Monday, May 23, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead - May 15 & 22


This blog post is being sponsored by a tired and out of shape blogger. She is recovering, but sadly knows that she needs to get into shape and soon. 

I did finally go to the doctor and get some breathing issues addressed. I have had asthma for over 25 years. However, I have been managing it without an inhaler for almost 20 years. The last few months, however, have not been good. I have been constantly short of breath and have had a few attacks. The doctor does not know exactly what is causing the problem, but thinks it might be more allergies than asthma. As I am already on an allergy med, they are treating me with a generic Singular for allergies and asthma. If it works, great. If it doesn't work, back to the drawing board. I also got an inhaler to use as needed. So far, no need. 

You don't realize how much your health impacts your activities until you are trying to get as much done as humanly possible! I carry a few extra pounds too so getting into shape so I can handle the work has been a priority. 

What have we been doing? A lot! The weather has been gorgeous for over a week and that means really tackling the project list. I am not sure where to start or what project has been the biggest.

We borrowed a tractor and moved dirt around the house. Some of the land around the edges of the house was starting to slope towards the house. We are always actively having to work to keep the basement dry so this needed to be addressed. We moved a fair amount of dirt around the house and have a good slope built up again. We would like to put heavy plastic down with rocks over top of the plastic. We will see if the budget will allow that. 

We (meaning Rob) cleaned up the grove. There was a brunch of work to do in there so all the kudos go to him. I helped when I could as did the kids. He cleaned up the downed trees, about a million branches/brush, and filled in the holes left from decaying stumps and just some low spots. The grove looks fantastic now!


We got all the flowers planted. I need just a few more for the one bed I cleaned out (lower right corner). That particular bed has columbines and wild roses growing there right now. I planted three new perennials in there, but it could benefit from three more perennials. The half-barrels on the left hand side are flowers I got for Mother's Day from Dane and Rob. The orange flower on the upper right hand picture is also from Dane. I went to Country Gardens and got some more flowers to match it and fill in those planters. I also got a yellow gerbena daisy plant from Jordan that I need to bring outside. 


We got the poles up on the new clothesline last night. We rented a post hole auger to make this job much less work. It was worth every penny of the $66 I spent to rent it. We used 4x4x10s for the posts and used Quikrete to cement them in the ground. We will wait a few days to let them get settled before finishing that project. 


We also got the poles put up around the garden. We used the same post hole auger for the corner posts and the gate. I bought snow fence to put around the garden. We are lining the snow fence with rabbit wire fence to keep those darn critters out. We would like to get this project as soon as possible because...


these replacement tomato and pepper plants would like to be planted. Their predecessors were some rabbit or deer's snack over a few nights. I am going to get a few more plants of each yet, but I would love to get them in the ground. I do have all my seeds planted. I planted beets, carrots, green beans, peas, kale, yellow summer squash, zucchini, pie pumpkins, and more onions. 

In other news, school will be out this Friday. I have been spending some time looking for interesting challenges for the kids this summer. Shali is leaving on Thursday for 10 days for a college trip to England, Scotland, and Ireland. I am so excited for her! Jordan is heading to work at the church camp in Okoboji when school lets out in Cedar Falls/Waterloo. She works for the YMCA in the before and after school program at the local schools. Shali will be heading to work at the same camp when she gets back from her trip. Paige will be starting life guarding training as soon as school lets out then onto Drivers' Ed. Dane will be enjoying his summer of very few commitments!

Summer is busy, that's for sure! 

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, May 9, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead - April 25 through May 9


To sum up these last three weeks: we got a lot done! I got to play in the dirt and garden! Yes!

I transplanted about 50 raspberry plants to a new area. I just need to get a lot of mulch to help keep the weeds down. The weather is taking care of the watering. As of two weeks later, about 1/4 of the transplants are sprouting new leaves. I wish more were doing the same, but of right now I am happy with that.

I planted four rows of red, Yukon, and russet potatoes and about 50 onions. I hope to get more done in the next week, but I shall see what kind of time I have. I have to plant the other 50 or so onions and some shallots. I have plant those on the edge of the garden by the potatoes so the rain won't affect that.

I also got 11 bell pepper plants and 20 tomato plants in the garden. I might get more pepper plants (4-6) and some grape tomato plants. All I have left is the seeds to be planted. As of right now, I will be planting carrots, parsnips, green beans, peas, kale, summer squash, zucchini, and sugar daddy pumpkins. Hopefully the rain will let up this week and I can get them in. I should have on Saturday, but life happens.

