Showing posts with label gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gardening. Show all posts

Monday, June 6, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead: May 31 & June 6

We have the fence around the garden and the garden is planted! That, my friends, may be the best and biggest news of these last two weeks. Besides mowing, these two things have consumed most of our time. 

This has been a time consuming project and I will try to get a blog post up about in this coming week. However, one of my goals from last year has been checked off the list! We still have some work we would like to do on it before fall, but that can wait because we have other things to get done...

like the clothes line.
like the shop.
like sorting and organizing the tools so we know what we have and where to find it.
like building raised beds for the strawberries and whatnot. 
like moving the lilies out of the garden.
like transplanting the rhubarb.
like cleaning and organizing my side of the garage.
like a multitude of other projects. You get the drift. 

Rob has been a rock star during these projects. He is doing most of the work and is the brains behind the planning and designing of the projects. I don't know what I would do without him! He would rather be doing other things, but yet he is doing the work on "my" projects. So awesome!

School is out for the summer. I say that ironically because Paige started life guarding classes the Tuesday after school got out. She also has marching band every week this summer and drivers ed in July. However, Dane is enjoying his summer off! Actually Paige is too because she is a little bummed that school is out. She loves school even as a high school student!

I am still decluttering and organizing. I started work in the basement with the laundry room. I have shelves full of painting supplies, laundry supplies, emergency food storage, and whatnot. We also have bags, socks, pillows, and other things that need to be let go. The other room I have been tackling is Shali's old bedroom. She did go through more clothes and we have two big boxes to get rid of as well as some things from her vanity. 

I have been trying to be more conscious about what I can resell when decluttering. I always need extra money for one project or another. I have a store on Ebay that I sell things through and I am trying to add more of the decluttered items to it that I know will sell. I have sold a lot of different things over the years, but I still get nervous about selling the new and unfamiliar to me. 

That is pretty much it unless you want to talk about the daily life things that happen. We took the cat to the vet and found out her thyroid is out of whack. She is on pills which is not fun, but oh well. The car got an oil change. I have stuck hard to only getting groceries once a week. I wish I could say the same for the hardware stores!

In a weekly dose of cuteness, meet Rebel the garden guard:

He sleeps on the job a lot. He seems to like the garden for his naps!

What have you been up to this last week (or two!)?

Thanks for reading,

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,

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,

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,

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,

Monday, March 14, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead - March 14

This has been another busy week on the homestead. Every week seems busy, but some weeks just wear you out. However, this last week wasn't too bad. 

We have been doing a lot of little things. Cleaning out the garage and getting the doors to work right has been fun. I had to go to Menards Saturday morning and I got two new springs which should make all three garage doors operational now. Rob is also adding buttons to the outside of the doors to make getting in and out of the garage easier.

I got two new tires put on the Escape. I wasn't very happy about doing that since I had just put four tires on a year ago. However, lack of knowledge on tire rotation, a tie rod going out in November, and not having a good alignment done after that caused undue tire wear on my vehicle. 

While getting the tires put on, I bought two live traps for the barn. We have a few opossums living in there that need to be relocated or just dealt with. I am not sure which option we are choosing, but they do not belong in the barn and they are way too close to the chickens. The opossums must go. 

The sump pump has not been fixed yet. The sump pump drains into a tile in the yard and the water is really running right now. To change the sump pump, the check valve, and PVC in the basement would be a really wet and miserable experience right now. We can wait until the ground dries up a bit. We still have the old sump pump in the basement and Rob keeps a close eye on it to make sure it is running correctly.

We had some beautiful weather last week and part of Saturday. Rob got some yard work done and he identified some areas around the outside of the house that we will have to build up or landscape so the water will run away from the house. We have gutters where we can, but some of the roof is not conducive to having gutters hung. He also fixed the gutters and downspouts so they work well again. Some of the downspouts had an unfortunate meeting with a very fast lawnmower driver!

I started cleaning up the basement. The basement has been very unorganized for awhile. I cleaned off a set of shelves that we are getting rid of to put newer, sturdier shelves in that place. I cleaned under the stairs and moved a bunch of totes into that space. I also started cleaning up and organizing my food storage better. I should have bought more of these storage baskets because the size is perfect for what I am doing.  I hopefully will get that project done very soon. 

