Around the Homestead, Gardening, Self-Sufficiency

Berries…

Over the weekend my Grandma picked boysenberries and was nice enough to share.  I had pulled weeds in them earlier in the season and will be going there to pick berries tonight.  Incase you aren’t familiar, boysenberries are very similar to blackberries in flavor and appearance.

I also picked mulberries over the weekend out of this tree.

See all those weeds and shrubs growing underneath it?  That makes it fun : )     To pick mulberries you don’t actually “pick” them.  You take a sheet, lay it under neath a branch, and shake the branch until all the ripe berries have fallen off.  Then you pour the berries in a bowl and move on to another branch.  I soak my berries in salt water when I get home to drive out any bugs that may be hiding inside them.

With the boysenberries I made my first ever pie from scratch.  I took a pre-oven picture which was a good thing because the after-oven picture wasn’t as pretty.

I asked my grandma how to make this pie and got a “Grandma” recipe.  You use a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  Needless to say it boiled over in the oven and the crumbles on top melted into a puddle,  but it tasted delicious even if it didn’t look the prettiest.

I also pulled some onions yesterday and cut some chives and have them dehydrating in the dehydrator.  I have ham hocks in the crockpot so I can freeze the broth to use for mustard and collard greens in the future. 

Hope everyone has a great day!

Animals, Around the Homestead, Gardening

Herbs & Greens…

We have an abundance of herbs and salad supplies in our garden.

I picked herbs the other morning, tied them with twine, and hung them to dry in my kitchen area.

Oregano

Spearmint

Lemon Balm

All tied up and ready to hang.

This is my first attempt.  I think they are supposed to have brown paper bags over them, but I’m trying without first.

Lettuce

Spinach

To freeze my spinach I quickly steam it (3 minutes I believe) and place it in ziplock baggies or use my Foodsaver.

While I was preserving the harvest our blue heeler was taking it easy.

We also milked out our mama ewes after a few days of weening to make sure their bags didn’t get over loaded with milk.  Here is the frozen milk on it’s way out to the big freezer.  It will be used next year as needed for bottle lambs.

 

And here are the boys (Thai and Randy) hard at work fixing our fence after a tree trimming “oops” and a few storms (hence all the limbs and wood).

Last but not least is a picture from our front porch.  There used to be a row of Australian Pines to block the road and wind.  However, they became diseased and had to be cut down.  The view is amazing, but the openess to the road is not very enjoyable.  It was a little hazy the morning I took the picture, but it’s still pretty.

Have a Wonderful Day!

Around the Homestead, Gardening, Self-Sufficiency

Homesteading…

Randy and I have talked more and more about the idea that in the future homesteading, as in growing your own food, raising your own animals, making things yourself as opposed to buying them, may be the only way to survive as our economy spirals out of control.  The world is getting harder and harder to live in and there is a growing security in the path we have chosen, to provide for ourselves as much as possible.  Teaching children how to provide for themselves is more important than ever as our food chain becomes more and more unstable and oil prices continue to climb.

Where to Start:

BAKE YOUR OWN BREAD:

You don’t even have to grind your own wheat yet, just start by baking the bread your family eats.  Lots of people have bread machines stored away they had to have and never really used.  I use mine just to mix and let the bread rise once in.  Then, I put the dough in a loaf pan, let it rise one more time, and bake.  EASY!

PLANT A GARDEN:

It can be a small one or in pots on your patio, plant herbs, tomatoes, whatever you love.  With the rising prices of everything around us every little bit you can provide for yourself helps.  Not to mention the fact you will know your produce is free of chemicals and is grown locally.

CHANGE YOUR MENU:

Stop buying pre-packaged, processed food and start buying food in its original form, FRESH.  Shop your local Farmer’s Markets, add beans and rice to your diet, and eliminate soda and pasteurized milk and juice.  These are not only healthy changes, but budget friendly changes.

COOK FROM SCRATCH:

This is kind of the same as some of the ones above; however, it is so important.  This will save you money and improve you health.  Think you are too busy?  Use a crockpot!  Check out The Family Homestead for some great recipes.

