Showing posts with label homestead. Show all posts
Showing posts with label homestead. Show all posts

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sunday Thoughts - November 5

Happy Sunday Everyone!

Let's see if I can keep this post more upbeat than last week's post. It shouldn't be hard since I feel like I am in a better place today.

People have this idea that preppers and homesteaders are tough and resilient people that have their lives together. I can testify otherwise. Life is messy and throws a lot of curve balls.

The weather is one of those curve balls. Winter is showing up early this year. We have been spoiled the last few years with nice weather in October and November. This year we are scrambling to get outside projects finished. The temps have not been bad enough to freeze the ground, just bad enough to make working outside unpleasant.

And daylight savings time? Bah. You have to love the fact that the government controls when our clocks should turn back and skip ahead. I would like my hour or two back of sunlight when I get home to get more stuff done. I don't need sunlight to go to work and my kids don't need it to go to school!

Today I got the garden cleaned up somewhat. I would still like to do more, but I have a feeling Rob will be needing my help to get outside projects done this week. We shall see what happens. I took up the stakes and string that I used to trellis the tomatoes this year. I pulled up more plants that I keep throwing into one long row.

Last week, when the kids cleaned out the chicken coop, they dumped the bedding in the garden. Doing this the last few years has been tremendous boost to my garden. I need to spread it out a little better, but I will be a believer in having this as a part of my garden.

I planted 44 bulbs of garlic today and staked off that area so it doesn't get accidentally tilled next spring. I wish there was more I could plant this time of year for the next year, but being in this zone and in Iowa doesn't leave much for planting in late fall.

And no, the potatoes are still not dug up. Can you tell what my least favorite harvest task is?

The boat got put away this week too. I'm a little sad about that because I really like boating. I find it very relaxing!

This week is sort of busy. Dane has 7th grade basketball practice this week. Paige has an honor choir performance on Monday and a cross country banquet on Thursday. She is also finally getting her wisdom teeth out on Wednesday. For those people who don't believe getting wisdom teeth is necessary, her surgery is. Her bottom two wisdom teeth are impacted and bone on bone making chewing and life a little difficult for her right now.

I don't have a lot planned for the week. Just get done what I can outside and be a helper to Rob. I want to list more things for sale on Facebook and eBay this week. I am trying to branch out a bit and sell some things that I wouldn't normally consider. I sold two things on Facebook Marketplace this last week that were listed five months ago! I couldn't believe it!

I also wrote a post about 20 Ideas for Raising Kids Frugally. There are a lot of tips and tricks that worked for me. Check it out!

Paladin Press will closing their doors on November 29, 2017. They are an excellent source of survival and preparedness books. Many of their books are marked down 65% and more. I placed an order for four books last week. I encourage you to check them out! (Not an affiliate, just a fan!)

What have you done this last week? What are your plans for the upcoming week?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sunday Thoughts - October 29

Happy Sunday everyone!

To start, I apologize for missing last week. While I realize this weekly post is not everyone's cup of tea, it serves as a place for me to get my thoughts straight. It also helps me keep track of what I have done and not done. Let's put more emphasis on what is not done because that is how I am feeling.

Actually, let's back up a little more. I struggle to stay focused on the best of days. If I didn't know better, I would probably have the adult version of ADD. However, I am not going to pursue finding out because I already know I have a problem. I survive off of to-do lists and mini self-challenges. I keep a never-ending to-do list in a journal that I carry in my purse. I also write down anything and everything I want and need to remember. Hopefully, I remember to write it down. I also heavily use my Google calendar on my phone to remember appointments and anything that I have to do that day that I don't trust myself to remember.

Yes, I have a problem. I feel sorry for anyone who has to live with me!

Now, add anxiety and stress to my already struggling focus and I am toast. I have barely gotten anything done this last week. If I had any commitments to anyone, I remembered to do those. So I remembered to pick the last of my green tomatoes and green peppers and gave them to a friend. Rob and I sold a lot of eggs last week and I remembered to get those to the right people. I remembered to make food for the week today. We have a loaf of fresh bread for sandwiches, baked oatmeal muffins, egg muffins, and granola bars for breakfasts and lunches this week.

On a whim, I decided to steam my farm fresh eggs instead of boiling them to make hard boiled eggs. They turned out great and they peel so much easier!

We will take the victories where we can!

I need to finish putting the garden to rest and get the garlic planted. The weather has been wet and rainy with the appearance of snow. We did get our first frost. I am hoping to get a warm up in November so I can finish. I still need to dig potatoes too. The strawberries have been mulched by the pine needles nearby, but I want to get more pine needles on them. The weather was nice for a few days this last week, but I was busy at work with harvest and pretty dang tired by the time I got home.

I realize that was just an excuse. I have been feeling guilty for not getting more done at home. I admire the people who can get so much done in a day. Every time I sit down for a rest, I feel like I should be doing more. I hate feeling convicted about an area of my life, but it is better to have this happening now. If something happens where I have to be working harder, I don't want to be dealing with these feeling then.

Other than that, I have been trying to figure out ways to make more money. Yes, I know I should be content with what I make already. However, I have medical bills, dental bills, and an upcoming wisdom teeth surgery (Paige) to pay for. Nevermind, I still need to put tires on the van and replace the front tie rods. Also nevermind, Christmas and a birthday (Paige) is coming up too! Ugh. I am not good about being behind on my bills. It makes me cranky and think about money all the time. It really, really stresses me out.

Since I am not willing to practice the world's oldest profession, I have been trying to find things to sell and to flip. I have been cleaning a house for a friend once a month. I am working on taking pictures of my kids' discarded things to sell. I have been playing on Swagbucks again to earn points for Amazon cards. We have been selling eggs. Basically, however I can make a dollar, I will be trying. I can always get part-time job, but I still need to be a mama too.

So this has been me in a nutshell this last two weeks. I know a lot more has been going on, but this is what has been on my mind. I am not perfect, I will never be perfect, but I strive every day to do my best.

What have you been up to lately? What is on your mind?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sunday Thoughts - October 15

Happy Sunday, everyone!

What has been going on around here? We have been dodging more raindrops which hasn't been very good for getting things done again this week. The garden and the chicken coop are a muddy messes. We have some good weather coming this week and hopefully the ground dries up a bit.

