Inspirational, Self-Sufficiency

I Had a Life But My Job Ate It!

I Had a Life But My Job Ate It!

I saw this on a bumper sticker (online) the other day. That is how I feel right now. Randy and I are both worn out from lambing and working and in need of a serious vacation with an ocean involved or at least water and warmth of some sort. We will see if this happens in 2010 or not.

Here is a glance at my day and why I am screaming for life to slow down and allow me some downtime.

3:30 wake up to make bottles and head outside to feed bottle lambs and let the sheep out of the building

4:15 return inside to wash bottles, shower, and get ready for work

4:45 pack both our lunches and layout our morning and noon supplements

5:00 head out the door to work

5:45 arrive at work

6:00-4:30 work at a computer

5:15 arrive home, change, make bottles to feed bottle lambs

5:45 return inside to wash bottles, cook dinner (generally from scratch), and wash dishes (by hand) from breakfast and lunch

6:30 eat

7:00 clean up after dinner, wash dishes (by hand), make coffee for the next morning, and dish up our lunches for the next day, and make bottles to feed bottle lambs

7:30 head out to lock up the sheep in their building and feed bottle lambs, this also includes any doctoring that needs done

8:00-8:30 return inside to wash bottles and get ready for bed

8:30 Bedtime

8:30-Midnight Sleep

Midnight one of us heads out to check on our ewes to make sure no one is lambing or more specifically, having trouble lambing

Midnight-3:30 am Sleep

Then I get back up and do it all over again. This has been going on sine the last week in January and needless to say we are both exhausted and a little burned out. There is a little dim light at the end of the tunnel. It’s quite a ways away, but we will get there.

Spring is in the air and the warmer weather is already lifting our spirits. The thought of a garden right now is a little daunting, but hopefully I will get in the mood as the days continue to get longer and the weather continues to warm up.

I’m not whining! It may sound like I’m whining, but I truly love our life and our animals. That’s the part of our lives we do enjoy. It just tends to feel like we live at our jobs and have no time for our lives. We work twelve hours (including the commute), sleep 8 hours (if we’re lucky), and spend the other 20 preparing to leave our house and animals for the day and making up for the time we were away from our house and animals all day.

It may not seem like we are in self-sufficiency, environmental awareness, downshifting, or any of the things I’ve mention on the sidebar. However, this is all part of our attempt to become debt free and HUGE step toward all of these things. As soon as the debt is gone we hope to take our home off-grid or build an off-grid home. We will still have the expense of maintaining the equipment, but this will eliminate those electric and propane bills we despise so much.

We will get there. I have my moments where it seems impossible, too far away, and out of sight. Then I have days where it is just around the corner, and I can’t wait for it to all come together.

Here are a few things I think would help us cut costs in the meantime and free up even more money to put toward debt:

• Budget, I have set up a strict budget we HAVE to stick to in order to make this work. We will be allotted only so much cash money (credit cards for fuel only) for groceries, auto repairs and maintenance, vet and pet expenses, our farm expenses, and any other miscellaneous expenses. We will also set back money every month for those bills that come due once or twice a year; propane, auto insurance, and car tags and taxes.

• Dinners: one night a week will include eggs. These come from our chickens and are usually in great supply. We will also do one night a week soup or bean dish with salad. These are both not only easy meals, but also frugal meals.

• We are selling all the lambs born on our farm this spring and hopefully some of our yearling ewes. This will help our sheep pay for themselves throughout the rest of the year (hay, grain, protein tubs, and any other supplies needed).

• Cats: As of right now all eleven little darlings are in our pool house 4 days a week. As soon as Randy gets the cat door installed (hopefully this weekend) they will be outside kitties except at night. They can mouse instead of relying on cat food $$$.

• TV: We (as in I) watch very little TV. Once the season finales are over and summer is here, I want to get that whole setup unplugged to decrease the phantom load it is pulling 24/7.

• Utilities: I would like to unplug everything not in use, power down more, and possibly get a wood burning stove in our house to help our heating/propane expenses.

• Cook outside: in the summer this will be a lot easier. I have a solar oven I need to utilize, especially for bread baking. We will be grilling and cooking over our fire pit a lot more and eating cold foods (salad sandwiches, salads, cold rice and pasta dishes, etc.).

• Retirement: we’ve never been fully comfortable with the 401K/IRA retirement plan. We may decrease our input into these for the time being and use that money to pay off current debt.

