Thursday, December 31, 2009

Creating Sweet Stuff

I've been on a real sweet stuff kick lately. I think it has something to do with stess and worry. I'm pretty well covered tho since I like my sweet stuff. Living self sustained, all the desert and snack type things that are considered sweet have to be created right here. So, each year as fruits in my area come ripe, I get going on making things to put up for those "gotta have something sweet" times. One of my favorites is apple butter and apple pie filling. I use the Ball Blue Book recipes with a few minor changes. You can the Ball Blue Book in pdf form via the net for free. Google search says the site is safe but you can make your own determination if you want to download from it or not. The Ball Blue Book is also easily obtained from just about any retail store(Rural King, TSC, Walmart, major grocery chains) and also available at etc.
For me, the Blue Book is like a preserving bible. Everything you'd ever want to put in a jar and store in your pantry is covered in that one little book. There's recipes for every single thing you could possibly grow on your garden. Every home canner should have one.
Never underestimate the satisfaction a hot apple pie coming out of the oven can give you for that need for something sweet!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Another Soap Day

Since it's been an icky day with spitting sleet and light rain, I decided I'd do something half way constructive today and make a batch of soap.

It's the same simple recipe I always use, all oils that are readily available at any grocery store, cows milk and Red Devil brand granulated lye.
One batch of soap making gives me enough soap to last the family roughly 10 months, all from oils one normally keeps in the pantry. My soap mold is just a piece of 4" pvc pipe with a plastic cap on the end. The pvc makes it easy to set the soap for the sweat and is tough enough to use over and over again.
Just another one of those little things that helps to keep us self sustained and healthy. This soap makes your skin super soft and has none of the chemicals or ground pumice commercial soaps contain and the option to have it fragrance free. Just can't beat that, eh?

Waiting on the Nasty

Well, here we are, waiting on the nasty weather to come in. We're supposed to have some snow overnight and then sleet/rain tomorrow. Yay-rah, I so love the ice, not.
I spent a little time with my goats today, i should have taken the camera out with me but I didn't think of it. I need to snap a pic or 2 of her, she looks like a house. the baby goat production is apparently going along well, Molly the goat is most certainly preggers. I really need to get that sheep butchered so I can feed her some goat mineral. Ah, maybe tomorrow if it's not too icky out.
I whipped up some meat sauce today for some pasta, the kids really like it and it's a quick meal for when we're busy. while the sauce was simmering down, I canned myself up a couple pounds of butter. There's lots of info out there on both sides of the fence as to canning butter. some say it's not safe and others say it is. I can say for me that I'm eating out of a jar of butter that's been in storage for 13 months and I'm still alive.
If you're interested in trying this for yourself, here's what I do to can my butter. If you don't feel safe doing this, just skip down past this part :)
I preheat my oven to 250 degrees and then place my jars in the oven for 30 minutes. I heat my rings and lids per any canning project on the stove in boiling water. While the jars are heating, I melt my butter over a medium heat and stir it pretty much constantly so it doesn't scorch. By the time the jars are ready, the butter is melted and hot. I use my canning funnel to pour the butter into the 1/2 pint jars, keeping the butter stirred well so the butterfats don't seperate out. I leave roughly 1/2" head space so I can shake the jar contents to keep the fats mixed in while the butter is cooling. Carefully wipe the tops of the jars off to ensure a good seal and place your lids and rings on snug. I place my lidded jars on a kitchen towel to cool until the lids ping. Once the lids ping, I shake up each jar every few minutes to keep the fats mixed well as the butter cools. I continue to shake them up until the butter no longer seperates. The jars will still be warm. Once the butter stops seperating, I place them in the fridge to cool down completely. Once they are cold, I set them in the pantry for storage. If kept in a cool, dark spot, butter can and does keep in jars for up to 5 years.
I ordered some goji berry seeds a couple weeks ago. They've arrived and I'm really looking forward to planting them come spring. I've read some good things about the goji and I hope they do well here. I'm also thinking about planting some Greek Olive trees. I've been reading how they can be pruned short and produce well as a container plant. the seeds take between 6 and 8 weeks to germinate, boy will I have a case of the nervous nellies waiting on those seedlings!
I also picked up some giant bell pepper seeds from the same seller, they are supposed to be a natural hybrid and produce the same offspring from their seeds. the description says the peppers grow up to 14" long. I'm going to try them. won't those be zingers for a meal of stuffed peppers! You could feed an army with just a few of those babies! If they are a true natural hybrid, they could be a novel addition to the garden.
Oh, if you get a chance, check out an article in Newsweek magazine written by Jessica Bennett. it's called Rise of the Preppers: Americas New Survivalists. It's actually a pretty good article and some of my "net" friends are interviewed in it.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Nervous Tension

