Tuesday, August 25, 2015

August Scenes From The Homestead

Ahh...August. August is one of my favorite months. Everything is green, growing, blooming, ready for harvest, and/or starting to die. The kids start back to school and activities are already in full swing.

These pictures would be a day in the life and what is going on around the homestead in August.

First of all, it was the first day of school for Paige and Dane. Paige starts 9th grade and Dane starts 5th grade. Shali and Jordan also started classes at UNI the same day!


These are my bell pepper plants that starting to flower. Hopefully, I will have peppers soon. I had some planted in the garden, but something ate them. So I planted more in buckets in a sunny spot beside the house.


I also planted some herbs in buckets. From left to right is: chives, lavender, mint, and lemon balm. It appears that I need to be picking and drying them soon!


This was an experiment for me. I planted four sweet potato plants in a former feed tub. Hopefully, at the end of the season, I will be able to just dig them out of the tub for eating this winter. 


The chickens are enjoying an early evening snack of overgrown cucumbers. Holly the formerly injured dog is keeping an eye on them outside the fence. I had to lay straw down last week because the outdoor area got so muddy from the six inches of rain we got!


Inside the coop is a little messy. I will have to clean the coop soon. I adore the antique long feeder that my kids' grandfather found! The chickens are happier too!


One or two of the chickens have found a new place to lay eggs away from the nesting boxes. I need to investigate why they are doing that though.


My onions are starting to pop out of the ground. Hopefully they will get a bit bigger.


My one red tomato so far. I have a bunch of green ones though!


I found 7-8 pound bags of apples on clearance at the grocery store for 99 cents a bag. I bought both bags and made applesauce out of one of them. I will do the same with the other bag too.


Thanks for reading,
Erica

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Fajita Vegetable Packets: A Great Way To Use Up The Garden Bounty!

Looking for a way to use up the summer produce from the garden? Scored a good deal on onions and peppers at the farmers market? Let me introduce you to one of my favorite ways to use onions and bell peppers!

Fajita vegetable packets! 

I love fajitas. Love isn't a strong enough word. Fajitas would be my last meal in prison. Yum!

However, I don't always dig the price of bell peppers in the winter. Talk about sticker shock! One summer I had a abundance of both bell peppers and onions and decided to make some of these up! 

I also love having ingredients ready to use in the freezer. Who wouldn't?

First, slice your bell peppers in to strips. 


I did red bells and green bells. You can use whatever colors suit you.


Put the bell peppers into quart size bags or whatever containers you have on hand.


Slice up onions and add them to the bags too. 


If you want to add other vegetables or peppers, feel free. This is what I use in my fajitas. Seal and label the bags and freeze.


This is how I use them: I cook up the meat (usually chicken), season everything if I didn't do so before, add the frozen vegetables, and let them cook. You might not have the crisp vegetables that some like in their fajitas. I am okay with that. I usually turn the heat up to medium high - high heat to cook off the liquid that comes out from freezing. This works great in my cast iron skillet!

If you really want to, you can freeze the meat with the vegetables. You can even season it all, add a tablespoon of olive oil, two tablespoons of lime juice, and freeze it altogether in a gallon size freezer bag for a complete dump and pour meal. 

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Don't Throw Away Those Old Bed Sheets: 22 Ways to Reuse Old Bed Sheets!


Do you have this problem - a pile of old bed sheets that for whatever reason are not suitable for your bed anymore? Or your kids are not into Barbie anymore? Or the dog decided to play tug of war with them while drying on the clothes line? (Real story!)

What to do with them? I hate to throw them out. I tried to give away the kids' sheets to friends or family when my kids outgrew them. However, I still have a pile of old sheets that I keep around just in case.

I am huge believer in reusing and recycling whatever I can. I know people who throw away their old sheets which seems like a huge waste to me. Those sheets have at least twenty-two ways they can be reused!

1. Make cloth napkins. Cut the sheet in fourteen inch squares and hem the edges.

2. Cut them in quilt squares. Just make sure to label them if they are 100% cotton or cotton blend. According to my mother, you want use similar materials when making quilts.

3. Use them as paint drop cloths, either under you or the project as you paint.

4. Cut into cleaning cloths if the material seems to be absorbent. Again, I would hem or run a stitch around the edge of the squares.

5. If the material is good enough, you can make shirts, skirts, boxers, or little sundresses out of the sheets.

6. Make pillows.

7. Make curtains.

8. Make bandages for the first aid kit. Just tear in 3 and 4 inch wide swathes to use on wounds or to use with a tourniquet. 