We are still harvesting from the garden which is awesome. The grape tomatoes, a scant few tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, and bell peppers are all that is left. I pulled the peas along with the weeds today. I was a little disappointed with the second planting of peas, but the weather conditions have not been ideal. I did get a small bowlful that will work with a meal this week. I pulled one of the two grape tomato plants which was done. I also pulled the cucumber plants because they were done producing too.

The chickens are doing great. They are still eating their way through our yard and the feed. We are getting 14-16 large eggs a day. I do have a few new regular egg customers which is great. Now I am doing some research on meat layers and which breed I want to have. We will probably start with 25 meat chickens unless my coworker wants to have some too. Then we will be doing at least 50 birds.

Now, more than ever, am I glad we are learning these skills. I am very happy to have a well producing garden and chickens for eggs. I am thrilled that we are talking about expanding next Spring with meat birds and possibly a couple of feeder pigs to raise for the freezer. Even though homesteading and self-sufficiency is gaining popularity, I want to be ahead of the trend. I want these skills because you never know what is coming down the tracks.

Yes, my Spidey senses are tingling. We live in a very uncertain world which is getting more uncertain by the day.While there are some very good people out there, there are some people who aren't good. They are people who are willing to make the best out of a bad situation. And then there are people who would rather steal your hard work rather than do their own work. These are the people that worry me.

I am worried about a lot of things right now. World events, our bickering government, and more potential threats is making me want to close up the holes in our prepping. Homesteading and self-sufficiency is part of my prepping. I have been adding to our food storage, Rob has been searching the sale sites for things we need, and we are just trying to get organized and get stuff done. I hope you all are too.

Thank you for the emails after last week's post! I plan on getting back to each of you, but my online time was fairly limited this last week. It seemed like if I wanted to return emails or messages, I got interrupted!

In case you missed it, I posted one of my family's favorite meals last week. We eat this Easy Skillet Spaghetti almost every other week.

Please keep the people in California in your prayers. Losing your home to a fire is devastating and I can't even imagine trying to put your life back together after that.

What have you been up to this week? What is worrying you?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sunday Thoughts - October 8, 2017

Sunday greetings, everyone!

What happened this week? Rain. It rained, drizzled, and poured everyday except Wednesday this last week. Really, it was depressing. We have so much to do and that rain put a serious stop to it all.

I have a garden that needs to be weeded and cleared for next Spring. I want to get garlic planted pretty soon. I think I have almost all the tomatoes picked. Any tomatoes that are left will be for eating or fresh marinara. We still have zucchini and summer squash growing. The bell peppers are finally turning and I have been picking them for supper. I will probably freeze some peppers too. The potatoes are still not dug, but when the ground dries up a bit I will get those dug.

I am canning the last of the tomatoes as we speak. I have canned mild salsa, pizza sauce, chopped tomatoes, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and (today) pasta sauce. That is pretty good and should get us through most of the year except for the pasta sauce. We go through a lot of pasta sauce!

We are also getting 15-16 eggs a day. We have too many eggs, but I feel that is a good problem. I have been trying to sell the excess without a lot of luck. I was trying to sell a dozen eggs for $2.00 and 18 count for $2.50. Do you think that is too much for free range eggs? What would you pay for them?

We also still have a rooster to get rid of. Any takers?

We have been working on the kids' bedrooms in the meantime. We have purged a lot of clothes and sent a bag to Thred Up for consignment. We also have been making regular trips to the thrift store to get rid of more. We are working on cleaning and organizing now. Unfortunately, their rooms have gotten out of hand and this has been a long road. Frankly, they have too much stuff and we are working on that too.

Healthwise, I am feeling pretty good. My nose is healing and is still a little sore. I am starting to smell again which is weird. I have been working on developing some healthier habits like increasing my water intake and being more active. As of right now, I have lost 16 pounds. My clothes are starting to feel loose which I love!

What happened in Las Vegas this week has been weighing heavily on my mind. While I am concerned about the investigation and the actual facts, there is something that bothers me more. How can someone do that? Shoot into a crowd of people who were having a great time and just terrorize them like that? I don't get what twists someone's mind into thinking that shooting people like that is justifiable.

The blame game from this tragedy also bothers me. Instead of holding the individuals responsible for this shooting, people in general want to blame all gun owners or a political party or conservatives. Whatever. The problem with our country and society is the lack of personal responsibility. Granted, it is easier to blame a group of people rather than the individual. However, it is not right.

What have you been up to this last week? What are you planning for this week?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Can You Stop Someone From Looting Your Home?



Inevitably, after every national disaster, riot, or crisis, we hear about looting. People without morals will steal other people's things for their own gain and profit. They will steal anything that looks to be valuable. They will steal from stores, storage areas, and homes. The looters will probably be in groups and, more than likely, armed. They will believe they have the upper hand and will use that to their advantage.

Can you stop someone from looting your home? I believe you can with some advance planning and training. Some situations will be unavoidable such as having to evacuate your home. However, there are ways to make sure you don't make it easy for them to loot your home.

If you have to evacuate your home, do what you can to seal it up. Please realize that flood and water damage from natural disasters will weaken the structure, but you need to do what you can. Most people know when they will have to evacuate so take the time to do these steps:

  • Board your windows up with plywood on the inside of your home. 
  • Put a deadbolt and a solid lock on your doors. 
  • Use 3 inch screws on your door's strike plates to make it harder to kick in the door. 
  • Barricade any decorative doors like French doors that are easy to kick in or break in.
  • Pay special attention to any easy access windows like basement windows. Make sure they are boarded up on the inside and barricaded with sand bags on the outside. 
  • Make sure the garage doors are down and locked. 
  • Put the valuables you are not taking with you in a locked, secured, and hidden box. If the valuables are too large, put them in a locked room or closet. 
  • Hope for the best. Hopefully, you will be able to come home soon and do what you can.

If you are home and looting starts in your area, you have to put the security of your family and home above anything else. You need to arm yourself and your family. You should already have adequate amount of guns and ammo for anyone that can shoot in your home. You need to talk to them about firing warning shots and then wounding someone if the need arises.

If you can, have other family and friends come over to help defend your home and your area. You will need to have a neighborhood plan set up ahead of time to keep the area safe. You also need to make your elderly neighbors a priority in keeping their homes safe. Do not rely on the police to get to your home when the looters are in the area. More than likely, they will be busy with rescues and other emergencies.