Yep, that's snow. It was beautiful for a little while but no accumulation. What you see on the ground here is all we still have.
We're still on pins and needles waiting for the call for hubby to get back to work. The wait kills me. I occupy some time each day in the kitchen, creating breads and other edibles but I end up with my mind wandering, worrying.
Winter is always a rough time for me. The chores revolve around keeping the animals fed and watered and not much else. Winters here are either muddy or covered in ice.
It's just 6 weeks until I can get started with seeds for the coming garden. 6 weeks seems like a long way off when you're sitting here, waiting. I already have all my peat pellets and ziplocs lined up, waiting on seeds. It's hard to resist the temptation to start a few, just so I have something to tend to. The constant overcast days are really contributing to the feeling of melancholy I'm experiencing. Of course, the lack of charge going into the battery packs from the solar panels is non existent and now I'm worrying about how to pay the electric bill I'm going to have too.
The dwarf bananas are still a month or so away from making their little nanners and the coffee plants are still hanging on after the temperature shock they got. I fuss over them each day but that only takes around 10 minutes of my day. Then I walk past my quilting projects, not being able to finish those with no fabric. I'd do some construction work in the house but again, I'm stopped by lack of supply funds. This feeling is really a weird one for me.
This year, coming to a close, is one I'm glad to see gone. Farewell and good riddance! Everything we've done this year has been a fight. Even the garden was a real project with the constant spring rains and the never ending weed growth, crop failures and late harvests. Plus the equipment failures thanks to my own stupidity of letting a neighbor use them. boy, did that put us behind in our bills, trying to get that stuff running again. Lesson learned the hard way there. The loss of the hay due to the equipment failure was a bit costly too. That was all our profit hay lost so on top of a poor year economically, the money we needed to make it thru the winter never came. So, goodbye 2009, not sorry to see you go.
I'm not sorry I chose to live this way and every year isn't a good one, that's just part of it. This little self sustained farm is a ton of work, the rewards are just sometimes better, sometimes not so great. One bright spot of even a bad year is the food we have to eat. Even tho the harvest, the hay and the baby critter production was poor this year, we still have plenty to eat for ourselves. So, that is a bright spot because feeding ourselves is the whole point.
So, as I sit here and squirm, worrying about the future, I can still have a little something to fill my belly and then worry some more..........

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Quilting Day

Whew, I finally got this neat little quilt center done. It's all machine embroidered, even the lone star middle. thought it would make a cool center piece. Haven't decided how I will continue on for the center block tho, don't want to overwhelm the eye with too much more pattern.
Maybe I'll just set this one aside and finish the embroidered rose quilt I've got half done in the drawer.
I've also cut some pieces for an earth tones log cabin pattern that's been on my mind lately. Can you tell I'm partial to the browns and golds? Quilting is a relaxing hobby for me here on the farm. It allows me to unwind from the daily stuff around here and it's also a relief when everything is cold and muddy.

Avoid contaminated meat with Self Sustained Living

Isn't he beautiful? An Australian Hereford. This is a common breed used for commercially produced beef in the USA. A company in Oklahoma, National Steak and Poultry, has recalled 248,000lbs of meat due to a possible E coli contamination. The story broke on CNN yesterday.
There's nothing more tasty and disease free than critters you raised, nutured, fed and butchered for yourself. There's something to be said for being in control of every aspect of the processing. No chances of your meat being infected by bacterias from poor sanitary conditions or mishandling. Not to mention the superior taste of a well fed, chemical and steroid free piece of meat!
If you can keep and raise your own meats, you should do it. Even if it's just a couple of chickens at a time.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to everyone, celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus.
Here's what was on the menu for our celebration.
Some pumpkin pie from our pumpkin harvest with home made crust, some apple pie from our apple harvest with home made crust, our Bohemian pork roast with home made pork gravy for the dumplings, some mixed veges from our harvest, some home made cheese and garlic bread(it compliments the marjorum on the roast) and some pasta salad for those that don't like the veges. It was a pleasant old world style dinner our family enjoys.
Warmest wishes from my family to yours on this joyous of all days...........

Thursday, December 24, 2009

In Baking Mode

Why is it Christmas always makes me want to bake everything and anything? Cookies, pies, pastires, breads, LOL, pretty soon my kitchen will be over flowing and I can feel my butt getting bigger by the second!

Back in early summer, my Mom had a catalog sent to me from King Arthur Flour Company. There's a few things I'd love to have from them but I can't afford them and I won't ask my Mom to buy them for me. But what I think is the most impressive about the company and they're website is the recipe section. Just trying out a few of the recipes posted there (for free no less) makes one a better baker. Plus, think of all the money you can save by just taking the time to do it for yourself! I like Italian and French breads. If I drive 70 miles round trip to a grocery store to buy those breads for anywhere between $3 and $5 a loaf, that's quite a bit of time and money I just spent. For pennies on the dollar, I could easily spend that drive time waiting for my dough to rise and bake that bread myself! Instead of having to be out in the traffic and crowds, I get to tend my plants or read something on homesteading or work on any number of projects I have going. For me, that's double benefit! My time is so stretched anymore, it's just easier for me to do it for myself. Not only does it allow me to get a few more things done and save money, but I am comforted in knowing I'm eating healthier. Which, of course, is the whole point of becoming self sustained.
Later today I will post some pictures of the goodies my kitchen is producing today ;) In the meantime, Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

First Impressions

Or, should I say "worst impressions"? The college girl had an away game close to Grandma and Grandpas house and it's almost Christmas. It's been 10 years since I was up north in the Chicago land area visiting so I followed the bus to Peoria and watched our little Rend Lake ball team tromp all over undefeated Illinois Central. We won in an exciting game(thanks to the blind refs) 70-64 and then off to see the folks.

Anyway, I remember our little community as a small suburb of Chicago, nice and quiet. Not anymore! The urban sprawl has overtaken the area and spread another 15 miles west in just 10 years! The places I used to play are unrecognizable. Strip malls and Townhouses everywhere. The constant traffic was horrible. I spent Sunday afternoon downtown at the museums with my brother and my niece, my kids got to see some city culture and ate my favorite food at an authentic Greek restaurant owned by a family friend. Now that I've had a taste of real Greek food, poor Copper the sheep is doomed! He's going to be a roast and Gyros by the weekend. Poor Copper, LOL.

As I drove thru the urban sprawl and looked around at all the people, I realized how overwhelming life could be for anyone wanting to be even the tiniest of self sustained. Forget about OPSEC, it would be virtually impossible to keep anyone around you from knowing you have a garden or a stocked food pantry. I did instantly see some money making outlets for anyone that could possibly manage to grow even just a few things. The farmers market is a real hot spot. I can't say how much of the produce is actually grown right in the chicago area but the baked goods almost certainly are.