We got a ton of yard clean-up done. There is still some more to do. Rob trimmed up a lot of trees, cut down the dead ones, cleaned up a ton of sticks, and cleaned up the fallen trees. Dane and I cleaned up branches, cleaned out the dead stuff from the lilac bushes, and raked a fair amount. We were able to have a fire in the fire pit one Friday night and burned up some of the branches in there. That helped some! However, we have quite a pile building up. You will probably see that fire from Wisconsin!

We also had another fire in a bigger pit area Saturday night before Mother's Day. That was a big fire! We bought some more wood and brush from another pile to keep the fire going longer. The kids wanted a fire and we had very little wind so the fire happened. We had smores, played a tough game of I Spy, and talked a lot. It was a great end to a pretty great day.

Notice I talk about the weather quite a bit? The weather has been deciding for us what we are doing. We had a beautiful week of weather followed by five days of almost monsoon like rains. Then a beautiful week of weather. Today is Monday and we are scheduled for rain the next five out of seven days. Just crazy!

We got one major project in the shop done. We moved the work bench to the wall with the plug-ins. The work bench was on the opposite wall from the plug-ins and Rob decided (I definitely agreed) that needed to change. It was a major undertaking with lots of sore muscles due to carrying almost everything out that was in there. Rob has a lot of unpacked stuff in the shop and getting the shop done is a top priority now so he can find things and work on other things.

While cleaning out the shop, I purged a lot of junk furniture. I thought some things had potential, but I was wrong. I got rid of a dresser, a vanity, and two desks. They were falling apart! Since I am still in a purging mood, things need to go! I did keep two dressers, a seat, and a bench that have plenty of potential. They just need some love!

We are also trying to decide what to do about the chickens. Of course we want to still keep them, but the ladies are starting to slow down on the egg production. Plan A would involve getting a rooster and letting the ladies lay their own chicks. Plan B would involve getting chicks and integrating them over the summer. What do you prefer?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Homemade Hamburgers and Baked Potato Slices: Delicious Summer Recipes!


One of our favorite summer meals to eat is Hamburgers and Baked Potato Slices. Both are simple and easy to make. You can also have dinner on the table in under thirty minutes!

I start with the Baked Potato Slices first. We use garlic salt to season these potatoes because my family is addicted to it. However, you can use any seasoning you want!

Baked Potato Slices

3-4 potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
Garlic salt or any other seasoning you prefer

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Slice the potatoes. Spray your baking sheet with cooking spray. I use olive oil cooking spray, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Lay the potatoes slices on the baking sheet


Spray the potatoes with cooking spray. Then sprinkle the potatoes with garlic salt or your chosen seasoning. Spraying the potatoes with cooking spray may seem weird, but it helps the seasoning stick and the potatoes to cook better. 

Put the potatoes in the oven for 20-25 minutes. You want them to be a little brown on the bottom when done. To test doneness, use a toothpick. If the toothpick goes in easily, they are done. If you want to, you can flip the potatoes half way or let them cook longer for more of a potato chip consistency. 


While the Baked Potato Slices are cooking, I start on the Homemade Hamburgers. These are juicy and flavorful with the addition of seasoning and Worcestershire sauce. I adapted this recipe from another recipe I had and lost. 

Homemade Hamburgers

2 pounds ground beef (I prefer 85%, but you can use a leaner meat)
1 Tbsp. Morton's Nature's Season Seasoning Blend (or your favorite seasoning salt)
1 tsp. onion powder

Preheat your grill. I usually turn my grill up to high to start with and turn it to medium when I am ready to cook.

Put the ground beef in a large bowl. 


Add the seasoning and mix it well. My family loves their hamburgers well-seasoned, but your family may not. Adjust the seasonings accordingly. I also use my clean hands to mix the hamburger. I find it is more efficient. 



Split the meat into 8 - 1/4 pound patties. Shape the patties and make an indentation in the middle with your thumb. This helps the hamburgers to cook evenly and shrink less.

With the grill hot, put the patties on the grill.



I normally cook the hamburgers about five minutes on each side and find them to be done. We like ours medium and will cook them until the meat thermometer says 145 degrees Fahrenheit.



All done! Unless you want cheese on that burger. Now is a good time to do that and let it melt a little!