Looters will more than likely steal from unoccupied homes before they will steal from occupied homes. You need to make your home look occupied or always keep an adult at home at all times when looters are in the area. If you are in a neighborhood, people should be actively moving around the neighborhood in order to look occupied. If you are in a rural setting, do not leave home unless you have to. Even then, only one person should be leaving the home while the rest of the family/friends provide security.

Even if you are home, you need to follow the steps above for leaving your home to make your home as unappealing as possible to steal from. Looters are looking for easy targets first. They want to steal easy things to carry and they don't want to get caught. They want food, water, goods, and valuables. Some looters may be out looking for more than that.

Be aware that if the looters are desperate enough, they may not care if you are home or not. They may attempt a home invasion. You should try to defend your home as much as humanly possible, but you may have to flee. Please take into consideration your family when deciding to defend your home in the case of a home invasion. Their safety is worth more than your home. You are also no good to your family dead.

Looters are often driven by desperation and anger. Some are driven by profit and survival. They will have adrenaline running through their veins. If they have looted several places already, they will also have confidence on their side. A show of force may turn them away and it may not. You need to ready for both situations.

So can you stop someone from looting your home? I believe you can, but not always. The cost of defending your home may not outweigh the benefits. You may have to evacuate and will not be able to defend your home. You may be able to defend your home with help from neighbors, family, and friends. No matter what, planning and preparation will be key for defending your home against looters.

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Preserving The Bounty: How To Freeze Sweet Corn


One of my favorite ways to deal with my garden bounty is to can it. I love canning! However, when I am putting up sweet corn, I like to freeze it. Freezing sweet corn is so easy. Let me walk you through it!

How To Freeze Sweet Corn:




1.Pick and husk your sweet corn. Make sure you have as much of the silks cleaned up as possible.

I tend towards picking and freezing mine in smaller batches because of my time constraints. If you want to do a lot all at once, go for it!

2. Fill your stockpot about 2/3s full with water and set it to boil.


3. In the meantime, fill your sink or a big bowl with really cold water and add a significant amount of ice to it.


4. Once the water is boiling, you will be blanching your sweet corn. I do this with the cob still on the cob because I find it easier to deal with that way. Boil the sweet corn for three minutes and immediately put the sweet corn in the ice water to cool quickly. I leave the corn in the ice water for 1-2 minutes. You will have to do the corn in batches. Doing the corn all at once will result in unevenly cooked corn.


5. Remove the corn from the ice water and let drain on a pan or towel.

6. After you have all the sweet corn blanched, you can start cutting it off the cob. I use my biggest baking sheet pan with sides to do this. Starting at the top of the cob, I slice down the cob using a slightly serrated knife.

The aftermath plus some seedy summer squash. The chicken were grateful!

7. After I get through all the sweet corn or have the pan full, I start filling freezer bags. Sometimes I just use zippered freezer bags and sometimes I use my Food Saver. Just depends on what I have for bags. I like to put 2-3 cups in each quart size bag because that is perfect for my family. If you have a large family, you might want to put more in a quart size bag or use a gallon size bag!


8. You should label each bag with "Sweet Corn 2017" or whatever year it is when you read this! Trust me on the labeling. I used to be a lazy labeler, but that hasn't worked out so well for me!

9. Put the bagged and sealed sweet corn in the freezer. This will be delicious in the winter!

I know some people put sugar or salt in their water when they cook sweet corn. That is a personal preference and I don't personally do it. If you want to, do it. It will not negatively affect the flavor of the sweet corn.

That's it. Easy peasy! Have fun and let me know if you have tricks or tips to freezing sweet corn!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, August 4, 2017

Five Prepping Things To Accomplish In August


There is so much you can do in August! Summer is still here, the weather is mostly nice and hot, and the days are still long. People's gardens are producing like crazy and the farmers' markets are overloaded with the garden goodness. Kids are getting ready to go back to school if they haven't gone back already.

We still have plenty to do though with prepping. Prepping shouldn't ever stop. I am half way through Survivors: A Novel of the Coming Collapse by James Wesley Rawles. Talk about an eye opener! This is a fictional novel, but that shouldn't stop you from reading it. The scenarios presented in this book so far are very realistic and has made me think about a few things in a new light.

Five Prepping Things To Accomplish In August: 

1. Time to stock up on office supplies. Back to school sales are going on right now. I like to get stocked up on reams of printer paper, notebooks, pens, pencils, printer ink, and flash drives/memory cards/SD cards. This is also a great time to replace printers and/or laptops because they are marked down almost as well as on Black Friday sales. You can also find good quality backpacks for bugout bags, get home bags, and everyday carry bags.

I justify stocking up on office supplies as prepping because I will still need these things if I still have access to power and WI-FI. Most of my work can be done on a computer and I need these things to keep up with business. If the grid is down, I will be back to doing a lot on paper.

2. If you haven't learned how to can food yet, you need to learn this month. If you are starting from scratch, I have a very good blog post about what you need to start canning. Whether you planted a garden, got produce from a friend, or went to the farmers' market, now is a good time to learn. You can start with something easy like canning green beans or using Mrs. Wages packets to make salsa and pizza sauce. You do not have to start our canning anything complicated. I try to only can food that my family will eat. Even I have had some hits and misses. However, in my opinion, canning is one of the top ten skills you need to learn for homesteading and prepping.


3. Whether you are canning your own fruits and vegetables or need to buy them, this would be a good month to get stocked up on cans of fruits and vegetables. If you think you have a good supply, now would be a good time to inventory your fruits and vegetables stockpile. Take note of what needs to be eaten up and what needs replacing or replenishing. I would pay special attention to anything tomato based. I have come across a bulging can or two in the last year and eating those are a definite no-no due to botulism.

Even if you think you have a good supply of canned fruits and vegetables, I would still add more. I would try to buy these by the 12 packs if you can. Being in flats makes the canned goods easier to stack and store. Aldis is a good place to buy canned fruits and vegetables by the flat or case if you cannot can your own.