Some of the things my parents and extended family consume are items I take for granted here. the grape tomatoes, giant sweet peppers, the fresh Italian breads and the specialty cheeses. I grow and produce all those things right here. For people up there, the priorities are so completely opposite of what I have tho. While my kids all play sports just like my sisters kids, they both have to work away from home to live and my work is my home. I take things for granted here, things like a pile of firewood, the indoor winter garden and the home made cheeses. I can not imagine having to pay $120 for a truckbed full of firewood! Or, $6 for a carton of grape tomatoes, $20 a lb for real chemical free cheese.

I now must return to Chicago this spring to help my brother create some container gardens in his back yard. His interest in producing some of the things he likes for himself is refreshing and that he would come to me makes me feel pretty good about my lifestyle. Of course I will have to bag up some compost/soil and take at least one bag of my special fertilizer mix for him with some good heirloom seed. I look forward to that a bunch.
I need to find a milk cow. I was properly chastised for not having any cheese with me. It disappoints me too, I miss my cheese! But, I have to hold my ground and not make cheese from my neighbors milk because they did me wrong and i can't encourage the possibility of them using me or my family anymore and I refuse to buy milk from the Amish. Other than defeating the whole purpose, my attitude hasn't changed toward that group of people and I must keep to my principles and values. I hope I find a nice cow soon!
Oh, I forgot the best part of the whole trip, besides getting to hang out with Mom and Dad that is, there was snow! On the ground already and it flurried every single day! My kids got to try snow boarding and loved it.
Well, the bread box is empty and the yummy comfort of all those old and familiar foods is missing so off to the kitchen I go. Lots to cook before Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Urban Living Post Questions

I'm going to use this post to address some questions a reader has asked. I think the questions are good ones and everybody can benefit from them. Here's the comment with the questions...

"For the growing plants indoors, my husband and I would like start our own seeds this year. We tried to last year, but they got moldy and were very spindly. We just planted them in peat moss and had them on the kitchen table. What would you suggest for a better seed starting medium and lighting setup? I'd like to have a set of metal or wood shelves with lights on each tier. Would that be feasible?

Also, I'm interested in raised beds. They seem to eliminate a lot of work in the end, but we think they might be a lot of up front expense and work. The up front expense is the main problem :) Any suggestions for how to make them cheaply?

One last question! I've been interested in rabbits for years. Right now we have chickens for meat (and I love not having to rely on the store for that!) but we're still considering rabbits. My main hesitation is the dressed weight. I've heard that the dressed weight is around 2 and a half pounds, which seems rather small. How many rabbits do you fix for a meal? If it takes a couple of rabbits per meal instead of one chicken per meal, it seems the extra butchering would be a pain, but do you find the benefits outweigh the extra time involved in butchering? "

One question at a time, I'm going to start with the indoor growing one. The moldy seeds are a normal side effect of temperature changes. It's a draft that causes them to mold. Temperature fluctuations to below 75 degrees. For me it's leaky, poor quality windows. They are double paned and about 10 years old, the ones that flip out for cleaning and they are junk. Even with the seams duct taped, they still are not good enough to keep my seeds from molding. Peat pellets are not the problem, I use jiffy peat pellets every year. I bought a huge pile of them several years ago at the end of the spring sell out at walmart. Even peat pellets using the ziploc bag method will mold if the temperature changes too much.

Now for the spindly. They get that way, especially tomatoes, from lack of direct sunlight. Even in the southern facing windows, you'll still suffer from spindly plants. A simple fluorescent shop light hung above them will help. Hang it high enough to compensate for growth, 18" to 24" or so, mine are roughly 36". Fish tank bulbs are cheap and work well if you can't find UV bulbs. Yes, shelves are feasible, you can use anything you want to, as long as there's enough space to allow room between the lamps and the plants.

Now to the raised beds. Anything will do, any scraps you can get your hands on will work. I set up raised beds for my neighbors with old railroad ties they had laying around. Her garden looked almost as good as mine did this year! Landscape timbers, old fence boards, whatever you can pick up will work. They don't have to be pretty to work, just hold some dirt. Even concrete blocks can be useful. The big deal with raised beds is how great they drain and how easy they are to maintain. so, anything you can come up with that will hold dirt and allow good drainage is going to do the trick.

Now to the rabbits. I raise a mixed breed hutch here, checkered giants crossed with new zealands and californians. I butcher mine out around 4 months old and 2 rabbits makes a nice meal. Mine butcher out around 3lbs or so. Rabbit bone is very light and almost fragile in comparison to chicken. From the whack to the pot takes me less than 10 minutes. Rabbits are extremely easy to raise and even easier to butcher. Basically you whack em, hang em on a couple nails in a barn post, slit and yank. I've done them enough that I can yank a hide almost in one shot now. Cut the head and feet off and into the bucket. Quick and easy. There's subtle differences in the texture of rabbit plus less fat and way more protein than chicken. Also there's the benefit of the rabbit berries...

Meghan, I hope this post gives you the answers you needed, thanks for the questions!

Self Sustained Urban Living

As many of us have realized, things are getting pretty expensive lately. Fuel and food take up most of our paychecks. Life in the fast lane of Blackberries, fast food and video gaming is getting harder. Some would say that is a good thing. Either way you like it, something has got to give.

I can help you with the grocery bill no matter where you live, even in condos and apartments. It is not difficult to grow things such as tomatoes and peppers, lettuce, cucumbers, even melons in small spaces and containers! A sunny spot is all you need. If you don't have a sunny spot, a florescent light or 2 will do.