9. Make ghost costumes for Hallowe'en.

10. Make play curtains and tablecloths for play houses for kids.

11. Cover seats in vehicles to protect the seats.

12. Cover and protect furniture from grimy kids, pets, etc.

13. Protect plants from frost.

14. Use as shade in the summer from the sun.

15. Use when you go camping for bedding. No need to take the good stuff when it will just get really dirty!

16. Tear into strips and make a mummy costume for Hallowe'en.

17. Make them in togas for a costume party. Toga!

18. To wrap around objects when moving.

19. Use as a backdrop for pictures to look more professional.

20. Lay down on the ground to sit on or have a picnic on.

21. Use as a tablecloth when eating outside.

22. Make an inside fort by draping the sheet over a table.

How would you reuse those old sheets?

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday Thoughts - Week of August 14


The Friday Thoughts might give you the impression I am obsessed with certain things, but then again maybe not. Many people ask what I think about things and I am not a very good talker. I will start trying to put my thoughts here every week and see what happens. I am going to keep it to five things that have been on my mind or heart, but I am not making any promises. 

1. I am really looking forward to this weekend. I will be kid-free for the weekend. As much as I love them, as a single mom, I need this once in a while. I need the mental break. Maybe I can get organized again too with my planner and my calendar!

2. If you are inclined, please say a little prayer or send some good vibes for Shali. She is having an MRI on Sunday for her ankle and will probably end up with surgery. We will know more after her follow up appointment on Thursday. She injured it playing sports in high school and, at 20, is in constant pain. Too young for that!

3. Wow, did you all see that explosion in the port of Tianjin, China? Holy moly. I am impressed! However, I think the implications of this will be felt worldwide. It was a major port for China and the exporting of desirable goods across the planet. And as much as we don't want to think about how much of our own goods come from China, a large majority of them are manufactured or are refined by China. This might impact us more than we know.

4. What are you interested in this week? Some times I feel like this changes from week to week depending on my week. As I have confessed before, I am not a super organized person. I am a barely organized person. I have learned the value of having a huge family calendar to keep track of everything. I have learned the value of having that same calendar in my phone and setting up reminders for myself. I am now using an app that has my to-do list and my grocery list on it.

This week has been all about being even more organized. Setting up systems, having more extensive menu plans, and just knowing where everything is because everything has a place. I have been learning more than doing, but I have some ideas about what I want to do. However, the thought in my mind is that some times people try to become more organized in direct relation to the stress in their lives. They are so stressed out that they seek control in their lives by being more organized. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how extreme you are being. (Yes, I read that somewhere. I just can't remember where.)

I am trying not to be extreme. However, I do understand that I do want more control in my life.

5. #4 was several thoughts rolled into one segment. That is enough for this week.

This week's blog post: Preppers and Homesteaders Need To Eat Healthy Too!

What I bought on Amazon this week: The Ultimate Self-Sufficiency Handbook by Abigail R. Gehring (this has been on my wish list for quite some time.)


I have also become an affiliate for the Molly Green Magazine and Website. This site and magazine has some of the best homesteading articles I have ever read. I am a subscriber myself and totally love what they are doing! 

Thanks for reading,
Erica


This does contain affiliate links, but I only share my favorites with you!)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Preppers and Homesteaders Need To Eat Healthy Too!


I have been thinking about healthy eating and diets a lot lately. I hate diets. I hate the idea of depriving myself of something that can be good for me if I eat in moderation and make wise choices. I have been following a modified low-carb diet lately because Rob needs to for his health and I know I need to cut out more sugar in my diet. 

However, I refuse to cut out any fruits or vegetables out of my diet. Ever. I like them way too much! I just don't understand any diet that tells you something grown in nature is bad for you. 

So you will get a rare post from me on healthy eating. I truly believe it is important and crucial to being in good health. Prepping, homesteading, parenting, and just daily living become easier when you are eating healthy. Eating healthy also lead to other good habits, such as exercising and sleeping well, because you have great energy during the day and actually feel tired when you go to bed.

Everyone has a different idea of eating healthy. We do the best we can buying organic when affordable, locally sourcing our meat, using eggs from our own chickens, raising some of our own produce, and not using hardly any processed food. We aren't perfect and I am sure some of you have better ideas for eating healthy. Please share them in the comments!

Many people think it is too much work to eat healthy all the time. But we are preppers and homesteaders! We thrive on thinking ahead while enjoying the present! We can do this healthy eating thing!