HANG YOUR CLOTHES OUT TO DRY:

Use a clothes line.  There is nothing more relaxing than hanging your clothes out on the line on a quiet morning.  Use the time to reflect and relax, plan for the day, or pray.  You can save money and sanity by this simple task.

CONSERVE:

Conserve energy!

Conserve money!

Conserve time!

Conserve tradition!

Conserve family!

EXTREMES:

If you want to get really serious in your quest for the homestead-life and self-sufficiency you could:

*Get a dairy cow or a couple dairy goats.

*Covert to an off-grid system (solar, wind, gray water, rain barrels, etc.).

*Get rid of all NEEDless expenses (cable, landline/cell phone, magazines subscriptions, etc.)

*Pay off debt!  This is important.  Start with smaller bills and pay them off one at a time.

*Instead of spending all your time mowing, fertilizing, and controlling weeds in your lawn, start converting that space to usable space to plant produce.

*Plant fruit trees and bushes.

Lastly, use the library.  You don’t have to own every book.  The library is a great place to learn about making more with less. 

The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live it is a great book to motivate you. 

Storey’s Basic Country Skills another great book for motivation and ideas.

Path to Freedom is a great site to see how a family (in California) grows most of their own food on less than one acre (much less).

Good luck and have fun!  It takes work to be a homesteader, but the rewards far outweigh the costs.

Around the Homestead, Gardening, Homemaking, In The Kitchen

Lots to do and company coming…

We have been really busy around our homestead the past couple of weeks/months. 

Garden:

We are putting the garden in and some of the things are getting off to a late start due to a lack of fencing.  We needed to fence our free-range chickens out of the garden, but instead they are on a short break from their free-range status until we can get fencing around the garden.

So far we have potatoes, onion, peas, greens, beets, radishes, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower planted in the garden.

Randy borrowed a roto-tiller from our neighbors and was tilling the garden (and before you say anything I don’t like deep tilling the garden and suggested not turning the soil anymore than necessary).  Eh hem, so he was roto-tilling the garden and the engine locked up, piston broke, etc.  $150-$200 and a few hours of labor later the roto-tiller should be purring like a kitten again.

Yard work:

I managed to get the fruit trees sprayed with an organic dormant oil spray from Gardens Alive.  It has to stay above 45 degrees for 24 hours in order for the spray to work.  Sadly, yesterday was about the first calm day with a predicted low above 45.

Pasture:

Dad came down with the tractor and disk and worked up a bottom area of our pasture that seemed to only grow poke, devil’s claws, stickers, and cheat.  Yesterday evening, I headed down there with a big bucket of turnip seeds and my little lawn fertilizer spreader to throw some turnip seed around.  The plan is to have turnips for the sheep to eat soon and follow up by planting grass.  We’re a little late, but that’s kind of our theme this season.  I have no idea how many seeds got thrown, where they got thrown for sure, if they will come up, and what it will look like if they do, but it is done and we got a tiny bit of moisture last night and today to help the little guys grow.

Tonight we will be docking tails and doctoring sheep.  Luckily a friend of Randy’s and my Dad will be there to help.  They will also start an hour before I get home, so hopefully they have it covered by the time I get home from work.  Randy’s mom and fiancé are visiting this weekend, so I have plenty of tidying up to do before they get here.

I know we eat differently than a lot of people, so I always panic when we have company and meals will have to be prepared.  I don’t want to freak anyone out with the meals we eat, but I also don’t want to completely change who we are for someone.  So, I will make some slight compromises which some are more of a convenience for me anyway (i.e. store bought tortillas). 

We will probably go out to eat once or twice.  His mom can’t sit still for long and insists on going “shopping” a lot.

Otherwise, on the menu:

Dinner:

*Fajitas (venison, shhh!) with homemade salsa, homemade yogurt, store bought ww tortillas (compromise/convenience), and homemade Spanish rice

*Roasted Chicken (raised on our farm) with baked potatoes, veggie, and homemade bread

Breakfast: 

*I hope to make ww pancakes one morning while they are here and maybe kefir smoothies another morning if anyone is feeling daring.