For people living in rental homes, you can expand a little with a small chicken coop built like a dog pen or even rabbits in wooden hutches. The hutches even work well for a few chickens. Remember tho, if you have crabby neighbors, don't get a rooster! It's also a good idea to check your city or town ordinances to make sure having chickens doesn't violate some unknown law because you don't want to have to get rid of you egg layers as soon as you get them settled in. Chickens are daylight sensitive and lay an egg every 24 to 28 hours so plan accordingly for your egg consumption. Just 6 hens give me 3 dozen eggs a week, give or take an egg here or there.
In an 8x10 coop with a 10x10 run, I have 10 to 14 fresh eggs every day and fresh meat whenever I want some chicken. How to kill a chicken will be another days post.

Remember my post on raised bed gardens? For those of you that have the opportunity to make a raised bed, I forgot to mention how easy they are to maintain! It is easy to cover the garden in the fall with grass clippings, even newspaper or paper sacks, anything organic that will decompose, kill off the weeds, add to the nutrient value of the soil and keep your soil easy to turn. Just one small raised bed garden here produces literally hundreds of pounds of healthy, pesticide free food for my family.

Now to rabbits- I keep 4 does and 1 buck, I breed every other month for 32 to 40 kits for the table. Rabbit is high protein, low fat and can be served up just like any chicken recipe you have.
Rabbits don't make any noise, their manure is high in nitrogen, phosphorus and potash and can be used right out of the rabbit, no composting needed. It will not burn your plants like cow, horse or chicken will. Rabbit is a win win situation! Small spaces work out well as a medium sized meat rabbit needs just 2'x2' to stay healthy and produce for you.

All these things add up to savings. Think about how much money you spend on food stuffs like meat and veges. Canning is easy to do and cooking is just as easy. Think about how much money you spend eating out. A healthy and tasty meal can be whipped up in your own kitchen for a third of the price if not cheaper than that, for just 20 minutes or so of your time. Plus, you get to spend a little quiet time at home relaxing while you do it! Don't under estimate the stress relief of producing your own food.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Self Sustained Living-Cooking with what you've got

Here's supper for today. It's a nice deer meat sauce with some pasta. Simple to whip up and everybody enjoys it. Just throw some stuff from the garden in the pot. Diced tomatoes, some tomato sauce I made with the squisher thingy, some dehydrated sweet peppers, oregano, rosemary, thyme, some diced onions and of course the meal maker- browned ground deer meat. I like to let my sauce simmer for a while to blend the flavors and cook off extra water from the tomatoes and sauce. I sometimes put chopped up dehydrated mushrooms in too but hubby doesn't much care for them. Just an example of a simple and tasty meal you can whip up easily. This meal also works pretty darn good on a wood fire.
How about the Christmas presents under the tree? 2 cats and a dog, hmmmm, can I exchange those? hahahaha Ole' Polar Bear wants to make sure those cats don't steal the tree I guess...
There's some cold weather coming in on us again with a hint of a snow flurry on Saturday. This might get interesting. Snow cover is better than ice any day.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Self Sustained Living and Eating Meat

Well, it seems I have become a target for vegan-anti-meat types. I got an email from a lady today that supports a sanctuary that "rescues" and adopts out farm animals(cows, pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens, turkeys). Of course, I offered to relieve their overwhelmed sanctuary of farm animals but I don't think they liked that too much. Can you imagine the bar-b-que I could have? The whole neighborhood would get a meal! What an opportunity for me to teach others more about self sustained living!

While the intention behind the nice lady's email was a waste of hers and my time, she did make a couple good points right off I thought I should mention to my suburban and city readers. It concerns the keeping of chickens and rabbits.

Chickens and rabbits are super easy to keep in small spaces and produce a large quantity of food for just a little bit of feed and care. The problem comes in when folks try to keep too many animals in one little spot. Chickens need about 3sq feet of room to stay happy and healthy and you need to check your city ordinances before buying chickens so you don't end up having to get rid of your new flock as soon as you move them in. Rabbits should be kept in minimum of a 18"x18" cage and one per cage. big rabbits like Checkered Giants need a much bigger space. You must also think about butcher time. If you can't kill that animal when it comes time, perhaps you shouldn't think about raising them for meat.

For me, it's easy to whack even a cute little bunny for the supper table, but I've been doing this for a long time. The very first one was hard to do. Especially since it had a name, I petted it and cared for it, played with it, etc. The very first Hog I butchered, i cried all the way thru it. His name was Wilbur and I loved that pig. He made some pretty darn tasty sausage too.
There's lots of abuse going on in commercial slaughterhouses and chicken hatcheries. yes, they do some horrible things for money. Factory farms are an outrage to humanity and should be eliminated with extreme predjudice. I agree with that side of the arguement. If you don't like the idea of eating meat that was treated or handled in such a manner, DON'T EAT IT. Simple as that. If you think commercially produced pork and beef is nasty, don't eat it. If you think commercially butchered chickens are treated in an inhumane manner, don't eat them. Nobody is forcing any of us to eat meat from the grocery store. I don't eat meat from any grocery store, I raise my own. They are fed all natural feeds i grow myself without chemical fertilizers, they never get antibiotics or growth hormones. So, why is the meat I raise and butcher for myself bad? It's not and the meat you raise for yourself isn't bad either.
Just think before you bring animals home to raise for meat. If you can't kill them when it comes time, don't bring them home. If you can tho, you're going to be amazed at the quality and the taste of your own home raised meat!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

the hidden agenda thing

Why is it some people think they only way to spread their own agenda or messages is by posting comments that are intentionally deceptive? Today I got a comment on the Free Meat post by an anonymous commenter with a link to a website saying it was a link to free meat. Thank you anonymous from Madison, Wisconsin but I check links people post in comments. The page was a PETA anti-meat site.
I am a meat eater! I will continue to be a meat eater too! There's an old joke that goes.... Native American translation for vegetarian is "bad hunter". Now, I'm not knocking folks that choose to be vegetarians but I'm not, nor will I ever choose to only eat veges. I like chicken, pork, beef, DEER, sheep, bison, elk and a few various wierd meats as well. I am a hunter and I like it. While I do not condone the inhumane treatment animals may endure either on the way to the slaughterhouse or during their stay there, I will not stop eating meat. What I have chosen to do about it is raise my own critters for consumption.
I treat my critters well and they probably eat better than I do. Every critter I have even butchered had a name, was loved, was well tended and, was butchered in the most humane way I possibly could. I am also content in the knowledge that I am consuming chemical, steroid and antibiotic free meats.
So, don't let the opinios of others dissuade you from raising your own critters for the dinner table or going out and killing yourself a deer. There's nothing wrong with eating meat, I do it every day and I'm still alive........