Why should someone be eating healthy? Because:
1. to be healthy. 
2. to lose weight.
3. to cut out processed food in case something happens in the world and need to rely more on what can be raised in the garden and on the farm.
4. to have energy to get through the day.
5. to feel better about ourselves. 
6. to have clearer thinking.
7. to fight against diseases like diabetes, depression, etc.

We want to feel better! We want a better quality of life. We don't want to be so unhealthy that we can't keep up with the work, defend ourselves, be active with our kids/grandkids, or just keep up with daily life.

Healthy eating can be easy. It really can! However, you need to plan ahead. You can plan ahead by: 1.  make ahead breakfasts to quickly warm up in the mornings.
2.  plan ahead on snacks.
3. can quite a bit of your own food to cut out the preservatives and artificial ingredients.
4. meal planning
5. freezer cooking (which makes my life so much easier!)
6. plant a garden, plant in containers, plant edible perennials, and plant fruit/nut trees and bushes. 

Below are some of things I do to plan ahead to have healthy food on hand. I will list at least five things for breakfast, lunch, supper, and snacks.

Breakfast:
1. Make MYO Oatmeal to have those packets ready to go in the morning.
2. Mix eggs with meat and vegetables in muffin tins and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Make a large batch of granola and granola bars to eat by itself or to have as cereal or with yogurt.I freeze some of them so they do not go bad before we eat them all. 
4.  Bake a large batch of healthy muffins and/or quick bread. I freeze them and pop them in the microwave when I need them. 
5. Make a double batch of pancakes to reheat the leftovers during the week. We often eat the leftover pancakes with homemade jam
6. Always have fresh fruit available. The ultimate grab and go snack or breakfast!

Snacks
1. Granola bars (see #3 in breakfast)
2. Fruit or vegetables already cut into easy to eat pieces
3. Small mini peppers with cream cheese
4. Summer sausage and cheese
5. Pickles or Pickle roll-ups (ham, cream cheese, and dill pickles)

Lunch (work and school)
1. Sandwiches. My current love is ham, Swiss or muenster cheese, and spinach on a multi-grain sandwich thin. We are also trying making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and putting them in the freezer to pull when needed.
2. Leftovers!
3. Making a big batch of taco meat to reheat in tortillas and eat with whatever you want or have on hand.
4. Fruit and vegetables already cut into easy to eat pieces
5. Create a bento box like meal with 5-6 small choices that are bite-size for easy eating.

Supper
1. Freezer meals. There are several recipes on the internet. I tend to stick to low-carb and dairy-free recipes that can be done in the slow cooker.
2. Slow cooker/Crock Pot. I use mine at least once a week. I put at least one slow cooker meal every week in my meal plan. Sometimes I plan for 2-3 times a week depending on how busy we are.
3. Freeze chicken in marinade. As the chicken thaws, it will marinate and be all juicy and yummy. I either pan fry or grill these them.
4. Freeze your vegetables or buy frozen vegetables. Cook on the stove top or in the microwave for a quick side dish.
5. Put meals together on Sunday to have on hand during the week. You can take it out of the fridge and heat it up for a quick, hot supper.
6. Use a pressure cooker. I am learning to use mine, but the ease of use and the many recipes on the internet make using this so much easier. I love making rice pilaf in mine!

You will notice that I like to eat healthy, but I like my meals quick and easy too. I love to cook and bake, but I am lazy and don't want to spend a lot of time doing it! Time is valuable and needs to be prioritized during the week.

If you have food allergies, healthy eating and planning ahead is even more important. Paige is majorly lactose-intolerant and the rest of us are mildly so. Many times Paige cannot eat the school lunches and will pack hers the night before. We also plan meals that are dairy-free so she can be comfortable eating them. We do use lactose-free milk instead of regular milk in every recipe that calls for milk. 

Now, does healthy eating sound hard? 

Thanks for reading,
Erica

Friday, August 7, 2015

Friday Thoughts - Week of August 7


The Friday Thoughts might give you the impression I am obsessed with certain things, but then again maybe not. Many people ask what I think about things and I am not a very good talker. I will start trying to put my thoughts here every week and see what happens. I am going to keep it to five things that have been on my mind or heart, but I am not making any promises. 

1. I did not watch the presidential debates last night. I could care less about the debates unless they are really going to talk about the real issues. And although I think Donald Trump could contribute a lot to this country, I really don't think he is presidential material. I like a few other candidates and will just wait to see how they do.