Snacks: 

*Organic raw veggies (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and celery) and homemade Ranch dressing

*Organic apples with organic peanut butter

*Organic bananas

*And possibly no-bake cookies if I’m feeling froggy!  I know they aren’t healthy, but man are they tasty.

We are supplementing a bottle lamb right now, so it will be fun for his mom to get to feed the little cutie.  Our blue heeler, Ash, can always squeeze in a game of fetch.  And our cat, Spooky, can always stand to be held and loved on.

I’ll try to take some pictures over the weekend, so I have some more interesting posts next week.

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

Around the Homestead, Gardening, In The Kitchen

Organic Gardening & Tamale Pie

I am already getting into spring mode at our farm.  This weekend will be spent pruning our fruit trees and shrubs and starting a few seeds.  Organic Gardening offers an Almanac where you can select your region and it will give you a month-by-month guideline for things you should do each month.  February is pruning month for my area. 

We are still awaiting the first baby lamb of the year.  The girls appear as if they could go at anytime, but still no babies.

I made tamale pie for dinner on Monday, it was really good.

Tamale Pie

1 lb. of hamburger

1 Onion

1 T Olive Oil

1 qt. Frozen corn

3 T. Taco seasoning

1 qt. Ro-tel

Topping:

1 ¼ c Whole wheat pastry flour
¾ c Cornmeal

2 T Sucanat
2 t Baking powder
½ t Sea salt
1 c milk, buttermilk, or fresh cream
¼ c Olive Oil
1 large egg or two small eggs

Cook onions in olive oil in a cast iron skillet until transparent.  Add hamburger and cook until no longer pink.  Once the hamburger is fully cooked add ro-tel, taco seasoning and corn.  Simmer 5 minutes.

In a bowl combine milk, oil, and eggs and mix until well combined.  Add dry ingredients and mix with a fork until just moistened.  Don’t over mix. 

Pour the meat mixture into a 9×13 casserole dish.  Top with cornmeal mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

We top our’s with a little ranch dressing and homemade salsa. 

I try to make the NT salsa whenever possible.  However, now that tomatoes are out of season and I refuse to buy them at the store here is what I do for salsa.  I have a lot of canned ro-tel in the pantry, so when we run out of salsa in the wintertime here is what I do.

Quick and Easy Salsa

1 qt. homemade ro-tel

Chili powder to taste

Place ro-tel and chili powder in a food processor.  Tah-dah.  It’s quick, it’s easy, and it taste pretty good too.  You could always add cilantro, garlic, and other seasonings if you would like.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful week.

Around the Homestead, Gardening, Green Living, In The Kitchen

Cold Weather and a “Green” Air Purifier

It snowed here yesterday, so I got to leave work 1 and 1/2 early.  Yea!  I got dinner made and over with early so we could relax a bit.  I cut out the pattern for a shirt I hope to make.  I took a sewing class awhile back, but I’m still not completely comfortable yet.  I figure the best way to learn is by going for it, trial and error.

I have been adding some supplements to my routine over the past few months in hopes of missing out on all the winter illness that goes around.  Randy and I have both started taking MonaVie.  It seems to be working really well combating bugs.  I had a sore throat off and on, but it never progressed into an infection and no other symptoms joined in so I was pleased.  I also used to have extremely painful cramps and no longer have to deal with that monthly inconvenience as the MonaVie seems to have given my body the boost it needs to overcome some of the things I was struggling with.  I have also added liquid kelp and brewer’s yeast to my diet to help with thyroid support.  I just add the recommended 4 drops of liquid kelp to a glass of water and sprinkle 1/2 t.-1 t. brewer’s yeast on my oatmeal or mixed in my kefir shakes for breakfast.  The brewer’s yeast has a fairly strong flavor, so I only use what I can disguise in tasty food.

This week’s menu turned out nicely.  The only adjustment was spaghetti last night instead of baked spaghetti due to our homemade mozzarella going bad.  We are having the ham and beans tonight and homemade cornbread topped with homemade maple syrup.  Yum!  We also use ACV on our ham and beans to help with digestion one of its many benefits.