• Land: we are still in hopes of owning land someday. We were convinced we needed 80 acres because that is the legal requirement to hunt your own land. We are now thinking we would do less than this and raise our own food and barter what we can’t raise instead of hunting.

• Pool: no idea if this is a possibility, but I would like to convert our pool pump to run off solar energy. This would be a good first step to converting our home.

• Well/Pump: second solar conversion possibility

•Limit our Kinesiology/Chiropractor visits:  take a multi-vitamin, CLO, exercise and stretch (yoga), and make improvements to our diet

These are just some ideas of ways we can trim down our monthly expenses and work toward our goal of becoming debt free. We are estimating it will take us under 5 years to become completely debt free including our home. If we buy land it will take longer, but that may never happen. We have the usual bills: mortgage, student loans, home equity loan, etc. We have managed to pay off all our cars and intend to keep enough money in savings so we can pay cash the next time the need for one comes up.

I sometimes think of all the things I would have time to learn and do if I wasn’t at work all day long. I would spend more time with my animals for sure, but I would also love to learn better photography skills, learn to crochet, knit, sew, play the piano, and possibly learn a second language. These desires give me the drive I need to forge ahead and do without now so we can hopefully enjoy all of these things in the near future.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful day. I hope this encourages you to strive for simplicity and to become debt free. We will work very hard for the next few years and at times I may chime in here with less than encouraging words when the going gets tough, but I know it will be worth it for both Randy and I.

*Randy just called to say, “how about we ask if your mom will watch our animals and drive to the Grand Canyon for a few days. We can rent a cabin, hike, and just hang out there the whole time.” I’m there…just pick a date!

Food, Self-Sufficiency

Deer in the Freezer…

A friend of Randy’s hunts every year, but his family doesn’t like venison.  So, guess what!  We get it.  Our neighbor processes it and all we have to do is pay him for processing.  Yea!  We will have more meat to add to our dwindling supply in the freezer.  We also just got our pork from Mom and Dad’s freezer.  They were storing it until we got more room in our’s.  So, we will have plenty of meat to get to get us through the winter and summer.  We hope to raise broilers in the spring so we will have plenty of chicken also.

Hope you all are staying warm!

Nutrition, Self-Sufficiency

How to make Cottage Cheese…

I got the recipe from Countryside Magazine and it is de-lish!

No-rennet Cottage Cheese

1 gallon milk (I use raw)

1 cup cultured buttermilk

Warm the milk to about 95 degrees F.  Stir in buttermilk and allow to set at room temperature for 12-18 hours.  The milk will clabber, or become thick.

Cut the curds into 1/2 inch cubes and let rest for 10 minutes.  Place the pot into a double boiler-type potand heat at a very low setting until the curd reaches 115 degrees F (I didn’t use a double boiler, I just kept it on low for a little over an hour).  Stir often to keep the curds from matting together.  This will take an hour or more.

The curd is ready when it is somewhat firm on the interior of the cheese.  Cook longer if necessary.  Some whey will rise to the top.  Let the curd settle to the bottom of the pot, drain off the whey and place the curds in a cloth-lined colander to drain.  Be gentle, as the curds are rather fragile.

Allow the cheese to drain until it stops dripping (I let mine hang overnight).  Place in a bowl and add salt to taste.  I usually use about one teaspoon of kosher or canning salt per pound.  Stir in about four ounces of half-and-half or cream ( I used cream off the top of our raw milk) per pound if you like a creamed cottage cheese.

I had some for breakfast this morning and it was the best.  Hope it turns out as well everytime I make it.

I have been fighting a cold since Saturday.  I have been consuming a lot of Vitamin C poweder and Echinacea/Goldenseal along with Throat Coat Tea.  I prefer Gypsy Cold Care, but I drank what we had on-hand.

I want to make my own by buying my herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs, but I just haven’t gotten around to it.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

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!

Budget, Self-Sufficiency

Frugality and Self-Sufficiency…

Self-sufficiency in the food department….

It is the time of year in Kansas when things are just starting to produce.  Early foods we begin eating this week from our garden:

Spinach

Lettuce/greens

Collards

Green onions

Soon to come:

Potatoes

Broccoli

Cauliflower

Peas

Cabbage

Foraging:

Although I have never actually “foraged” before, I fully intend to try:

Dandelion greens

Breaded Dandelion flowers

Morels (I think we missed them this year, but fully intend to try next year)

Foraging later in the year:

Mulberries

Sand plums

Currents

I sometimes struggle with the inner battle of “organic vs. frugal.”  Anyone else have this problem?  I want to buy everything organic, but then I have a feeling of regret that I’ve over spent and not used our money wisely.  There has to be a balance.  I justify my non-organic purchases with, “I cook from scratch, so if I don’t buy EVERYTHING organic I’m still doing better than most.” 