Take the Baked Sliced Potatoes out of the oven and put the Homemade Hamburgers on the table with buns and condiments. We often eat ours with baby carrots or a salad to round off the meal.



I hope you enjoy this delicious summer meal just like we do!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Is Your Home Ready For An Emergency? Four Things You Need To Do Now To Be Ready!


Our home. We love coming home to it, resting in it, and just generally being home. Our homes are our safe places.

Or are they?

Getting our home ready for an emergency was not at the top of my list of things to do. That was really bad of me, but I was more focused on other areas of preparedness. This year, however, I have been made more aware of the fact that my home needs some improvements and some safety/emergency equipment. The realization that I was slacking in this area hit me hard and made me question how we would do if there was an emergency. I had the feeling the answer would be not very well.

The time to get these things done is now. If you are not ready for emergencies at home, would you really be ready for emergencies anywhere else? These are the four areas that I am working on in my home and I bet you need to either work on these or at least check them out.

Fire safety has been at the top of my mind. We have always had a plan to know what to do in case of a fire, but I knew I needed more in the way of fire safety equipment. In the last month, I have purchased:



I only had two one-time use fire extinguishers that weren't going to do much except put out a small stove fire. We needed more and in more places beside the kitchen. I have smoke detectors, but they do not work anymore or are faulty. This is my fault for letting them get this way and it is time to take care of this issue. I also bought a carbon monoxide detector for the shop because we have a propane heater in there now. I don't want my family or myself to pass out while working on a project!

Fire safety also involves keeping an updated plan for escape routes and having a safe spot for everyone to meet. Also having a fireproof safe for your valuables and papers is also vital. Keeping a to-go bag with your family's vital information and an updated phone list is also a key item.

Another area of home emergency preparedness I have been working on is organization. Quite frankly, this one is a little tough for me. However, knowing where everything is and having it ready to use in an instant is beyond valuable!

For example, we have quite a few tools in the house. They are all in a cabinet right now in small toolboxes and totes. We know where they are, but they are not very well organized and we have doubles and triples of a lot of the tools. They are also mixed up with parts that need their own place. We just bought a rolling tool box/cabinet to put in the basement to organize the tools. We will go through all the tools and keep the ones we need in the house. The extras will then go to the garage and the shop as needed. This way we will know exactly where the tools are and be able to grab exactly the tool we need.

Keeping your emergency supplies organized and handy can be a life saver. Whether it be tools for fixing that leaking pipe quickly or shutting off the gas to your house, guns and ammo for protection, or the fire extinguisher for putting out a small fire, you need to know where your supplies are and have them ready to go.

One area of home emergency preparedness is not one many people think of. Our homes have a lot of stuff in them. We like our stuff, but that same stuff may be the one thing that prevents you from getting out of the house in case of an emergency.

We all need to declutter our homes. We all need to make sure we have clear walkways in our escape routes and stuff in the way can prevent us from leaving. Keeping floors cleaned up and clear of clutter can help us get out if we need to or get to our emergency supplies. Keeping stairs and rooms clean can help us get out or attend to the emergency in a timely matter.

If you have clutter in the way or just a tiny path to walk through the house, you are risking injury or even losing your chance to get out of the house if necessary. Emergency personnel might not be able to get to you if they have to wade through your things to find you.

Take care of the clutter. Figure out what you truly need and find a home for it in the house. Get organized with your clutter and keep the walkways and floors clear to be able to respond in an emergency situation.

The last home emergency preparedness area to work on is to fix the little things around the house.


  • Fix those loose plug-ins. 
  • Fix those ripped window screens. 
  • Fix the loose or non-functioning door latches. 
  • Fix the broken windows. 
  • Make sure your locks are good on the doors and windows. 
  • Patch the holes in the ceiling, walls, and roof. 
  • Fix the leaking gutters. 
  • Replace light fixtures that seem to burn out a lot. 
  • Make sure your outdoor lighting works and replace those fixtures that don't work.
  • Make sure your electrical system don't have any shorts or old wires. Fix what needs to be fixed. 

I am not talking about remodeling the house or adding on to the house. I am talking about fixing the little things that we always want to sweep under the rug and shouldn't ignore. Those little things can add to up to something big like a fire, a break-in, an injury, further property damage, and so on. Not having these items fixed could compromise your home security and endanger your family's lives.

