locations throughout the state and runs on hard work and donations.  To learn more about Quakerdale and all of the wonderful things they do, please visit and to learn more about their Sustainable Agriculture program, please click here

I hope to visit again in the spring when they begin planting their garden again.  I may even start to volunteer, granted I have time.  What an incredible opportunity to teach others about gardening and for me to learn more about aquaponics.

***You may visit Quakerdale by visiting their website at, or call them at 641-497-5294, for more information. If you would like to get a tour of their facilities, please call and ask for Dean Kruger, Sustainable Agriculture Director. Or visit the Quakerdale Farms website.

Garage Sale pet peeves and tips

My in-laws, the hubs and me held our annual fundraiser garage sale over the weekend. We were exhausted beyond belief.  All of the items were donated to us from friends and family & most of them already marked from previous sales.  When it was all said and done, we raised over $1,300 for our scholarship fund and were able to donate 2 truckloads of nice items to Goodwill. 

The garage sale was massive.  It filled the entire garage and then my in-laws driveway which is long enough to fit 6-7 cars.  We had everything, cupboards, skies, stove, clothes, shoes, books, shelves, furniture. Everything but the kitchen sink was stashed away in 3 garages until the set-up day.   Anyway, with my experience with garage sales, my suggestions to have a successful sale would be the following:

1.  Purchase the already marked price stickers. They are invaluable, easy, and efficient.
2. If you have time, mark sizes on clothing
3. Organize clothing according to gender, size and season
4. Mark tables indicating sizes of clothing on each table.
5. Do not hang things up. For some reason, these items are not looked at as often as items on the tables.
6. Put large items at the front of the sale to draw attention
7. Do not expect the clothing tables to stay organized.  Thus #4 will help customers find what they are looking for.
8. Place bins of toys low to the ground where kids can see them. This will do one of 2 things. Keep the kids occupied while the parents shop and/or get them attached to a toy that they will beg/plead/throw a temper tantrum until the parents buy it for them.
9.  Put shoes on a table or on a box/rubbermaid container.  For some reason shoes are always a huge seller at my sales.
10. Have a power source available for customers to test electronics before purchasing.
11. Group household items.  Christmas items, kitchen items, wall decor, etc.
12. Books are always a good seller. Sellers will tend to purchase more if they can see the titles.
13. Customers like to pay for small items with large bills at the beginning of the sale.  Be sure to have plenty of 1's, 5's and 10's.
14. Greet customers when they arrive.
15. Stores often are willing to part with a sleeve of plastic bags.  These may come in handy if your haven't saved enough.
16.  Jeans are always a great seller.  $2-$3 for jeans in our area, regardless of quality, is generally the standard price. 
17. Maternity clothes usually are not good sellers. Mark them lower than what you would like to.

This leads me to the customers.  Don't get me wrong, I appreciate everyone that stops by but I also have some tips and pet peeves that have helped me with the customer suggestions below.  Sometimes it is hard to believe the way some people act at garage sales. 


1.  Try not to use big bills at the beginning of a sale, especially if you only have a small, low cost item.  The seller most likely has change for you but unfortunately so many others pay with large bills, this potentially can wipe out the seller's change making it difficult for future buyers.

2. Sellers will be more willing to bargain with you towards the end of the sale.

3.  If you have a pile of items and want to bargain, it is best not to try to bargain on each individual item. Let the seller give you a total and then ask for a reduced price. This makes it easier than remembering the discounted price for each item.

4.  If at all possible, do not ask for a bag to carry a single onesie, a pair of socks, or one very small item. Unless the seller has gone from store to store and kept every bag that they obtained during the year, this may wipe the seller out of bags. Remember, if you are asking for this, then someone else is too.

My Pet Peeves

1. If you do not want to dicker with the price, do not take the tag off the item.  Most likely, the items were recently tagged and the seller knows what they priced the item.  The seller will be less likely to deal with you if they know you removed the tag.

2. Do not switch tags. In my opinion, this is stealing.  After you switch the tags, do not have the nerve to try to dicker with the seller.

3.  Do not ask the seller how much the price of an item is and then tell them what the sticker says on the item as if to prove them wrong. 

4.  Do not whine, complain, insult the seller for the prices listed on the items. 

5. If you whine, complain, and insult the seller about the price listed on the item and if they agree to lower the price, do not pull out a wad of money to pay for it.

6.  Do not whine, complain, and insult the seller about a price of an item to the point that another customer gives you money to pay for it and then pull out a wad of money to pay for the item.

7.  Do not whine, complain, and insult the seller about a price/color/item/quality of an item. IT IS A GARAGE SALE, not a retail store.

8.  Do not let your kids run wild across the yard, through the sale, climb in the seller's trees or designate them to explore other items on the sellers property to see if they are for sale.

9. Be courteous of the sellers property.

Phew, I feel better.  Thankfully, we wont have another sale until next year.  I think it will take me that long to recover. 

Update on New Pole Bean Area

I had posted a couple months ago about the new pole bean area the hubs had built for me.  Here is the original post.  And here is what the area looked like just as the beans were coming up.

This path was my favorite area from the beginning and continues to be my favorite place in the garden.  Look what it looks like now. 

Its a tunnel!

The vines are climbing nicely to the pergola above.

The beans are easy to reach and harvest since the hang within arms reach.

I have allowed some to go to seed to keep this area going year after year.

I have harvested close to 10 lbs so far from this area alone and with all of the bee activity around them, I'm sure to double that.

Spicy V8 or Bloody Mary Mix - Canning Tomatoes

Fellow canner and old classmate of mine posted on Facebook that she was canning Spicy V8 juice that would eventually be used as a Bloody Mary mix or in chilis.  She was kind enough to provide me with the recipe that I am now going to share with you.  Her husband gave the seal of approval for taste, if and ONLY IF salt was added.  He said it is needed.  At this point, I am unsure how much salt however you may be able to use the recommended amount noted in my previous Bloody Mary Mix recipe.

Thank you Shan for the recipe!!!

Spicy V8 Juice

15 lbs ripe tomatoes, chopped (you want 8 quarts chopped)
1 large bell pepper; chopped fine
2 large onions, chopped fine
1 1/2 cups celery; diced
2 bay leaves
12 fresh basil leaves or 2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp prepared horseradish
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 tsp sugar (we left that out)
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup lemon juice
SALT - Regular or Seasoned

Place all ingredients, except lemon juice, in a large pot and bring to boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. Press through a food mill. Return juice to pot, stir in lemon juice and bring to boil. Pour into clean hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Process for 35 minutes at 1000 feet.

I hope you enjoy the recipe. If I have enough tomatoes I will be making this recipe over the weekend. I promise to give you updates.