I’m also on a mission to increase the number of house plants we have.  House plants are a great way to purify the air inside your home.  I am lucky enough to have a neighbor with established plants who starts them for me.  Try finding someone who will let you take starts off the plants, put them in a jar of water until they have rooted, and then transplant to a pot.

This is a fun little website on houseplants.  I have two Schefflera (these will start from a cutting), a Pothos, a ton of Aloe, and a Philodendron (of course).  I also have a Bouganvilla staying indoors with us through the winter.  Not the handiest plant to move around as it has thorns and is a climber, but I “just had to have it.”  If you have pets/children be sure you are aware of what plants are poisonous so you can keep them out of reach.  I doubt this is a comprehensive list, but will at least get you started.  Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean we have to breathe the same stagnant, stuffy air day after day.  One other suggestion, be sure to watch for heat vents.  Placing a houseplant too close to a vent can be bad news for the plant.

It is almost the weekend for me.  It’s going to be a cold one.  I am hoping to make some progress on the shirt I am making, clean the house, finish the laundry, and of course baking and cooking for the week ahead.

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

Around the Homestead, Gardening, Green Living

A New Year and A New Plan…

It’s a new year and time to start some new things at our little homestead.  I have slowly been trying to use up or discard items in our home not organic, chemical-free, homemade, homegrown, etc.  For example, I’m using up the bar soaps, shampoo, lotions, and all bathroom items we have and will begin making our own as needed.  My first mission is to make lip balm.  I have placed an order with Mountain Rose Herbs for the items I am missing in order to do so.  I got the recipe from Crystal Miller’s website and can’t wait to try it.

After Reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle I got serious about the idea of eating locally, growing as much of our own food as we can, going organic, and grass-fed meats.  So, this will be our year to make that transition also.  We are planning to increase our laying hen flock and hopefully change from raising Cornish-Rocks to a slower growing heritage breed for our meat.  We will still get our milk from a dairy, but are researching and thinking seriously about adding a Nubian dairy goat to our farm.  We will keep the size of sheep flock around 40-50 with our llama, Hank, at the head of the pack to guard them.  We are considering trying to raise 2 pigs for meat, but first things first is the dairy goat.

We have our two cats, Spooky and Cooter, and don’t intend to get anymore.  However, my husband and I have both agreed that if we are ever able to rescue an abandoned dog (“abandoned” meaning dumped along the side of the road, left to starve or freeze to death in the wild, NOT “we got a cute little, furry little, puppy and now it’s a dog and doesn’t fit into our lifestyle anymore, however if you remove the burden for us we will just go out and get another puppy in three years because we didn’t learn anything the first time around, I’ll step down now) we would take the dog into our home as long as it gets along with the two dogs we have now, Ash and Koal.

I have started doing yoga in the evenings and walking on our treadmill whenever I have a chance until it is nice enough to get outside and do some outdoor manual labor. 

We have lots of yard work to do from a recent ice storm.  There are limbs down everywhere that will need picked up, a new roof on our house in the spring, cut down the Austrian pine trees in front of our house with needle blight (we are considering replacing them with bamboo, anyone familiar with bamboo, and not the wild stuff?), repair our damaged fencing from the ice storm, and put up new electric fencing around our pasture.  Whew!  It’s going to be a busy spring as usual.  Did I mention we are expanding our garden also? 

We have a trip to Ohio and Michigan planned for the summer to visit my in-laws and attend a wedding (a friend of Randy’s).  Other than that we will be needed at home to tend to the garden, herbs, animals, and everything else that will need to be done through the summer.

We have also purchased two VW vans to restore.  One will be used for parts while the other is transformed into a lean, mean, 55-mph running machine.  It should be a fun project!

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.  I will spend mine baking, preparing our meals for the week ahead, cleaning, and spending time with Randy and the animals.

Gardening

Heirloom Seeds and Plants…

Just thought I would pass along this information.  I ordered my seeds/plants from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  On their sight they have a link to order heirloom plants.  This link takes you to Abundant Acres where you can order tomatoes, peppers, etc.