4. Now is also a good time to get your important documents and pictures onto a flash drive. This flash drive may save you a good deal of headache and time when you lose those important documents or insurance cards. I would scan them into the computer and save them to the flash drive. If you have this done, you may want to update the information if you need to.You may want to do this twice and keep one on you and one in the safe. I would also take pictures of your vehicles, license plates, recreational vehicles and plates, VIN numbers from those things, and upload them to the flash drive. You never know what you may need to report to the insurance company and have replaced. I would also do this for anything valuable in your home. You can also take a video of each room and upload it to the flash drive also.


Do not forget about your kids' valuable information. If they have state provided IDs or driver's licenses, get those uploaded. Our school sends us a Student ID card with their school picture on it and I would also scan that on to the flash drive. Any birth certificates, social security cards, life insurance policies, passports, and even important medical documents should be on this flash drive.

5. Time to check your everyday carry. Do you have an everyday carry? This is what you carry in your pockets and purse. These are the things that you will need if there is an emergency or you may need to defend yourself in some way. These are the things you cannot and should not live without. I keep a lot of things in my everyday carry, but I noticed the other day that my everyday carry bag needs updating and possibly some rethinking about what I want to carry. You should do this every so often just to keep what you have on hand fresh in your mind. While you are at it, if you carry an everyday carry bag, clean it up and organize it too.

Some additional things to do in August:
1. Check your planting zone. If you can, plant some more things in your garden. We have a second planting of peas right now and I hope to add beets and carrots to the garden soon. If you use hoop houses or cold frames, you can plant more and really extend the life of your garden. 
2. Now is a good time to order strawberries, blueberries, and garlic to plant in the fall. When they come in, plant them right away and water often and well. You will have a great crop of strawberries and garlic next summer.

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Saturday, July 22, 2017

10 Reasons You Should Be Gardening!


One of the most important skills to learn is gardening. The ability to grow your own food and maintain your own sustainability is a key point in homesteading and prepping. While you may not be able to produce all your own food, you have the capability to produce a lot of it. You can also garden just for pleasure. You can also garden for your long term food storage needs by canning, freezing, and drying your produce.

There are many ways to garden. No matter what method of gardening you choose, the results are the same. With a little hard work, weed control, and commitment, you will have produced your own food and gained a skill that, sadly, most people do not have.

10 Reasons You Should Be Gardening:

1. You produce your own food! This is the best thing about gardening. You can walk out to your garden and pick what you want to eat with your supper or as your supper. Eating what you produce is a great feeling. Your hard work produced food to provide for you, your family, and possibly neighbors and friends!

2. Gardening can be therapeutic. When you are feeling a little down, tending to the plants and watching things grow can lift your spirits. When you are feeling a bit frustrated or angry, pulling weeds can be a great outlet. If you are feeling pretty happy, the garden can keep lifting your spirits.

3. Gardening can decrease stress levels. See number #2. However, pulling weeds can be the best therapy and keep you from possibly hurting someone other than the weeds. And trust me, the weeds can handle it!

4. It's a skill that needs to be learned and passed on. Many people do not know how to garden. They will remember that their parents or grandparents gardened, but they had no interest themselves in learning. We need to be teaching and encouraging the next generation to be growing their own in some way or form. Whether it is growing food in containers on an apartment balcony, a community lot, raised beds, or in the ground, gardening skills need to be taught and passed on.


5. You eat healthier. There isn't many doctors, nutritionists, or diet gurus who will tell you not to eat your vegetables and fruits. Adding vegetables and fruits that are homegrown to your meals will help you be healthier and feel better too.

6. You will lose weight and burn calories pulling weeds and tending plants. Gardening has been proven to burn calories and even help lose weight with the exercise you get tending the garden.


7. Family and couples can work together. My kids are often out in the garden working with me. This year they did a lot of planting of seeds, onions, and potatoes. We worked on planting in straight rows, seed spacing, and identifying plants. They help with weeding and harvesting. They also love to eat what comes out of the garden. Watering the garden has become a couples activity with Rob doing a lot of the watering including setting the sprinkler and coming up with new watering set-ups. You can involve your kids and your spouse if you want to. (I also understand wanting some "alone" time in the garden too!)

8. You can have a chemical free, organic garden. We try very hard to not have chemicals in the garden. If you want a chemical free, organic, non-GMO garden, you can have that. You get to control what is planted, what is sprayed, how to control the pests, and other inputs. Basically, it is yours to do with how you want!

9. You can save money at the grocery store. Vegetables and fruits rarely taste or look as good as the ones I grow. Nothing beats a homegrown tomato! Eating fresh vegetables from the garden and preserving the extra bounty will save you a fair amount of money on your grocery bill in the summer and the winter.

Learning a new way to stake tomatoes this year

10. You can experiment and learn new things while gardening. You will learn when you planted way too much zucchini and even your neighbors hide from you to avoid getting one! You will learn that you should only plant vegetables your family will eat and you will freeze/can. You will learn to try something new every year and see how it does. You can experiment with different types of tomatoes, peppers, and squashes. The garden is one big science experiment sometimes and, even though you might depend on what you produce, you can always try new things and change what you want to do.


Gardening is a skill you should be learning. It has many benefits and perks as you can read. I would encourage everyone to do it!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Monday, May 8, 2017

Ten Great Mother's Day Gift Ideas for the Prepping and Homesteading Moms In Your Life!


Mother's Day is coming up soon! I know some of you may have had your gift picked out weeks ago, but some of us have not! Some of you may not exchange gifts and that is totally cool and wise too!

I was surfing Amazon today wondering what they recommend for Mother's Day. Usually, I get a pretty good laugh at some of their suggestions. However, I like some of what I am seeing this year. I thought I would make a list for you to find something practical and perfect for that special mom in your life!

(Yes, this article contains affiliate links. You are under no obligation to buy, but the commission I earn helps my family and homestead out! Thanks!)

Here are ten great ideas for that prepping and homesteading mom in your life:

1. A Good Garden Hose. There is definitely a difference between a regular garden hose and a GOOD garden hose. A GOOD Garden Hose is one that doesn't kink, is at least 100 feet long, stays soft and flexible, and has good ends that don't smash easily. I really like what I am reading about this hose!

2. Cast Iron Skillet. I am huge believer in using cast iron skillets. I like that they can be used on the cooktop, on the grill, and over the campfire. I think every household needs one, especially mom! While you are it, get one of these hot handle holders! They will save your hands!