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Thoughts on Self Sustained Living

The weather is going back and forth here, making my poor back ache. I'm not feeling real spunky today so I've been just hibernating and thinking.

LOL, can you see the smoke coming from my ears? It is and the thoughts and ideas are rolling... I am the complete opposite of normal folks that are consumer based. Folks that buy everything they need, all the basic necessities of life-food, water, light, heat, etc. I have built my life around the idea that I can produce all those things for myself. That whole concept is made easier by living on a farm. But, living other places can be just as good as living on a farm too. Granted, you can't raise a steer in your backyard, but you can still keep rabbits and a few chickens. You can still grow a good portion of what you eat. That qualifies you as a homesteader no matter where you live. Homesteading used to be a term that was reserved for our more adventurous ancestors. Those people that braved the wilds of the west and created a life way outside the confines of the cities in the east. Some made it and some didn't. Now, we have the luxury of hindsight and modern appliances to help us homestead. The very definition of homesteading now is one that works to produce at least some of their needs, especially food. So, planting a garden, even if it's all in containers makes us homesteaders. Absolutely everyone can become a little more self sustained by just taking the time to grow a little food. Neat, huh?

The government says that 37.2 million people are receiving food stamps. Did you know that the food stamp program covers the purchase of garden seeds? Anyone receiving food stamps can buy seeds with them. It's a program to combat hunger so that makes sense. So, why don't more people grow their own food?
I'm a big fan of tomatoes. I use a ton of tomatoes when I cook. Tomatoes are full of nutrients and anti oxidants and there's hundreds of delicious recipes you can whip up with them. From tasty Italian style dishes to beef stew. Just one 5 gallon bucket with 3 tomato plants in it can provide a good amount of tomatoes to feed you. That same 5 gallon bucket can easily hold pepper plants, cucumber plants and a wide variety of other tasty veges. I've even grown cantaloupes, watermelon and pumpkins out of 5 gallon buckets.
Think outside the box and don't let a city setting hold you back from being a homesteader. Work with the space you have and grow a little food for yourself. Save a little money and eat healthier, you'll be glad you did!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dodging the Bullet

Whew, the severe winter weather that was full of ice and snow went north of us. We did have some nasty winds and it's pretty darn cold now but I'll take sunny and cold over 2' of snow anyday!

So, what are we doing around the farm today? Oh, the usual stuff- feeding the animals, chopping a little firewood and baking bread. Plus my all time favorite winter passtime of garden dreaming. Yes, I know it's just December but it's never the wrong time to be thinking about and making plans to start those precious seedlings for a new garden.

The garden is the very heart of this self sustained lifestyle. Without the garden, all I would be is a consumer. Buy it, use it up and buy some more. Breaking that cycle wasn't easy since it's what we all grew up believing was normal. I choose to feed myself and accept the responsibility and all the work that goes with it. So, I must constantly think about last years garden and how i can improve my yields. What worked good and what didn't work so good. Like my potato crop for instance. I also constantly work on how I can beat Mother Nature. What? Yep, I am always trying to get around her, every chance I can get! I want my plants to hit the garden and produce as quickly as I can make them. The sooner I can get tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, etc, the more I will have for the table. How do I do that? I start my seeds early, way before the last frost in the kitchen window garden. It takes up a bunch of space and usually by planting time, my kitchen is literally taken over by plants. I have a small table full plus a variety of shelves and the "indoor garden" always ends up sprawling over to the dinner table and my counters. It's lots of work tending and watering all those plants but if I didn't do that, I'd not have ripe tomatoes before July around here.

Sounds like a big fuss, doesn't it? It would be if I didn't have that whole line of southern exposure windows. Is it worth it? I think it is. Eating only from what you grow isn't a small accomplishment. It takes 20 tomato plants producing full time to cover just the sauce, paste and diced tomatoes we consume in the course of a year. If my first red tomato doesn't come until July, that just gives me 3 1/2 to 4 months to produce enough to last the 9 months until the next round of tomato plants start producing.

Self sutained living isn't any different than the way everyone lives, we just don't go out and buy what we need, we create it for ourselves. Yes, it takes more time and effort to do it for ourselves and sometimes it's no so much fun but in the end, it's worth it. If it weren't for my dedication to doing it for myself, I would most likely be among the thousands across the country in mortgage default right now. Growing my own food has allowed us to stretch what little money we have much, much longer than what it would for people that are consumer based. All the animals here are fed from what we can produce. In turn, that gives us free chicken, free eggs, free rabbit, free sheep, free pork, free beef, plus free produce! When all you have is $100 to make it the whole month, that sure does mean a bunch! Especially when fuel is $2.80 a gallon...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Survival Seed Package Giveaway Winner

It's 7pm and the winner is.............
Peggy from Peggy's Mountain Blessings. Congrats Peggy, email me at with where you want the seed pack mailed to.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Bright and Cold!