So far both of the companies have been very helpful, so hopefully I receive everything correctly in the spring.  I went back and forth from seed catalog to seed catalog trying to find the best prices and reasonable shipping.  Baker Creek is located in Missouri so it has the same climate as Kansas which also lured me in. haha

Now all we need Spring!

Gardening

Sell, sell, sell…

My mom is selling lots of tomatoes at her store (about 10-20 pounds/day).  My wonderful husband sold two bushel (106 pounds) of tomatoes to a lady he works with.  Yea!  A guy even came into Mom’s store, bought 10 pounds of tomatoes, and headed to a restaurant in town he likes to have lunch and told the owner he needed to buy his tomatoes from me.  The owner was actually interested, so I’m considering taking some by to give to him to sample.  Our neighbor is also a cook at the high school in town and said her boss would love to buy tomatoes from me.  I just need to set up a time to meet with her to show them to her, discuss pricing, and the quantity I could provide and for how long.  Our neighbor actually does the salad bar at the school and believes they use about 5 pounds/day or 25 pounds/week at the high school alone.  There are still two grade schools and another high school I could supply to in this same school district.  Now this kind of income doesn’t come close to what I make at my current job.  However, I would not be driving 90 miles/day and have to pay for fuel, would not need as nice of a car as a result, and would have more time to concentrate on being more resourceful with the money we do make.  Our sheep would receive more attention, our garden would receive more attention, and our home as a whole would receive more attention.  Our time together would be spent relaxing, talking to each other, and enjoying our time at home as opposed to rushing around every evening to get the garden, chickens, herbs, sheep, dogs, cat, and pool all tended to before sitting down to supper at 8:00 pm.  For today, our attempt to send myself home to work is looking promising.  My dh and I have a goal of spring 2008 when our ewes begin lambing.  We are making progress and will hopefully continue to see positive returns from all our hard work.  We are healthier from the changes we have made in our lifestyle, and hope to continue to make improvements throughout our lives.

Hope everyone has a wonderful Tuesday!

Gardening

Tomatoes anyone?

 

153 to be exact!  Most of these were picked yesterday evening:

These are headed to Mom’s store this morning to hopefully sell.

These are scheduled to be preserved as rotel, V8, and spaghetti sauce this weekend.  I also picked a head of broccoli and some over grown okra.  We have vowed to check the okra every evening.  That is one veggie that is nearly impossible for us to keep up with.  We downsized our okra crop this year, so hopefully we can keep a handle on it.

My dh had to stop to by shock for our pool on his way home, but also stopped to pick up something for me and the dogs:

Nature’s Miracle will be used in my steam cleaner to clean our living room carpet.  Greenies are way too expensive, but we had a $3 off coupon and the dogs love them.  Notice the package says, “54 Teenie”?  Our dogs are far from “Teenie,” however their size was even more pricey so dh opted for the less expensive size.  Way to shop honey!

And since the little ones were being so nosey in the above photo I made them pose for this:

And then Koal and I had a photo shoot.  I won’t bore you with all of them, but I have to share a couple:

I think he’s precious!  He’s the puppy who curls up on your feet when it’s cold, thinks he’s a lap puppy even at 40 pounds, and never barks unless he thinks it’s serious.  We found him under a broken down car in Alabama on our way to work one day along with his brother.  We coaxed them out from under the car and took them to our vet for a check up and their first round of shots (at the time we already had our blue heeler Ash and could only have one more dog to abide by our convenance).  So, our neighbors found a family from their church to adopt one, and we kept the other.  When they say rescued/pound puppies know they have been saved and make the best dogs, Koal is a perfect example of this being true.  He is just happy to be alive and wags his tail 24/7.  **Enter platform:  If you are thinking about adding a dog/cat to your family, ADOPT from your local humane society and always spay and neuter your animals.  You won’t regret it!

It’s the last day of the week for me!  Woohoo!  Tomorrow I will be canning tomatoes, dehydrating onions, and hopefully making laundry soap.  I love my Fridays at home to work around the house.  Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!