The rhubarb has started to poke through the ground. I am thrilled about that! I love rhubarb (learn to grow it here)! No asparagus yet which is okay with me. I think I might get some radishes and possibly some spinach or lettuce started in the ground soon on the edge of the garden. I am really looking forward to some fresh vegetables!

I am still keeping up on the food storage and prepping. My goal was to increase our water storage which I am working on. One of my other goals was to get our food storage up to a year or more and I have been adding to what we have already. I have a continuous food storage which means we eat from, rotate, and continuously add to the food storage at all times. This time of year I really add to our food storage using part of my tax refund. 

What have you been doing around your homestead?

Thanks for reading,

Monday, March 7, 2016

Monday Update From The Homestead - March 7

In order to get back to a more consistent posting, we are bringing back the Monday Update From The Homestead. And folks, the homestead has been busy.

As you all know, Rob moved in about six weeks ago. This has been a huge adjustment on everyone's part and we are still working out the kinks. However, he is quite handy and I love that about him. He has fixed the upstairs bathroom sink, is fixing the sump pump in the basement, fixed the other drain in the basement, and the list goes on. He also likes order and consistency which my household is not big on. However, we need it so this has been an interesting experience. 

Dane's room flooded last week. Hence, the sump pump repairs. We have a perfectly good sump pump, but the float kept getting stuck on the side of the pit. So we bought one that does not get stuck on the side of the pit. The new sump pump has a float that goes up and down on a rod. The old one had a float that was on an extended arm and went up and down. 

Dane was moved permanently up to his sister's old bedroom and is currently getting settled in. We are still trying to par down the toys and figure out what to do with the organization of the room. He got moved into a room that is about half the size of his old room. This will involve creative use of room and roaming Pinterest for lots of ideas!

So what is our next project? Fixing the sump pump for starters. Rob is also going to re-caulk the upstairs shower since a chunk of the caulk is missing right now. Then I think we are going to turn Dane's old bedroom into a family room with all the movies, games, and whatnot down there. We are going to paint a waterproof sealer on the floor, put down carpet, replace the door, and replace the paneling in that room. Then we can decorate it and furnish it. We have most of that on hand now. 

One part of the back of the shop. We have a lot of cleaning and fixing to do.

Getting Rob's shop set up is also a priority. He would like his tools and space to make and fix things. I can't blame him on that. Hopefully, we will get that started as soon as possible. 

As for the weather, we had a bit of snow last week, some cold, and now really nice temps. The ground was starting to dry up a bit before the snow and I am waiting for that to happen again. I would like to get out to the garden soon and start cleaning up the garden for spring. I would also like to get a start on building some raised beds and plant a small row of radishes and maybe peas. We have a chance of storms through Tuesday and nice temps the rest of the week.

Speaking of the garden, my garlic is coming up. The onions that I left in the ground last fall are coming up too. I haven't seen any sign of my rhubarb or asparagus yet, but it is really early for those plants. However, no real ground frost/freezing means early start on the crops here. 

She is not normally an inside dog, but loves to be inside any chance she can get!

We have developed a system for the dog and the chickens. The dog likes to hunt the chickens and the chickens like to roam the yard. The dog has a fenced-in outdoor area so that is where she goes during the day so the chickens can roam. At sunset, the chickens go in and the dog comes out so she can be the protector she is not. But she does like to bark a lot!

I also have not decided if I want to add more chickens or not this year. There is a part of me that would like to add about six more layers to the flock, but I am not sure if I have the room. I probably can make the coop work with the addition of another roost. I have wanted to do meat chickens also and I still might on a small scale. I am thinking maybe 10-12 meat birds so I can get the hang of the process. I would have to build a temporary coop or chicken tractor for them though. There is no room for that many birds in the regular coop.

Other than that, we just have been busy. Dane's basketball is wrapping up and Paige's track is just starting. She will also be done with jazz choir in the next month which will be nice. 

How is your homestead today?