Make a list of what needs to be done, make a trip to the hardware store, and knock out a few things on the list this weekend. You will be really happy you did and your house will look and feel better!

What is on your home emergency list to get done?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, April 18, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead - April 18


Hello! We are having some very lovely temperatures here! The wind seems to want to blow too, but it feels so good to be outside soaking up the sun.

We got a fair amount of yard work done. The branches are piled up in three piles around the house and will be loaded into a trailer. Some of it will be burned and some of it will become mulch for the garden. The kids did most of that work as well as picking up trash around the yard.

I have my raspberries dug up and will get the replanted as soon as I get a new spot ready. I am excited to have them out of my garden and ready to get a new, bigger patch going. We all love fresh raspberries!

I also found out yesterday that my garden will be tilled in two weeks. I am excited about that too. I want to get my own tiller, but I am shopping around for a decent used one. I bought my seed potatoes, onion sets, and shallot sets yesterday too. I might buy more seed potatoes, but I am waiting to see.

We, mostly Rob, got the garage cleaned out and organized. We still have some more cleaning and organizing to do, but the garden tools and shovels are all hanging up! I have dreamed of that for quite a while! Rob also tore out some shelves that were rotting and falling apart. He also did a lot of sweeping and dusting. The garage was pretty dirty!

Paige went to prom! She is only a freshman, but her date was a junior. Here is the pretty girl in all her finery:



She wore a dress that her older sister, Jordan, wore to her junior prom. This dress was in pretty decent condition, but I had to use my sewing and ironing skills. I fixed and sown back on the beads and larger rhinestones that came loose. The skirt had a couple minor tears that I sewed back up. We spent $26 to get her hair done and grandma bought her a new pair of heels to wear. Jordan applied her make-up and Paige wore jewerly that she already had. A fairly frugal prom!

The chickens are still alive. We have been free ranging them again and so far no hawk. We did find out it was illegal to shoot them. I am looking into other ways to discourage them from eating my chickens!

Other than that, we have been going to track meets, cleaning, and generally keeping up with life. The cats will go to the vet tomorrow and that should be more fun than it sounds. One of the cats is deathly afraid to even leave the house so this is always a fun trip.

I wanted to let you all know about a new site for starting and adding to your current food storage. Preppers Market carries healthy emergency food storage with none of the nasty stuff you don't want! It tastes delicious and offers a great variety for you and yours. It would make a great gift to help jumpstart someone's food storage or add to their existing food storage. Check it out!

Preppers Market LB pasta

What is going on around your homestead?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

I Have Been Prepping For Five Years, Now What? A Review Checklist for the Long-Term Prepper


Many of us have been prepping for quite a while. We started by getting some more food, a few cases of water, and some gear. Then prepping took over our lives and we now have a lot of prepping things and a good size food and water storage. 

I have been prepping for longer than five years, but I know that I have areas of my prepping I need to revisit. I bet you do too. As I have been decluttering and reorganizing, I have noticed things getting a little out of date, maybe a little dusty, maybe a little rusty, and some of it definitely being unused. I know our emergency plans are out of date and we have a lot of revisions to make. 

Sound familiar?

Here is a list of things you need to check if you have been prepping awhile. While we should be checking our preps every six months to one year, time does get away from us and we get busy with other things. Now is as good time as any to get your preps in line for, you know, just in case!

Preps to Check:

Check Water



Check long-term food stores 

  • Freeze-dried foods need to be checked to make sure the seals are good and no containers are bulging 
  • Food stored in mylar bags needs to be checked and possibly opened to make sure there is no spoilage or bugs
  • Food buckets need to be checked for a good seal and no holes or breaks
  • Canned foods need to be checked over to either be eaten or thrown and again no bulges in the cans
  • Is the food still things you would eat or not? 
  • Is there any obvious holes in your food storage your need to fill?


Check supplies 

  • Does everything still work? 
  • Do batteries need to be replaced? 
  • Do I have a good stock of batteries?
  • Does the oil, gas, or propane need to be replaced?
  • Have you started or used this prep lately to make sure it works?
  • Is everything in good condition?
  • What needs to be repaired or replaced?


Check caches and supplies hidden at other places

  • Are they still there? 
  • How is everything holding up in the caches? 
  • Time to rotate the food in the caches?
  • Check clothing if stored for kids and replace
  • Hiding spot still good?
  • Cache container still have good camouflage? 