3. Garden Tool Kit. I love a good garden tool kit. Every 3-4 years, I buy myself a new set because the handles get worn out or the tools get cracked or bent. This set would be a good present for your favorite gardener!

4. A Set of Mixing Bowls. I like a good set of mixing bowls especially if they are stainless steel and one of the bowls can hold at least 12 cups for canning recipes. I have a good set of stainless steel mixing bowls, but I think these bowls would be a great gift for any mom.

5. A Battery Powered Drill. Every woman and household should have a drill with drill bits and screw driving bits. I have a Black and Decker drill that works great. This drill also comes with a project kit which would be great around the house and homestead!

6. A Stepladder. Most of us women are not usually tall enough to fix the things that need to be fixed. I have found a stepladder to be indispensable! I am only 5'5" so I always need a step stool or chair to reach what I need. This stepladder would be much safer than a chair for that special mom in your life!

7. Work and Garden Gloves. I was not a gloves type of person until a few years ago. I got really tired of cleaning up cuts and picking thorns out of my hands. I do not use the same gloves for work projects and for gardening. My favorite work gloves are these Ansell gloves that Rob turned me onto. I love these gardening gloves from G & F. They are nitrile coated on the inside to get a good grip on those weeds!

8. Canning Set. I love my Ball canning set that I got a few years ago. It makes my canning go so much easier! Even if that mom in your life is an experienced canner, she might appreciate a new set. Sometimes we have problems letting go of our old, overused things! Also, be a good one. Give her some new jars too!

9. Aprons. Seriously. I get so tired of getting stains out of my clothes that an apron would have prevented, especially during canning season! Having extra pockets are handy too when collecting eggs, seeing what is ready in the garden, and/or holding screws and tools. Aprons are awesome!

10. Sewing machine. Every good homesteader and prepper knows that eventually they will have to fix something that will take more than a few quick stitches. Also being able to make your own things is pretty cool. That is why I recommend a sewing machine. I think everyone needs to learn to sew by hand and by machine.

What would you add to this list? What would you like to get for Mother's Day or Father's Day?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, April 28, 2017

Monthly Update From The Homestead - April Edition


How has your April been for you? Fairly cool and rainy with rare times of sunny and warm? That is what we had, have, and are currently experiencing. They are talking some snow on Sunday at the time of this writing. What the ?!?!?!

I am ready for May and much warmer temperatures to come. I want to get my garden planted and put some pretty flowers in the planters. I want to sit outside with a cold drink and enjoy the evenings on the porch. However, Mother Nature needs to get over herself and soon.

Speaking of the garden, what have you planted or are planting? As of right now, I have nothing planted. The ground temperatures have been a little chilly for me to be comfortable planting much. Last month I said I wanted to get the potatoes planted, but I am glad I didn't. I have a feeling we would be dealing with them rotting in the ground due to all the rain we have had. I have had that happen a few years and that doesn't sit well with me. I hate wasting that effort.

I also did not get the tomatoes or peppers started. This month was pretty busy with some illness and has been slipping right past me. I have a feeling I wouldn't have had a good grow rate anyway unless I purchased artificial lighting.

I do know what I am planting in the garden this year though: tomatoes, bell peppers, anaheim peppers, potatoes, onions, shallots, garlic (may wait until fall?), green beans, peas, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, and possibly carrots. I might add to that list, but those are the main things being planted. I also hope to transplant the strawberries soon and add 50 more strawberry plants. We want a good size patch of those.

I am learning a few new gardening things. Wherever I plant onions, I will need to plan on that being a two year spot. All the onions that did not come up last summer are coming up now. I do enjoy having green onions at my disposal. I also learned that some kale varieties are biennial and I could get seed this year. Since I didn't pull all the plants last year, I have kale already growing in my garden this Spring.

The rhubarb is up and ready for its first picking. I will be making a cake and a batch of jam out of this first picking. I can't wait! Our jam coffers are starting to run a little low.

I hope to order and pick up the new chicks in the next week or two. We have decided on 25 layers and 25 meat birds. The coop hasn't been built yet, but Rob has put in some very hard work prepping the cement pad that the coop will be built on. We have decided how we are building it and how the inside will look. It will be nothing fancy, but will be quite serviceable.

I really would like to get some ducks and a few turkeys too. Somehow, I am not sure that will happen this year. I really want to grow more of our own meat, but I am learning that baby steps are a good thing. Meat birds this year and maybe more next year? I wouldn't mind a couple of pigs either!

Otherwise, I have been doing the same things as I have been all winter. Fixing what I can, decluttering and selling what I can, and getting ready for whatever comes. Selling books and other things has been really slow lately. Spring is not usually a good selling time for me, but I usually have hope it will be better next month.

We did do our first mowing of the year. This is not my favorite job, but the grass needed to be leveled off. We also picked up a lot of branches and sticks this year. The winter was not kind to our trees. A good deal of them need to be cut down and hauled away. Of course, I will try to plant new ones or let a sucker continue to grow in its place. The yard clean up seems to be more a job every year.

What have you been up to this April? I hope it was more productive than mine!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, March 31, 2017

Monthly Update From The Homestead - March Edition (It's Spring!)


Why not write the March Update From The Homestead on the last day of the month? At least it is in March! That has been how fast this month has gone and I really haven't had a lot to talk about. 

I put off the writing of this because almost nothing has happened in the month of March on the homestead. The weather has been snow, wet, rain, wet, a few days of sun, and more days of clouds. And that is what I can remember...

I am looking at plans for the chicken coop. We are probably getting twenty layers this Spring. I think I have it narrowed down to what I want to built and still stay simple, but we do have to built it first. We will use what we have on hand, but I know we will have to buy materials. I know the coop will have to be more practical than cute which suits me fine. Do you have a coop design you love? Share a picture or a link to what coop you like!

I have been planning my garden too. I will probably put the garlic in a long planters or along the very edge of the garden next week. I haven't used up all the garlic from last year so I will probably use that to start the new batch. I am also going to start at least my tomatoes next week and bring them to work to grow. Yes, where I work is that relaxed and they have much, much better southern facing windows to grow things. I think I am going to start 30 tomato plants and see how they do. I know not all of them will live, but I kind of hope they do.