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Ten Lessons Learned About Food From The Depression and Wartime

The Great Depression was a time of lean years for many in the United States as well as all over the world. Many people learned valuable lessons on how to make food stretch and take advantage of cheaper processed food that came out during this time. Many people learned to survive on less and some people went hungry. 

When World War II came around, many of these lessons were needed to survive the war and stretch their rationing coupons. People were encouraged to garden during the Depression and were heavily encouraged to do during the war. Victory gardens appeared everywhere to help feed the people while more and more food was shipped to overseas. 

Many of these lessons learned during these eras have been lost. We as a people are incredibly wasteful now. Our grocery budgets would be better off if we learned these same lessons and kept them in our kitchens. Then if we have lean times, we would be better off.

10 Lessons Learned About Food From The Depression and Wartime

1. Fat was never wasted. Scraps of fat were kept from everything they could be and stored. Fat from meat was cut off to be used to fry and roast. Bacon grease was kept in a jar to be used to cook eggs and potatoes. Fat from cooking meat was reused in cooking other meat and cooking vegetables. Fat was too precious to waste especially when it became severely rationed during World War II.

2. Cooking liquids were never just thrown down the drain. That was wasteful! They were reused in cooking for vegetables. Rice and pasta could be cooked in water that was previously used in cooking vegetables. They also thought it gave the rice and pasta flavor. They would also use the cooking liquids in watering plants and feeding animals.

3. Leftover meat juices had so many more uses! Leftover meat juices were used for making soup, cooking rice and pasta, flavoring casseroles and skillets dishes. Meat juices were poured into a jar to be reused in the next meal.

4. If the food has to be imported into the country, chances are you would have to live without it. This was especially true in the United States and Britain during wartime when most of their food was imported into the country. Many things they could grow themselves, but items like sugar and coffee were severely rationed because they could not produce it themselves.

5. If people could, they raised their own chickens and planted gardens. Sometimes city dwellers could not have gardens, but many cities had garden allotments for people to use. Raising your food could mean the difference between living and starving for most people. Many people during the Depression and wartime sold the food they couldn't eat or preserve. Many women sold eggs from their chickens in order to bring a little more income into the home. Many people from these eras have said that having gardens and eggs are what got them through the lean years.

6. Leftovers were not wasted. Leftovers were generally incorporated into the next meal or the next day's meals. Leftover meat became chopped meat sandwiches. Leftover meat and vegetables became part of the soup. Cooking liquids and canned liquids were reused. Nothing was wasted. If, for some reason, the leftovers could not be or were not used, they were fed to the animals or put into a compost pile. 

7. If you did not raise or hunt your own meat, meat could be very expensive. Meals in the Depression and wartime were not heavy on meat like they are now. Meat cooked at one meal was stretched over 2-4 meals. They might roast a chicken for one meal, make chopped meat sandwiches for another meal, soup for lunch or supper, and use the rest of the chicken in a white sauce served over toast or pasta. The bones would be used to make broth for the soup before being thrown out to the chickens. Nothing was wasted.

8. Consider alternative ways of cooking food. In the 30's and 40's, cook stoves were popular. Electric and gas cook stoves were becoming increasingly available and were cheap to run. However, in the Depression, people could not afford to run the stoves. During the war, gas was rationed. Women used wood stoves and hay boxes to cook food and save money. 

9. Forging was very necessary during these eras. People looked for dandelion greens, dug up wild onions, and knew where to find blackberries in the brambles. Forging for anything edible helped at the supper table and, for some families, made the difference between a very meager meal and a decent meal. 

10. "Making Do" was the theme of the Depression and wartime. People didn't have a choice if they wanted to eat. Beans were eaten a lot because they were cheap and nutritious. Casseroles were made more and became popular because little bits of food could be mixed together to make a more filling meal. Bits of dried fruit and sweet vegetables were used to sweeten food when sugar wasn't available or heavily rationed. 

Food was never thrown out or wasted. People became very creative and resourceful to make a meal for their family. They had to. They didn't have a choice unless they wanted to starve. 

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

30 Things You Can Do On Your Winter Homestead

Ahhh...winter. Love it or hate it, winter happens every year. Some of you have much milder winters than we do in Iowa and can still garden year round. That is not happening here! I can barely see where my garden should be at!