Whew, it's darn cold this morning! I'm not upset about it, the cold temperatures will kill off all the bugs. My windows have been swarmed with those little bettles that look like ladybugs for the past month. Those buggers bite!

It's been 5 days now since my big black rabbit doe kindled her second batch of bunnies and so far, they are still alive. She is tending her kits. I'm not real sure how many she has since I'm reluctant to actually touch the hairs and look. I don't want her to not take care of them. I know all the rabbit care books say it's okay to touch them but in my experience, if you disturb the nest of either an inexperienced or nervous doe, she lets those kits you touched die. After the last batch of 12 she never tended, I have been very careful with her.

I put a list of seeds on the right sidebar, those are what I have pulled out of my own garden seed stash for the giveaway seed package. There will be at least a dozen of each seed and around 3 cups of wheat. I will also look into adding a couple arabica coffee beans, not sure how many I have in reserve tho. If you all don't mind, I'd like to respond to a couple of comments from last night post- Survival Gardening- Self Sustained Living....

Rebecka asked about open pollinated seeds. All open pollinated seeds are desireable for seed saving. These are all Mother Natures best. You must also know that these seeds will produce plants that will cross pollinate by themselves if you plant more than one type of similar seed close together. Example- Country Gentleman corn less that 50' away from Golden Bantam. These are both heirloom, open pollinated sweet corn and will cross pollinate all by themselves and create a wonderful yellow and white ear of corn. The seeds can be used to save for replanting but you may get plants that resemble the parents and then crosses from being planted all in the same rows. That would not necessarily be a bad thing but if you wanted a whole crop of white corn or a whole crop of yellow corn, well, you get the idea. If you like what your heirloom or open pollinated seed produces, just make sure it's not near another plant it can pollinate with and you can save seed that will produce exactly the same year after year.

The next one is for Stacey SWPA. Stacey asked about how long a seed can be stored before it won't germinate. I'm glad you asked that Stacey! Sometimes I don't always use up my seeds and they will hang around in the bottom of my coffee cans for several seasons. I've had tomato seeds 9 years old still sprout and grow. Cuccumbers as old as 5 years, peppers up to 7. I have noticed tho, the older they are, the lower the germination rate is. Not all the old seeds will sprout for me. The fresh seed from my previous season usually has a 95% to 98% germination rate. Corn on the other hand is smoked after 3 seasons. It appears to break down and just does not grow at all. With corn, I always save twice the amount I want to plant any given season just in case I have to replant the crop due to weather, etc and at the end of the season when I am ready to save for next year, i throw the old seed into one of the animal feed mixes.

I save my seed in ziploc bags with a paper towel folded in them to absorb any moisture due to temperature changes. I keep the bags in an old coffee can with the lid on in my pantry away from heat and light. I've never had a batch of seed that would not germinate at all for me.
A dirty kitchen calls to me and i don't have any bread for supper....... enjoy the day!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Survival Gardening- Self Sustained Living

That is a picture of some Roma tomatoes I grew in a bucket this summer. The seeds came from what I saved from my harvest last year. I'd like to share my thoughts on seeds, gardening and seed saving with you tonight.

How do I grow all my own food and how can it be free? Well, it's not free the first year of planting because the seeds have to come from somewhere. I bought some and traded for some. All the seeds are what is considered heirloom seeds. So, what's an heirloom seed? It's a seed that will produce the same quality plant as it's parent plant. For instance, the tomato. I plant a seed and it grows. Then it produces fruit. I save the seeds from that fruit, replant them and they grow a plant just like the first one I grew. Same quality fruits, same growing habits.

Nature all on it's own cross pollinates plants all the time. It's normal evolution. The problem with a hybrid is that the fruits of such a cross very rarely grow a plant like it's parent. The seed will grow a plant that reverts back to one of it's parent plants. So, if you plant a hybrid tomato that grows quickly, produces an early tomato with good flavor, the chances of a saved seed producing the same results on the next generation is kind of slim. That's why I plant only heirloom seeds. I want to have the same quality and performance year after year so I know what to expect and I know how much food I will produce. That's a good thing to know when you are eating only from what you grow.

Now, here's a type of seed that is what I consider to be the root of all evil. A GMO(genetically modified organism). This seed is the product of molecular genetics and can often have other organisms spliced into it such as pesticide genes that would never occur naturally. There is no scientific proof that plants and fruits produced from GMO seed do not harm organisms that would normally feed from these plants. Monsanto is now producing GMO seed that grows a plant to produce fruits that are sterile. The resulting fruits from the original GMO seed will not produce a plant. Hmmmm, don't fool with Mother nature boys, it never turns out well........

It makes sense to plant heirloom seeds, grow your garden and save seeds to grow next years garden from your bounty. All the following years you plant, you food is then free. Wouldn't you like to have the same bounty every year? Only use and save heirloom, open pollinated seeds for your self sustaining, survival garden.

Okay, where do you find heirloom seeds? Reputable seed companies such as Johnnys Seeds, Burpee and Seed Savers Exchange are good sources. Seed Savers is exclusively open pollinated. Other companies will tell you in the description and on the seed packet if the seed is hybrid. Never trust a packet or company that does not disclose which kind of seed they are selling. Do your research, read and read some more!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Another Tree Day

We're on the second tree now, this one is a small/medium sized red oak. Hubby decided he was too tired to pack the saw down the fenceline today so he just picked the tree truck up with the tractor and brought it to the saw. I think he just wanted to freak me out.
I'm not even half way done with splitting the 35' birch he already cut and now I've got a 30' oak to go with it. Plenty more still laying in the fencelines. There's even a big hickory down in the back but it's got a couple other trees on top of it. Boy will that wood be nice for the smoker! I'll snap a pic of the split pile later today...
The 3rd bunny kindled today and so far, so good! She pulled hair and they are all wiggling under it. I hope she tends them and doesn't let them die.
Tonights supper is fried chicken(butchered last night) and potatoes with a side of bean salad and some cornbread. I still haven't ground the corn so I better get after it!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Productive Day