So, with that being said, Randy and I also take advantage of the farming in our area for free corn on the cob and free wheat from nearby family fields.  No it’s not organic, yes it’s laden with chemicals, but it’s free and corn isn’t really all that good for you to begin with and we eat it in moderation (don’t you love how I justify my choices).  The wheat (if we purchase a grain mill) will be just enough to get us by for a couple of months, and then we will purchase it from a nearby bulk food store (organic).

I also struggle with the need for supplements in our daily routine.  These have proven to prevent ailments and sickness, so it’s hard to eliminate something that is working so well for us.  However, I want to try to cut back on some of the expenses.  We buy supplements for our two dogs as well.  For the price of the supplements I feel they will save us on vet bills over the long run (our small dog has severe allergies) just the same as I feel it has saved us on doctor bills as well.  Still I will try to trim, trim, trim.

We have also put some major purchases on hold and are currently brainstorming ways to get by without:

A tractor to move round bales for our sheep

A new roof on our house

New permanent pasture fencing (goat fencing)

A vacation to the Northeast in the fall

Here’s my idea for the tractor.  We can line our round bales up outside our lots in the winter and place electric netting extending from the lot out around one round bale at a time to allow them to eat the one bale.  When that bale is gone we can move the electric netting around the next bale and so on until spring arrives again.  This year my Dad had to drive his tractor 5 miles (roundtrip) to move a round bale into the sheep lot for us whenever they ran out.  Not very feasible with the price of farm diesel and not fair to him to have to take time to do it for us every other week or so.

We plan to patch the old roof as needed and save until we have enough money up front to do the roof without having to finance it.

We ran one strand of electric fence cable ($300) around our existing fence using the existing posts and not replacing the entire thing with goat fencing ($4000).  Granted this is only temporary, but it saved us $3700 for now.

A vacation to the Northeast to see the fall foliage will just have to wait.  We love our farm and can enjoy fall at home instead.

Homesteading, self-sufficiency, voluntary simplicity, whatever you want to call it does take sacrifice and a little ingenuity.  If it were easy everyone would be doing it. 

I just had a discussion with Randy the other day about what he would sacrifice to not have to commute 2 hours a day and go to work 40 hours/week?  I would sacrifice A LOT!  He’s a little resistant to some of the changes, eh hem, Dish Network is his life, literally.

Some of the silly (IMO) expenses we have that could easily go:

Dish Network

Dining out (we’ve gotten kind of bad about this lately)

Non-necessity food and beverages

Extra vehicles

Everyone has places they could trim.  It’s just a matter of prioritizing the important things in life.  To me TIME and our HEALTH are the most important things in our life and the two things lacking in most lives.

I enjoy going out to eat, but with the price of fuel, the cost of going out to eat, and the unhealthy food we will most likely consume, wouldn’t it be just as fun to pack a picnic lunch and go sit by one of the ponds nearby, or under our big cottonwood tree, or even just on the patio at our fun little bistro table?  It’s about spending time together and it doesn’t have to be expensive to make it memorable.

The cost of living is definitely on the rise.  I am evaluating and re-evaluating our spending more and more as prices continue to increase.  Some of the most valuable traits you can have in today’s world is to be able to:

Grow at least some of your own food

Cook from scratch

And be thrifty with what money you have.

Hope everyone has a wonderful week.

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.

Self-Sufficiency, Soap Making

Make your own shampoo…

This was a really easy recipe for making your own shampoo.  I have a recipe that actually makes it from lye, but for a good starter shampoo this one is great. 

Sorry I didn’t actually do a tutorial.  This made more than enough for Randy and I, so I didn’t go ahead and make another batch. 

Herbal Shampoo:

2 cups Distilled water

4 oz of Castile Soap (lavender, peppermint, etc.)

½ oz. (2 T.) Rosemary

½ oz (2 T.) Sage

½ oz. (2 T.) Nettles

½ oz. (2 T.) Lavender

2000 mg MSM

Mix the herbs in a mason jar, which has a lid.  Boil 2 cups distilled water.  Add 3 heaping tablespoons of the mixed herbs into the boiling water.  Pull the boiling water and herbs off the stove.  Let the herb mixture sit for 30-40 minutes.  Put the 2000 mg MSM into the herb mixture after 30 minutes of cooling.  After 40 minutes and the MSM is melted, strain the herbal mixture into a bowl.