Check security

  • Ammo and guns still in good condition?
  • Knives sharpened and in good condition?
  • Other methods of defending yourself still in good condition?
  • Does everybody still know their role in the home security or does your plan need revision?
  • Is all your window and door locks in good condition?
  • Is your home still invader-proof? Walk around the house to make sure.


Check home emergency supplies

  • How are the fire extinguishers? Still in date and still functioning?
  • Rope ladders from upstairs rooms still in good condition?
  • How are your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors? Still working well or need to be replaced?
  • Generators still run well? 
  • Still have an adequate amount of gas, propane, and/or diesel on hand? Container still in good condition?
  • Do you still have a good amount of bedding and supplies for those that might show up in an emergency or disaster?


Check your bug-out bags and 72-hour kit


  • Is the clothing and shoes still size appropriate for who is using it?
  • Is the food still good? Do you still have an adequate amount?
  • Does everything function correctly and is still appropriate for the person carrying it?
  • Does the batteries need to be replaced in anything?
  • Is there adequate amount of supplies for the people in your family? 

Check your first-aid kit and supplies

  • What needs to be replaced?
  • Do the bandages look old and/or might not stick anymore?
  • Have your family's needs changed? Do you need baby stuff or not anymore?
  • Is the over-the-counter medicines still in good standing or need to be replaced?
  • Is everything still well-organized or need to be again?
  • What do you need to add to your first-aid supplies?


Other Questions you should be asking yourself

  • Is your evacuation plans still good?
  • Does your emergency family plan need to be revised?
  • Are your kids older or do you have kids now?
  • Do you need plans for your kids in college or on their own?
  • Do you need to have plans for your parents and older family members?
  • Is your emergency information updated?
  • Is your phone list still current?
  • Do you need to update your personal information in your family emergency binder?
  • Do you have an updated list of all medications your family is taking?
  • Do you have current health histories on everybody?
  • Is your vehicle emergency kit current? Does anything need to be replaced?
  • Is your Every Day Carry current and still useful?
  • How is your emergency cash fund? Does it need to be replenished or increased?

There is so much to think about and do when you are prepping. Checking your preps can sometimes get lost in the busyness of prepping and living life. While I am sure I missed some things that need to be checked, this basic list can get you started on making sure you are covered in an emergency or disaster.

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, April 11, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead - April 11


What happened this week?

This week was a little exciting, a little bit frustrating, and has a little bit more work involved for us.

We are down a chicken. One of the full-grown layers was killed by a hawk. In all the problems I thought I would have with keeping my chickens alive, this was not one problem I thought I would have. Hawks are not a big problem, but we had noticed three of them nesting on the property. We weren't sure what kind of hawk they were, but now we know they are the chicken-killing kind of hawks.

Since I like my chickens to free range a bit, the hawks need to go. I would like to do it humanely, but if we have to shoot them then we will. Shooting the hawks is probably illegal, but I have more invested in my chickens and would rather not lose them!



In the frustrating and creating more work for us category, what you see above is the remnants of my clothesline. We had a dead tree fall on Tuesday and take out the clothesline. Both poles will have to be replaced as well as the line. We are extremely fortunate that the tree did not fall on the house or fall the other way on to the power line. This can be cleaned up and replaced fairly easily.

Gardening is still on hold. The ground temperature is a little bit chilly yet to plant anything. A few days of sun might cure that. We are also going to move the raspberry patch out of the garden and into its own spot. I think they will do better and I will have the room back in the garden. If I don't have a tiller (my dream tiller) by the weekend, I will rent one and get the garden tilled hopefully in the next week.

We (mostly Rob) spring-cleaned the first floor of the house Saturday. He would call it normal cleaning, but the floors look fantastic! We also did some decluttering with another load accumulating for the thrift store. I took one load on Thursday last week, but we always have more things to get rid of.

I also did a big grocery run on Saturday. Meat prices are atrocious!!!! Corn and beans for feed is down. Gas prices to transport the meat is down. Why is ground beef still $4.50-5.00 a pound?!?! Crock-pot and arm roasts were $3.99 a pound. I am still in sticker shock!

Everything is on hold this week while we get ready for prom! Paige is going to her first prom on Saturday and, in our true frugal style, is wearing a dress that Jordan wore her junior year. I still need to get a few repairs done on the dress and iron the skirt. With three track meets this week this should be interesting, but we will get it done!

What is happening on your homestead?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

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