I also need to move the strawberries. I don't want to do it right now, but they really need to be moved to the edge of the garden. They were on the edge before we expanded. I know now is not a good time, but they really have to be moved!

I also have my potatoes ready to go to be planted. They are from last year and have sprouted already. They are sitting on the front porch to slow their growing. And maybe, just maybe, I will get them planted on Good Friday. Around here, a lot of people plant their potatoes on Good Friday. You can find a good explanation on why that written a year ago here. I don't usually plant on this date when it is in March, but by the middle of April, hopefully we are past most of the dangers of frost.

I sit on the line of 4B/5A planting zone so I generally use caution and plant according to Zone 4. Most of my garden will not go until May sometime. I am going to try to plant radishes, spinach, and lettuce early. I really want the garden tilled first so we need to wait until that is suitable for tilling first. Rob may have found a tiller for his older lawn tractor. If he can get that working, that will be groovy. Otherwise, we can rent a tiller too.

I know this sounds like a lot of planning and nothing happening, but that is the reality of life right now. I don't really even feel like a homesteader right now. I won't have an active garden for at least a month, don't have chickens or other livestock right now, and anything else that makes a person a homesteader. It just feels weird because I want to be more self-sufficient, but I am not actively doing anything right now except for planning.

On other projects, the bedroom is almost done. We just need to paint and put quarter round along the edges in the room. We also need to rewire a new light switch, switch out the ceiling fan, put new vent covers on, and put on covers for the outlets and light switch. I would like to paint the closets yet, but that is not a high priority job.

With the bedroom almost done upstairs, we moved the bed upstairs that was sitting in my food storage and emergency area taking up a lot of room! My food storage and emergency area is a disaster area right now. I really need to clean and organize it. I would love to add another set of shelves, but we are also moving the deep freeze over there. I also need to move the shelves away from the wall and clean. Fun, fun.

Paige in the white shirt playing in the saxophone quartet

That has been about it. Dane finished up with basketball. Paige is just her usual whirlwind of activity: track, helping with musical, solo/small group ensemble contest, and studying. Rob and I were both down with a cold and a virus. We didn't have them at the same time, but they really killed our energy levels for a few days.

The older two girls are staying busy in their lives. Shali moved to Sioux Falls in January. She moved in with her fiance and is expecting a little girl in June. She transferred from UNI to University of Sioux Falls. Jordan is still at UNI and studying. She works for the Y-Pals program and works a lot of before and after school shifts for them in the local schools.

What have you been up to this March? Let me know below!

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Monthly Update From The Homestead - February Edition


February is here! The month of love, the month of cabin fever, the month of boredom...

Actually, we haven't had much in the way of cabin fever. The month started out cold, but today we will be in the 60's for temperatures! In February! I will take it!

Just to have a thunderstorm and snowstorm at the end of the month...February you fickle....

We are just patiently waiting for Spring to come by trying to get stuff done indoors. We are still working on that bedroom that I hope to have the painting done by the end of the weekend. We have the floor done. (YES!) The walls have been given a couple coats of paint to freshen it up, but we decided to go back and do the trim. It needed to be touched up and I couldn't match the original color so I decided to do it again. While I am doing that, the ceiling will need to be done again. And the quarter round will need to be bought, painted, cut and attached. So much fun!



I still want to get the upstairs hallway painted too this winter. That should not take as long, but I am not sure what to do about the trim. The paint on the trim is enamel based which means it will not be painted over well. I might just rip it off and put new trim on. We haven't really talked about it yet.

All the upstairs doors also need to be addressed. A few of them need to be sanded down and stained or repainted. Hinges are the big problem and will probably need to be replaced. Rob has been constantly re-tightening screws and they seem to come loose again.

All those things above? The joys of living in an old house. The reasons I hate tackling remodeling projects. One thing turns into another thing to fix and to do. Plans get bigger and more work becomes involved. Ugh. I love the finished project, but I don't love the mess and constantly changing plans to get there.

Otherwise, I have been still hauling things to the thrift store. I am stunned by how much stuff we have gotten rid of. I have been finding even more things that I really thought I needed, but really don't need or use. However, I am going to start entering the sentimental things area of decluttering and I am not sure what I will do then.

I hope to start tomatoes soon in the seed pods. I might get a grow light to help with the growing since I lack good southern exposure in my house. I really want to start growing my tomatoes from seed. I spend way too much money on tomato plants!

Since I like to save money, Rob and I have been really examining our utility bill. We are both fully committed to seeing that bill drop considerably. We have ideas as to what we want to do and what needs to be focused on. We are both appalled by how much it has gone up. We are also baffled by a few fees on the bill, namely an access charge that costs us $37 a month no matter what. 

We haven't done a lot of prepping lately. This is not because we are comfortable with the state of the world today. We are far from being comfortable. We have been looking at guns and did go to our first and second gun shows in one day. We walked away with empty hands, but it is great to handle the guns and know what feels comfortable in our hands. We have also been exploring off grid options so we aren't screwed if the electricity disappears for awhile. 

Sometimes, prepping isn't about what you purchase. Sometimes, prepping is about the research and the decisions to make the future easier.

What have you been doing in February?

Thanks,
Erica



Monday, February 20, 2017

20 Things You Can Do On Your Spring Homestead


Spring! The promise of hope. The start of the growing season. The warmer temperatures and fickle weather. The possibilities of what can be done!

I love Spring! Winter is over except for the possibility of a late snowstorm. Summer is coming. You can be outside most of the time without freezing your gluteus maximus. Which is a good thing because there is so much to do in the Spring on a homestead!

20 Things You Can Do On Your Spring Homestead:

1. Start seeds inside. Check out your planting zone, but now is a good time to start onions, tomatoes, peppers, and other things you might buy as plants at the store.

2. As soon as your planting zone allows, plant seeds in your garden. You can plant radishes and other cold hardy vegetables and greens as soon as the frost is out of the ground. Most of them will survive a late frost also.

3. Fix fences. Winter can be harsh on your fences. While the ground is fairly soft (not soggy), now is good time to put new stakes in the ground and pull up old ones.

4. Fix damage to outside buildings. Did you have a roof leak on the coop? Now is a good time to address it. Did the snow and rain damage the sides of the building? Now is also a good time to address that.