I don't know about you all, but I lose hope Spring is coming when Winter is here. Winter is just so cold and so harsh. We have had it easy this winter until January came. January brought some really cold temperatures, more snow, and the bone-chilling wind (that I wasn't missing!). 

Lacking in motivation lately, I decided to put together a list of thirty things you can do around the homestead! Even though the temperatures are hovering around zero with a foot of snow of the ground there is plenty to do!

30 Things You Can Do On Your Winter Homestead:

1. Search Craigslist and Facebook Sale Sites for heaters. Buy one that actually suits your needs. It is really hard to work in a barn with no heat!

2. Put an extra layer of bedding down in the chicken coop. Who wants to change the bedding when it is 10 degrees outside?!?!

3. Realize 30 degrees is actually balmy and change the bedding in the chicken coop.

4. Peruse seed catalogs. Realize there is hope that Spring will come!

5. Make garden plans. At least then you will have a plan!

6. Study different gardening techniques. Who knows - this might be the year you stick with one of those techniques!

7. Start seeds in February and March. Save yourself some money that way.

8. Buy grow lights for seed starting. Makes your life easier when you have very few south facing windows.

9. Buy heated water dishes for the cats, dogs, and chickens. At least the chickens will appreciate warm water because the dog will just eat snow anyway.

10. Get really excited when the poultry catalogs come in the mail. Spring means new chicks!

11. Clean up the barn shop. Time to go through the tools! Also, it is great to get out the house!

12. Go through the gardening tools and seeds. Fix what needs fixing and throw away the rest. 

13. Time to tackle the house projects. When Spring comes, you won't have time anyway.

14. Decide what animals you can add to your homestead. Maybe it is time for some feeder pigs or meat birds!

15. Decide where you are going to put the extra livestock. Just because you have extra buildings doesn't mean you can just add the animals. You need a plan!

16. Sharpen your knives and tools. No one likes a dull tool.

17. Buy more heat lamp bulbs. Those bulbs go out when you least expect them too!

18. Shovel out the outdoor area of the chicken coop and paths between the buildings. Better yet, send out your kids to do that. 

19. Take a field trip to the Tractor Supply Store and Fleet Farm. Get some ideas for your homestead for next Spring!

20. Buy a bunch of medicated lip balm and healing hand cream. Winter is really hard on both lips and hands. No one likes bleeding lips and cracked hands. Better yet, make your own!

21. Can all the produce you stuck in your freezer when you got tired of canning last summer. Now is a good time for making salsa and pizza sauce!

22. Check your buildings for drafts and leaks. No better time to check them than when the wind is blowing 30 miles per hour and you can feel the cold! Get them fixed!

23. Now is a good time to declutter and organize your home and homestead. You might then curse a lot less this coming year when you can actually find things. And maybe you will find some things you bought last Spring and Summer and can use this coming year! Like a garden trowel and fencing and wire...Ahem.

24. Winter is a good time to prune trees. Pick a less than cold day to get the saw out and have some chainsaw therapy!

25. Winter is also a great time to learn new skills or work on old skills like sewing, knitting, crocheting, wood working, and more. 

26. Work on alternative ways to heat your home. Whether you have electric, propane, natural gas, or wood heat, you can always find ways to lower those bills or use less wood. Make a small heater that only takes a candle. Anything to keep those heating bills a little lower!

27. Make a bunch of freezer meals. That way when you are too tired to cook in the Spring and Summer, you have meals ready to go!

28. Make a priority list for your projects and set your budget for those projects. Do your homework so you have a realistic budget. Because going over budget is no fun for anyone!

29. Set some mouse traps in the barns and coops. The cats can't catch them all. The mice are freeloading off your expensive feed. Time to end that problem. 

30. Make sure you have a good pair of warm boots. If not, buy some. This is an investment that will pay off when you have to go outside in zero degree temps, thirty below wind chill, and a couple feet of snow on the ground. Warm feet are important!

Some of this is tongue-in-cheek, but mostly serious. Winter is a time of rest on the homestead, but so much still needs to be done! Tackle a few of these today and feel a sense of accomplishment!