Today is the day we decided we were finally going to tackle some of the trees that are laying on the ground from our inland hurricane. We have at least 30 trees of varying sizes knocked down in our fence lines. We spent 7 hours with the chainsaw and have just 3/4 of one bigun cut up. I did a little log splitting with the good old 8lb maul while I was working on grinding some feed. Split some, grind some. I wasn't finished with the feed before it got dark so I spent some time reading the latest edition of Mother Earth News. I love this magazine as it always has something in it I can use in my sustainable farming adventure. This months issue(Dec/Jan) is a dandy and has recipes for no-knead healthy breads, a nice write up about solar panels, one about a DIY pole barn, another article on heirloom fruits and vegetables and here's the best article this issue....... drum roll please........ Grow $700 of food in 100sq feet! You do know how small of a space that is, right? The author used a 5x20 spot and, well, get yourself a copy of the new issue and read it, it's great!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Holiday

Hello everyone, I hope your Thanksgiving was pleasant! With the holiday comes black Friday and a miriad of goofy people standing around in 32 degree night time temperatures to be the first ones in Walmart for all the great deals on crap made in China. I know this should not surprise me but it still does, every time. I am soooo glad I'm not like that!

Living off your land is a lost art form it seems. That's such a shame. I fed my neighbors today because they just aren't very thrifty. They are severely underemployed, living in a run down rent trailer with 2 kids and they're hungry. They asked if the could have food off my farm on credit, I just gave it to them and even baked them some bread. They've lived near me for a year now and had plenty of room to grow themselves some food but simply chose not to bother. Now they are hungry. I fear all of us will be seeing this same situation more and more all over. How will we handle it all? I don't know.....

I am already gearing up for the next planting season with a couple new items for the gardens and replacements for the damaged trees in the orchard. This could be a long winter for all of us.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Quick Home Made Chip Dip

I hate to pay for something I can make for myself. Especially when I can make it without MSG and other nasty chemicals. We're fans of dill dip here. It goes great with potato crisps, all kinds of vegetables and especially with bread! It's simple to make. Just take one cup of sour cream, 1 cup of mayo, 1 tsp celery salt, 1 tsp garlic salt, 1 tsp dill, 1 tsp parsley and 1 tsp minced onion. Mix it all together and let it sit for 15 minutes to blend the flavor(it even tastes great right away) refridgerate when not being eaten.
A quick, money saving way to have a snack while the holiday bird is roasting......
Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Daily critter patrol

Look what I found this morning during morning chores. A new set of kittens, i think they are Shadows kittens. Like I need any more to add to the list of kittens I need to give away. Cats are an important part of farm life. Whithout them i would be over run with mice from all the grains i grow and store here. But, one must draw the line somewhere! I have at least 10 kittens that need new homes if anyone wants a kitten.....
One of my new does kindled this morning. She did not pull a single mouthful of hair. She's got 15 kits in the box, all are freezing to death. There's nothing I can do about it either. Maybe her sister will do better, she should kindle any moment.
The black and white cat is Mop. She's the only long haired kitten we've ever had here. She was in a litter of 4 and the only long haired one of the bunch. She got stepped on by a horse about a month ago and her tail was mashed. if you notice in the picture, she now has a stub for a tail. The dead tail finally fell off her this morning and she is a different cat in both looks and personality. She's happy to be rid of the dead tail, laying there purring like a chainsaw........

I found one of my young banty hens defending a nest of eggs this morning. I'll keep an eye on her to make sure she's really gone broody and if so, I'll set her up for a little cat and puppy protection for her and the nest. I might get some new banty chicks now!

Well off to shovel some compost for my indoor winter gardens. I need to get it inside and warming up so I can get seedlings started before the really cold weather makes them not want to germinate..........

Monday, November 23, 2009

Could Not Resist Sharing

Well, I was disappointed that my Kodak camera program would not load to this new computer so I spent a little time cruising the Kodak website and found a whole page of upgrade software for Vista and the new win7 programs, all free. Now the camera works!
Tonight I wanted to have dinner rolls to go with my Bohemian pork loin without having to look for the recipe. So, I took my normal daily bread recipe and made mini rolls of bread with it. The recipe is second nature for me since I make it every day(recipe is from Hillbilly Housewife) and it always comes out good. The roll/breads came out perfect, so did the pork loin. A nice home made country supper.......
Edited to add a link in the post to Hillbilly Housewife site....... just click the name...........

Growing outside the box

What I mean by that is to be growing things that are not usual for your garden. I've talked about growing coffee and tobacco a couple of times and have shared photos but this morning I found a photo tutorial made by a member of a survival forum I belong to. I hope Dilli doesn't mind me "plugging" the tutorial, I learned a good lesson on photo presentation from it. Please, check out Dilli's work, it is quite impressive and leave a comment....

Tobacco Photo tutorial by hillidilli(dilligaf)

Now for what's going on around the farm.....

Cody the coon dog killed a laying hen yesterday and the blue heeler pup wiped out almost all the Rouen ducklings. We saved 2 but I think one of those is going to die too. I spent a couple hours in the grinding room working on the feed mix. Grinding corn and mixing it with the rest of the grains I have. I like to have a weeks worth at a time to keep it fresh and save time on the daily chores. I was serenaded by the sounds of ducklings and chicks in the brooder tank in the corner. I'm worried about them being hatched out so late in the season, cold weather is coming very quickly. The unseasonable warm weather we enjoyed tricked the hens into thinking it was spring. It's harder than you think to convince a broody hen to not sit on a nest. Even taking the eggs away doesn't help much, they just lay more to sit on and gather eggs from other nests.