5. Get new chicks! Spring is a great time to start a new flock or add to the current one. Anyway you look at it, new chicks are cute and should be on a homestead!

6. While you are getting chicks, some new turkey poults, goslings, and ducklings would be good too. If you are looking for some different forms of protein in the form of eggs and meat, all of these are great. If you really want to and have the room and shelter for them, goats, lambs, calves and piglets are all great additions to the homestead too!

7. Build a new raised garden bed or make a new garden. If you can expand, now would be a good time to do.

8. Clean up the yard. Get the rocks out of the lawn so you don't ruin the lawn mower or break a window. Clean up the trash that has blown over from the neighbors.

9. Pick up the sticks and branches that fell over the winter. At my house, this gets it own number on the list. We have a lot of trees and we seems to lose a lot of branches over the winter.

10. Cut down the dead trees. Cutting down the trees now will give the wood time to cure if you are using a wood stove. Otherwise, make a little money on the side selling firewood.

11. Plant new trees. I am a big believer in planting trees. We need them for the environment. They provide a great wind break and shade from the sun. If you plant fruit or nut trees, you can add to your food resources.

12. Clean out the buildings. The garage, the coops, the barn, all of it. They all need a good Spring cleaning after winter and being closed up.

13. Build a rabbit hutch and start raising rabbits. Rabbits are a great form of protein and good eating. If you end up with more rabbits than you know what to do with, start selling them to make a little income on the side.

14. Spring clean the house. A good homestead works best when the house is clean, tidy, and organized. Get everyone involved and give the house a good cleaning including washing the windows and the curtains.

15. Clean the outside of the house and buildings. A good cleaning of the buildings keep the place looking neat and tidy. It also keeps the mold off the house, the dirt from building up in the crevices, and problems from happening like leaks and corrison. Don't forget to clean the gutters too!

16. Take care of the clothesline. Nothing smells better than fresh laundry and the money saved from doing it. Now is a good time to tighten up the lines, replace any lines that have cracked or rusted, and clean them. I just use a wet rag over my hand and run my hand down each line 3-4 times. You would be surprised how dirty they are!

17. If you don't have any, now is a good time to set up a rainwater catchment system. It is as easy as setting a screened barrel with a spout under a downspout from a gutter to catch the water. You will save money not having to run your well or pay for the extra water. You will also have water on hand for livestock or watering plants if you lose power.

18. Want chicks, but don't have a coop? Build a chicken coop! There are some specific things they need like an enclosed area, nesting boxes and a roost, but they don't need a lot of room. You can make one fairly cheap with reclaimed materials too.

19. If you haven't already done this, plan your garden. What do you want to plant? What worked last year? What would you like to preserve and can? What do you actually like to eat? Last year, I planted 22 tomato plants and I am glad I did. I had a really decent harvest with plenty to can and to eat. This year, I want to plant at least that many, but I need a better staking system. I want to plant more peppers too. I only had four plants out of sixteen produce. I need to plant them further away from the tomatoes that tried to suffocate them. You need to consider things like that when planning your garden.

20. Start some beehives. Spring is a good time to get some beehives started. With bees being endangered, more people need to do their part to start raising and homing them. You can purchase a beehive kit from Amazon to get started. To get bees, talk to local beekeepers or your local extension office about where to purchase them. In addition to getting bees, plant some bee loving plants and bushes around the homestead to keep them fed!

What do you want to do on your homestead this Spring?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, February 10, 2017

10 Lessons Learned From The Victorians, The Pioneers, and The 1800's


The Victorian age in Britain was a fascinating time. Many changes were made from the beginning of the century to the end. Britain experienced a massive industrial upheaval becoming more mechanized and more advanced as the century went on.

In the United States, we went through many upheavals resulting in the Industrial Age at the end of the century. We were exploring the West as pioneers, experiencing mass immigration from other countries, went through the War of 1812, the Civil War, and the Spanish American War.

Many similarities were experienced between both countries.The daily life of people were essentially the same. A lot of people nowadays think they want to go back to this time, but they don't always realize the work that was involved.

I just got done reading How To Be A Victorian: A Dawn-To-Dusk Guide To Victorian Life by Ruth Goodman. What an eye opening book! I also have read a lot of pioneer books, industrial age books, and immigrant life in America books from the same time period as Ms. Goodman's book.

We do not realize how good we have it and how hard our lives would be if we had to go back to those times. I am focusing on the poor mostly in these lessons because most of us would be considered poor then. We would be working in factories, mines, or farms. We would be living in tenements, small houses, or in one rented room. We would have a lot to learn. 

10 Lessons Learned From The Victorians, The Pioneers, and The 1800s

1. Life was hard unless you were rich. Everyone including the children had to work. Money was scarce, food was expensive, and city living was not cheap. Working conditions were often dangerous and harsh. Many people worked 12-14 hours a day, six days a week. Chores were often back-breaking and labor-intensive.

2. Everyone was expected to contribute including the children. Everyone had to work including the children. Without the children working, families often could not afford rent and food. By the end of the 19th century, goods became cheaper as the ability to transport them became easier.

3. Being a stay at home mother was rare. You hear more about stay at home mothers from pioneers and the well-off families. However, with the poor, the immigrants, and the servants, mothers needed to work as soon as they could. There are testimonials of women bringing their babies to work with them or leaving them home with older children.

4. Medical science was far from good and reliable. People often died from diseases like cholera, diphtheria, typhoid fever, small pox, etc. People often died from the so-called cures too. Anyone could make a "cure" and sell it from door-to-door. These cures may contain laudanum, cocaine, opium, mercury, and other dangerous substances. Although medical schools existed, many doctors did not have the tools to perform surgeries successfully or safely. People would often rather suffer or die than to have a doctor treat them.

5. Schooling was a luxury. Many children either went to a country school or a city school from ages 5-12. After that, many children started working in factories or were needed at home. However, quite a number of children did not go to school in the poorer classes until reforms were made in Britain and America in the middle to end of the 19th century. These reforms included children going to school at a certain age, being in school at least part time, being in school until 12 years of age, and knowing the basics of reading and math. Very few children pursued schooling beyond age 12 unless they were in the upper middle class or upper class. Very, very few girls pursued or were allowed to pursue higher than elementary education.