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

22 Ways You Can Live A More Sustainable Life

One of the ways we have tried to be more self-sufficient to live a more self-sustainable life. We try to produce our own food, raise chickens, recycle, reuse what we can, and generally live life without being consumer-driven. It is not an easy life to live all the time, but the pay off is great!

One of the things I hate is how much trash we throw away. I know we throw away less trash than most households, but all the same we throw away things we shouldn't. Being sustainable is not just about how much trash we throw away, but how much we waste in general. 

Being sustainable also means making more of where you live and being more self-supporting in terms of the environment. While I support efforts to keep our environment from being wiped out, I know where a large portion of the efforts need to be concentrated. We need to focus on what we use and what we throw away. 

Being self-sustaining for me also goes hand in hand with being a homesteader and a prepper. Learning to use what I have on hand and being content with what I have will go a long ways towards surviving and thriving. 

In a natural disaster or SHTF event, being self-sustaining may be what saves you. If you are cut off from other people, but have the means to provide for yourself and to be able to use what you already have to make due, you definitely live longer.

How can you live a more sustainable life? 

1. Save water. I have well water and still try to save water. I dump the dehumidifier water in the washer or use it to water plants. I use the water not drank in bottles for my plants inside and outside.

2. Have plants indoors. Grow some herbs. Grow your own loose leaf lettuce in pots. Grow a little bit of food inside. Plants also help clean the air and give a great scent to your home. Plus, you will have some really great tasting food with those herbs. You will also have home remedies on hand with just the plants.

3. Have a garden to feed yourself. You might not be able to grow all the food you need in a year, but you can grow a lot of food to help feed you and your family in the spring, summer, and fall. There are many methods to growing a garden. Find one that suits you. 

4. Save paper. I like to have things printed out, but I use a lot of paper for lists and whatnot. I use my phone more for to-do lists. I reuse the backs of paper in the printer. I tear up paper for scratch paper. Read newspapers and magazines online. 

5. Use bio-degradable products. Products that break down easily in the environment or landfills is far better to use. Look for products that are packaged in glass or paper and say they are bio-degradable.

6. Reuse everything you can. Many, many things have a second or third use in them. Many things can be reused for other things like glass jars as containers for bulk items.

7. Use rags instead of paper towels. Use cloth napkins or washcloths for napkins. Using these and washing them saves you in the pocketbook and produces less trash.

8. Combine errands and drive less. Have one errand day to run errands. Carpool with others. Walk instead of driving everywhere if possible.

9. Recycle whatever you can. Recycling helps reduce the waste in the world and creates more things which takes less from our natural resources. Everyone should be recycling. No excuses.

10. Compost. Return those materials back the earth in which they came from. We try to compost everything from tea bags, bananas, and cooked vegetable scraps to dead leaves and used bedding. Doing something so simple will yield you much richer soil.

11. Do not waste food. Do not throw it away. Eat leftovers. Freeze scraps and leftovers. Feed it to the chickens, cats, and/or dogs. Compost it. Just don't waste it! 

12. Get your food from local sources. Buy from the local farmer. Subscribe to a CSA. Shop your local farmer's market. Buy meat from your local butcher shop. 

13. Share your things. If you have something that your friend, family, or neighbor needs to use, share it. Offer to till gardens for others. Share your mower. 

14. Stop being a consumer. Break the cycle of buy, buy, buy. We often have so many things and think we need more. We don't need much to live, but we are in a consuming society. We need to stop and use what we have. 

15. Stop using disposable goods. Stop with the one-use goods. Use cloth diapers if feasible. Use rags instead of paper goods. Stop using Styrofoam. 

16. Use a bicycle or walk to get where you need to go. I realize living in a rural area that this might not work. A lot of times I will park the car when I get to a town and walk to where I need to go. We all need the exercise. 

17. Buy used. If possible, buy used before buying new. Buy clothes from the thrift shop. Used goods stores have so many things that are in such good condition. I always look there first. Buy used vehicles that are reliable and can be driven for years. 

18. Use the library. Great selection of books. You can often inter-library loan books from other libraries if your library doesn't have it. You can use computers there if you need to. You can check out movies for little to nothing for cost. 