2. In a couple short weeks, I will have two kids in their own apartment at college and two kids at home. That just seems so strange. I love them so much, but life has more in store for them and I can't wait to see the adventures they go on in their lives.

3. In relation to #2, I was doing laundry last night and remembering the good old days when I had to do a load every morning and night along with several loads on the weekends just to keep up with the laundry. With four kids at home, I had a lot of laundry to do! Now I am down to once a day, maybe, with a couple loads on the weekends. Jordan has been doing her own laundry this summer so I haven't needed to worry about hers. That seems strange too, but I do enjoy doing less laundry!

4. We need rain. I want to get a fall garden in, but the ground is so hard. I can't get the tiller in the garden to do a decent job breaking up the dirt. The ground is cracking around my onions. However, the tomatoes are doing well with lots of green tomatoes. Hopefully soon, I will have lots of red tomatoes!

5. The chickens have been molting. I think they are mostly done molting now. I was only getting 1-2 eggs a day for two weeks and now we are back to 7-8 eggs a day. Hopefully we will be getting a dozen a day again soon.

6. I have been more driven lately to be organized. So much so that I am going to clean out and organize my freezers. Yikes. (I will be putting up a post about that later!) I am getting so cluttered in my mind that I need my surroundings clean and decluttered. I want to know where everything is and I want to be able to find it immediately. I have not gotten everything done yet, but I will!

This week's blog post: Is It A NEED or a WANT? What Should You Spend Your Money On?

What I bought on Amazon this week: Sterlite Deep Ultra Basket with Titanium Inserts, White, 6-pack (for organizing the freezer)

Thanks for reading,
Erica

This does contain affiliate links, but I only share my favorites with you!)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Is It A NEED or a WANT? What Should You Spend Your Money On?


One of the hard lessons in life that I had to learn was distinguishing between needs and wants. Sometimes I had a hard time knowing which was which. Sometimes, when I ignored that little voice in my head telling me I didn't need that item, I got myself in to some financial hot water. 

Lessons learned the hard way will stick with me the best!

As I mentioned in the 13 Ways To Save Money In The New Year post, I had to learn to commit to spending no money for anything not on the goals list, that was frivolous, or unnecessary. I had to understand that unless it was a need or on my goals list, I was not spending the money on any unnecessary purchases. 

I have my monthly goals and my homesteading goals. I have my goals built in my budget. I am also working hard at being debt free as well as getting my emergency cash fund back up to where it should be (my monthly income times three months). I also have a small blogging budget and goals that I use to pay for this site and buy materials to expand my knowledge so I can give you more quality posts. My Ebay business has its own budget and goals that covers it very well and gives me a little side income.

Everything in my life has a budget. While it does allow for a splurge once in a while, it does not allow for me to buy whatever old thing that catches my fancy. It also doesn't allow me to give in to my kids for every whim they want either!

If I really think I need something, I will take some time to think about. I even have a mental list of questions I ask myself:

1. Do I need it?
2. How will it improve my life or serve my needs?
3. Does it apply to my goals?
4. Can I really afford it?

Most of the time, what I really think I need is a want. Usually, if I really need something, it would already be on my list to buy. Makes sense, right?

However, we all have dealt with a significant other or a child who thinks they really need something that they really don't need. If my kids are asking for something in the store that is more than a basic need, I will ask them:

1. Why do you think you need this?
2. Do you really this?
3. Is this something you can put on your wishlist? Do you want it for a holiday or your birthday?
4. Do you have your own money to pay for it?

Most of the time, I can talk myself and them out of a lot of purchases. I usually only walk into a store when I have something specific to buy. I also remember I have a lot of projects at home that I want accomplish or goals that I want to conquer. I don't want to spend money on frivolous things and later be regretting that purchase when I don't have the money to spend on my goals. 

Do you know what the great thing is about separating your needs from your wants and not acting on those shopping impulses? 

 * You have the freedom to control your money. 
 * You know exactly where your money will be going. 
 * You know that the reward will ultimately be the satisfaction of paying cash to accomplish your goals, go on vacation, buy a better car, and/or paying for a house. 
 * You know you will be free from making impulsive and regretful purchases. 
 * You won't experience the end of the pay period panic when your bank account is empty because of foolish spending. 

Figuring out what is a NEED and a WANT will help you greatly. You can still have a good life without all the stuff and the mindless spending. You will be happier, you will have better relationships, and you will be able to better afford the things you need further down the road!

Thanks for reading,
Erica

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