6. Meals were much, much simpler. Meat was not eaten at every meal. It was too expensive to eat every day unless you could hunt or raise your own. If any meat was served during a meal, the first and biggest serving went to breadwinner of the house. He needed his strength to keep working long hours. Most noon meals were bread, potatoes, butter, maybe a piece of bacon for flavoring, a sort of savory pudding, and/or a savory pie. Vegetables were not easy to acquire in the cities nor were they affordable to most poor people until the end of the century. Sunday meals may have a more meat based meal, but only if they could afford it.

7. Daily chores were not easy. Many innovations were made in the 19th century to help women in the home, but everything still had to be done by hand. From cleaning out the wood stove or coal stove to getting water for dishes and laundry, many tasks were grueling, dirty, and back-breaking. Laundry was a multiple day process with stain removal, soaking, heating the water, the actual plunging and scrubbing, wringing the water out, hanging to dry, starching and ironing. Some people were lucky to have water indoors which made laundry, dishes, and cooking a little easier.

8. Pioneering and homesteading was dangerous ordeal. After a man or woman found land to buy or discover, he had to get there in good time to claim that land. It took money to initially purchase land or you could "prove" a homestead claim with ownership after five years. If you had a homestead claim, you had five years to "prove" the claim. You had to live on the land, build a house, till the land, plant crops, plant trees, and improve the land you were trying to claim. A person had to do this all by himself or with the help of neighbors. You brought only what you could carry in your wagon and you hoped you could purchase the rest when you got to your claim. If you were lucky, you might have a new town within a few hours walking or horse-riding distance to purchase supplies including food. You took the risk of claim jumpers, robbers, Native Americans, and greedy land agents stealing your land and maybe taking your life.

9. Even in the 1800's, very few people were living exclusively off the land. Many pioneers, homesteaders, and farmers did the best they could, but still had to go to town for flour, sugar, salt, nails, and material for clothing. Neighbors helped each other. They did as much as they could themselves, but even people living in the country still needed trading posts and general stores. They sold eggs and fresh vegetables to earn money or to trade for needed goods. Yes, they did as much as they could for themselves, but they couldn't always grow wheat for flour or produce their own goods for building houses and barns.

10. Living to old age was a rarity in the 19th century. The average age of males was 40-45. The average age of women was 42-50. People could and did die from so many things then. Life threatening illnesses, workplace accidents, unsafe equipment, unsafe medications, child birth, and many more things than what we have to worry about now. Now we live longer due to advances in safety for the workplace and medical advancements, but we have our own killers that were rare in the 19th century. Advances in personal hygiene and workplace safety helped increase the chances of living longer as the century went on, but the average still seems like a very short period of time.

Many people think now a days that they could easily go back and live in these times. While having the knowledge we have now would make a big difference, most of us simply could not handle the amount of work and labor that our predecessors had to do. We are not conditioned for a hard life, hard labor, working long hours, and being physically fit enough to do it.

Do you think you could live in the 1800s? Do you think your families could handle this?

Thanks for reading,
Erica


Friday, January 6, 2017

Monthly Update From The Homestead - January Edition (Goals, Life, Etc.)


Were you ready for the holiday chaos to be over? I was. I love the holidays, but I do not like the craziness of the season. I have scaled back a lot in my celebrating, but the struggle to make the season simple is real. 

December was also Paige's birthday. She turned 16! Yikes! Where has the time gone?!?! She also got one of these: 


Watch out world! 

We are buried in snow and ice right now. That is the reality of living in the Midwest in winter. The wind has been crazy though! If the wind hasn't been crazy, the really cold temperatures have been! We are on our second "cold snap" of the winter. This morning we woke up to -7℉! Brrr....

As I mentioned before, I do not really have any goals or resolutions for the year. Okay, I take that back. I have five things I want to see happen, but they are fairly personal and not really relating to homesteading: 

  1. I want to get $1000 in a savings account for emergencies.
  2. I want to save $1000 for next Christmas.
  3. I want to pay cash for a new to me vehicle.
  4. I want to go on at least two dates a month with Rob - more than just eating out. (He really doesn't know about this one, but he will when he reads this!) 
  5. I want to read a chapter in a book or a magazine almost every day. 

These are very simple, yet personal goals for the year. I do not really have homesteading, prepping, or self-sufficiency goals as of right now. I am going with the flow of these. I have a lot of things I would like to see happen, but I am not setting anything in stone. Truth be told, my mind is kind of scattered right now and I am just letting things happen as they come. We have a lot of projects that need to be done and they will come first. 

I already started the first project. I am remodeling the upstairs master bedroom. We do not use it right now, but would love to move back up there. We sleep in the basement bedroom that I set up for myself about eight years ago. I love this space, but we are going to turn that into badly needed guest bedroom(s). So it is time to create a space that is both of ours and that we love to come to every night. 



We first moved the full size bed that was in there to Paige's room. She had a twin size bed, but the bed was small and the mattress was less than stellar. We threw out the mattress and the broken bunk mate that was under it. 

I have the carpet, padding, and linoleum torn up. Actually, there wasn't much tearing up to do. None of it really reached the edges and none of it was attached to the floor in any way. I cut the carpet up in sections to haul out. The padding was already in easy to handle sections. The linoleum was broken up in easy to handle sections also. The floor now looks like this: 



I will be painting the walls first. The paint needs to be freshened up. Then the floor will be sanded and sealed. Rob wants to match the trim to the floor so we will be replacing at least the floor trim if not all of it. Then we start bed shopping. We are switching from a queen size bed to a king size bed. We both need plenty of space to sleep!

Rob is finishing up the wiring in the shop. He has done so much in there and it looks so nice! He now has plenty of outlets and lighting. He has learned how to wire a three way switch with multiple lights which was a challenge for him. He has also added a lot of insulation to the walls and around the windows which has made a big difference in that room. He has more plans for the shop including adding shelving and cabinets for storage. 

Since it is winter, we have time to get the indoor projects done! When the weather turns nice again (hurry up Spring!), we will be cleaning up the yard and working outdoors again. We will also be building a new chicken coop! 



You can check out my latest YouTube video! That will give you an idea of what I was up to in December. I was mostly trying to clear up some clutter and to clean up my side of the office a bit. 

How is your January going? Let me know in the comments below! 

Thanks for reading,
Erica


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