19. Preserve your own food. Can, freeze, ferment, and dehydrate your own food. There are so many recipes out there to preserve your food and rely on the grocery store less. 

20. Become a zero waste household. Commit to reusing and recycling anything and everything. Bring your own containers for bulk goods. Recycle as much as possible. 

21. Be frugal. Pay cash. Don't spend money unless you have to. Stay home and have fun there instead of going out all the time. Buy used. Borrow what you need from your neighbors or family. Make your own food instead of getting carry out. 

22. Fix your things. If something breaks, try to fix it. With so many online tutorials, YouTube videos, and great reference books, you can fix almost everything yourself. Invest in a good tool kit and you will be set!

What would you add to this list to be more self-sustaining?

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, October 22, 2015

If I Saw It on YouTube, It Has to Work: Sweet Potato Experiment

One day this last Spring, I saw sweet potato slips at the local greenhouse. I wanted them. I love sweet potatoes and thought it would be a great addition to my winter food supply.

However, I have planted sweet potatoes before. They looked like they did really well until I went to dig them and couldn't find them. I found a never ending system of roots, but no tubers. I wasn't a happy camper.

Then I heard about planting sweet potatoes in barrels or tubs. Hmmm...that could work for me. I have plenty of twenty-five gallon feed tubs that I had gotten for free. 

Where did I find this information that I could plant sweet potatoes in a tub? You guessed it: YouTube. I watch/listen to a lot of YouTube and that is where I go for how to do things when I need a visual (which is most of the time). 

On YouTube, I typed in "growing sweet potatoes in containers" in the search box and got several results. I watched most of them. Here is some of the more notable ones: (this was not a container, but very good information!)

Knowing I could do this on a large scale, but remembering previous gardening experiments, I decided go small this year and do one tub. I washed the tub really well with water and no soap. I bought four sweet potato slips that were marked down to $1.00 each and some compost and soil. The variety I planted was Georgia Jet.

I planted the sweet potatoes towards the end of May. With a wet June, they did fairly well growing along the southern edge of the barn. In a dry July and temperate August, we had to water them quite often. 

Sweet potato plants in August. They were also spreading behind the tub.

They grew quite a bit more in August and September. I don't have a lot of pictures of this, but they covered the top of the barrel before the freeze hit last weekend. In the last two weeks before the freeze, something had started eating the leaves. The chickens weren't too interested in them so I am not sure what.

After the freeze. Poor sweet potato plants.

I understand that some people think you should dig the sweet potatoes up before the frost and some people think you should do it after the frost. I never really got a definitive answer for it. I dug my sweet potatoes up after the frost. 

Let me correct that. There was no digging. I tipped the tub over on its side after I pulled the plants. I got approximately this many sweet potatoes:

Three whole stinking pounds worth. Some of them are split too. I have them sitting out right now curing because I am not going to waste them. However, I had several feet of roots and some more potential tubers. These were in the container for 4.5 months which is plenty of time for the sweet potatoes.

Were the people on YouTube right? Yes, you can grow sweet potatoes in containers. 

Were the people on YouTube wrong? Yes and no. While I got sweet potatoes, I did not get the 20-25 pounds worth that I was told to expect. Did you see their harvests? Incredible! Did you see my harvest? Three pounds worth. Not good.

Will I try this again? Possibly. Container gardening has a lot of appeal to me when produce that normally takes up a lot of space can be grown in smaller spaces with less hassle. Container gardening also relies on the right combination of soil for good growing conditions. I will probably add sand to the barrel for a lighter soil and try again next year. 

Because I really like sweet potatoes and want to produce my own!

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

12 Must-Do Homesteading Tasks For The Fall

Fall has come and now it is time to get those projects done! Time to button up the homestead, secure the buildings, and make sure all the peoples and animals are going to be warm and safe for the winter.

This could be the time for panic or you can just simply do what you can do in the time that you have. I choose the second one. I know I have at least one good month left to do what I can. I might even get November if the weather holds out. 