Pour 2-2 ½ oz of strained herbal tea into an 8 oz bottle.  Now, pour the 4 oz of castile soap into the bottle.  Cap the bottle and shake to mix the ingredients.

The shampoo is now finished and ready for use.  Use this as a bas for all the shampoos you make.  You can add different herbs as you learn what these herbs do and how they help your hair.  You can vary the ingredients according to your taste. 

**I added 4 drops of Rosemary essential oil for good measure since I struggle with thinning hair.

*MSM-an organic sulphur compound in gel, liquid, powder, cream or capsule form.  Consult your doctor before using MSM, especially if you are using medication.

*Rosemary-stimulates the hair follicles and helps to prevent premature baldness

*Sage-has antioxidants and keeps things from spoiling and is antibacterial

*Nettles-acts as a blood purifier, blood stimulator, contains a large source of nutrients for hair growth

*Lavender-controls the production of sebaceous gland oil and reduces itchy and flaky scalp conditions

The herbs came from More Than Alive.  They have a great selection of herbs I couldn’t find at other places and great prices.

The finished product!

I have been using it for about a week.  It gives my hair a lot more volume, however, it also gives it a different feel than my commercial shampoo.  I am still getting used to it.  It’s not thick like commercial shampoo, but it doesn’t take a lot and lathers really well.

In The Kitchen, Preserving the Harvest, Self-Sufficiency

Freezing Sweet Potatoes

This is a really great way to preserve sweet potatoes to use in casseroles or pie if you do not have a cellar.

Wash sweet potatoes that have been cured for at least one week.  To cure sweet potatoes: store the fresh potatoes in a warm room in the house for 14 days. Curing develops the flavor and allows for longer storage.

Peel and cook the sweet potatoes until almost tender in water, steam, a pressure cooker, or the oven. 

Let stand at room temperature until cool.  Cut into chunks, slices, or mash.

To prevent darkening, dip whole sweet potato or slices for 5 seconds in a solution of 1/2 cup lemon juice to 1 quart water.  To keep mashed sweet potatoes from darkening, mix 2 tablespoons of orange or lemon juice with each quart of mashed sweet potatoes. 

Pack into containers, leaving 1 inch headspace.  Make sure all the air is squeezed out of the bag.  Seal and freeze.

 

Homemaking, Self-Sufficiency, Soap Making

Re-Soaping

 

I saw this on another lady’s blog, but her blog has been closed since so I cannot link it.  So, I typed up the directions and thought I would pass them along. 

Re-Soaping:

This is a fun way to make soap without the worry of using lye.  You can adjust the herbs and vitamins to meet your family’s needs.

Ingredients:

4 (4 oz.) bar IVORY Soap

1 ½ cups Water

6 Chamomile tea bags (or ½ to 1 cup favorite dry herbs)

3 oz. Olive Oil

1 oz. Vitamin E Oil

2 T. Vitamin A

Essential Oil for fragrance (optional)

In a stainless steel pan, bring water to a boil then add tea bags and steep, covered over low heat for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, grate soap.  I use a food processor.

Remove tea bags and squeeze well.  Add grated soap and stir gently.  Over stirring will cause suds.  Melt soap, covered on low to medium heat while folding melted portions in every few minutes.  This process may take awhile.  This allows you to do other things around the kitchen while your soap is melting.  You may need to add small amounts of water if bottom of pan gets too hot.

When soap is melted, fold in oils and vitamins.  Continue heating over low heat and covered while folding occasionally, until soap is smooth.

Turn soap out into an 8 inch square pan lined with plastic wrap.  Shake pan vigorously to even out mixture and bring any air bubbles to the surface.  Smooth the top with the back of spoon if necessary. 

When surface skims over, you can put the pan in the freezer to speed up the firming process or just let it set for about 4-6 hours.  I let mine set overnight.

When soap feels firm turn it out onto a board and cut it into bars with a sharp knife.  You can chop up the trimmings and squeeze them into soap balls if you like.

Set soap on end and let dry 2-6 weeks, depending on how much water was added.  Turn bars halfway through the drying process.  This soap is ready to use at any time, but the less dry it is the faster it dissolves and will crumble easily.

*not the greatest photo of the soap, but you get the idea : )

Use this soap for gifts or just for your family.  Enjoy!