This is the list of projects I like to get done in the fall around my homestead. I feel better about winter and can hunker down with a good book without feeling guilty. Doing these tasks also makes my spring even easier when I am ready to tackle the world again!

12 Must-Do Homesteading Tasks For The Fall

1. Clean out the dog kennel. I do regular maintenance daily, but every fall I like to clean out all the bedding in the indoor part of the kennel and put new bedding down for her. I usually use medium flake pine shavings and put a blanket or a dog bed over top of them. I also make sure the heat lamp is working in the dog kennel for the really cold nights. 

2. Clean up the garden. I like to do a final weeding, mulching, fertilizing, and tilling if I can before the ground freezes. I did not do this a couple of years and paid for it big time. I had lots of weeds and poor soil quality. Never again. 

3. Completely clean the chicken coop. I like to remove all the bedding, sweep the floor, clean out and scrub the nesting boxes, scrub the roost, clean the feed box, clean the waterer, make sure the heat lamp works, and have the heated waterer ready to go. Then I clean their enclosed outdoor area up and level it if it needs done. I dust the floor of their coop with barn lime to reduce the smell. Then I fill their coop and nesting boxes with the medium flake pine shavings again for the winter. 

4. Clean and organize the garage. My garden and outdoor tools, extra animal bedding, extra mulch, and whatnot are all stored in my garage. Usually by the beginning of fall, I have them all scattered around the yard and garage. It is time to put them away! My garage usually gets a good sweeping, trash gets taken out to the dumpster, and everything is put away so I can actually fit a vehicle into one of the stalls again. I hate scraping windshields!

5. Make sure all fuel needs are taken care of. I usually have a bit of firewood on hand for the outdoor fire pit (just in case), some charcoal on hand (just in case I need to use that grill), and all my propane cylinders are filled up again for the grill and my indoor/outdoor heater. I also make sure my gas cans are filled for any emergency car fill-ups or to run any equipment. If you can find unleaded gas (no ethanol), that is better because the gas lasts longer. Otherwise, use some Sta-bil with the gas to help it last longer. 

6. Service the summer equipment. Make sure the lawn mower is serviced for next year and the gas is emptied out of the mower. The same with the trimmer, the chain saw when done using it, the wood chipper, and whatever else you have. If you do plan on using some of this equipment during the winter, use Sta-bil to keep the gas fresh.

7. Clean up the yard. Get the sticks picked up and put into a pile for kindling. Rake the leaves and put on the garden for mulch. Tidy up around the yard, trimming anything that could become a problem. Now is a good time to trim up bushes for better growth next year. 

8. Weatherize the house and buildings. I put plastic on my north and west facing windows to keep the drafts to a minimum. I know people who put hay bales around the house to keep the basement warmer and keep pipes from freezing. Now is a good time to put new weather stripping around doors to keep the drafts out. Some people put tarps up on the north ends and ceilings of their chicken coop's outdoor areas to keep the wind down and to help keep the snow from piling up too badly.

9. Finish up any outdoor projects. Make sure the building are sound and safe for the animals, fixing any leaks or holes in the buildings. Make the house is good condition for the humans too! Take care of the unfinished projects started earlier this summer (I know about good intentions too!).

10. Put away all garden containers and outdoor equipment. I have buckets and planters outside. I try to have them put away in an outdoor building or out of the way before the snow flies. The cold and snow are hard on them. My big planters are in the way of the tractor when he scoops my driveway out (or I do). So I try to have everything put away for the winter. I also make sure all chairs and other summer items are put away too.

11. Protect new planting of bushes and trees. Sometimes it is good to cover your new bush planting to protect them from harsh winter conditions. I also find it good to wrap burlap around new trees so the deer do not think they are just a tasty mid-winter snack. Look up the grower's recommendations for your area and do the best you can. You already spent a lot of time and money on them!

12. Make sure outdoor water sources are protected or shut off. I have to shut off my outdoor water hydrants in the winter or the lines will freeze. I have a shut off valve in the house. After I shut them off, I drain the lines. If you are able to run yours all winter (lucky!), make sure them are protected from the harsh winter elements so you do not have any problems. 

What else do you like to get done around the homestead in the fall? 

Thanks for reading,


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