Did you notice, Queenbuffness made a comment on the chicken feeding page, she feeds her chickens meat scraps with great results. I think I will try it with my turkey scraps this holiday. Thank you Queenbuffness!

I still haven't gotten any of the projects that needed store bought supplies done yet. Seems the bank has a policy where they hold big checks for 2 weeks. Funny thing is, they claim it's because the check is an out of state check. They didn't have any problems cashing the small checks drawn from the same bank as the big one since June...... So add 2 extra days the bank is closed for the holiday to our wait, it will be December before i can have our own money to work with. I've already wrote several checks paying our overdue bills and I'm sure I will receive plenty of overdraft penalties for them. Thieving bastards. Glad they get to collect 2 weeks of interest from the Fed on my money.......

My Seed Savers Exchange seed catalog is all wrinkled up already ;) hubby and I have marked all over the poor thing working on what we want to try in the garden this year. The catalog is all heirloom seeds, some certified organic. Most of the seeds can be traced back to the 1800's.

I also order plants from Starks Brothers and Miller Nurseries. I'm also fond of a couple sellers on ebay. I get exoctic seeds there like coffee, tobacco and oddball fruit, vege and herb seeds either not readily available thru normal channels or too expensive commercially.

I put the nesting boxes in with the rabbit does last night, I should have 2 more batches of bunnies in the next couple of days and another at the end of the month. I need to get a good stock of bunnies up so I can meet what my new customer wants plus have a few for myself. You just can't beat the high protein/low fat of rabbit meat for your diet.

yesterday I tried once again to make some cheese with the poor quality milk. It's just not going to work, no matter what I do. Disappointing for me but more drive for finding my own cow. Cracked corn is just not a good animal feed all by itself. Not enough nutrient in it. While I know this to be true, it's hard to get some of these hard headed cheapass farmers around here to believe me. They think corn is some kind of wonder grain. They starve their animals all the time on cracked corn. Oh well, I know better anyway.......

ARG! This new computer with it's fabulous windows 7 will not support my Kodak program so I am still without pictures from my camera. I guess I will have to wait for the old HP to be fixed so I can share some farm pictures. I know it's a little boring without all the cool pictures from around here, hang in there, I'll have some soon!

Off to get some bread made..........

Friday, November 20, 2009

Feeding the Backyard Chickens

I had a question asked by a blogger pal so this evening I intend to do what I can to answer it for her. Thank you Deborah for asking.......

Tonite I'm going to share what I do to feed my chickens without having to fork out $12 for a 50lb bag of commercial chicken feed. Chickens are notorious for eating just about anything they can peck so table scraps are always on the menu. they will also eat about anything you try to plant in your garden if you don't keep them out. Chickens are particularly fond of beets, kale, potatoes, sunflowers, wheat, oats and all types of grass seed. Cracked corn is something they dive on but it lacks protein so I supplement cracked corn with ground soybeans, sunflowers, wheat, some barley, milo and oats. To keep my egg shells nice and solid, I wash every egg shell I crack, dry them and crush them up for the feed mix. I give my chickens all types of squash I grow here. They love the fruit and the seeds and devour pumpkins in a heartbeat. chickens will pluck your almost ripe tomatoes right off the vines. they aren't real fond of sweet pepper but eat your cucumbers every chance they get.

I have also heard it said that you can even feed chickens meat scraps but I do not. I also do not feed my chickens cooked egg.

I have heard that milk and cheese/butter byproducts are good feed supplements but have never set whey, milk of cheese out for them. I may try soaking their grains in it when the goat starts giving me milk.

I have also noticed that chickens like alfalfa and clover, they occasionally steal it from the rabbits and very often get right in the hay pile with the goats and sheep.

The hottest spot for hungry chickens around here in the manure pile. As it decomposes and turns into my growing compost, it is always full of worms, dung beetles and other various insects. Japanese beetles are a favorite for chickens as well. I shake them out of the peach trees and scoop them into buckets with a bit of water in the bottom(keeps the beetles from flying out) and I dump the water filled beetles in the feed pan and get back because a whole avalanche of chickens will appear to scarf them up.

So, anything you grow and harvest for yourself will make decent chicken feed for your backyard flock. don't forget the calcium and you'll have quality eggs and chicken meat without having to spend a dime on feed.

New Goals for Self Sustained Living

Way back when I first started blogging, I wrote a post supporting container growing and how it can benefit just about everyone. This is one of my favorite pictures, it shows that even an apartment dweller with very limited space can grow some of their own food. Even if it's just a couple meals a week, that is better than not at all! You can put plants in just about any empty container allowing enough room for the root system of the plant. Things like tomatoes need more room than a bunch of carrots, even garlic and onions can be container grown.
I have personally grown dwarf bananas, tobacco, coffee, cantalopes, tomatoes, carrots, shallots, garlic, radish, cauliflower, lettuce, sweet peppers, cucumber and tons of herbs thru the winter in my kitchen windows.
I have and still use things such as ice cream buckets to grow plants in. anything that will hold dirt and water is fair game here! I prefer 3 and 5 gallon buckets as they are easier to handle, stack well for storage and are just plain easy to get around here. For bigger containers, I like the cattle tubs(big buckets mineral mix for cows come in) as the cattle pastures are full of them. It seems farmers can pack those heavy things out to the field but have a hard time picking up the empties! So, I always ask to get them and no one has ever said no to me. A couple of holes punched along the bottom edge for drainage, we don't want rotted roots, and some compost mix and the plants. Works out pretty good! After a few weeks of good growth, it's time for a little fertilizer. You'll want to keep on top of that, especially if you have heavy feeders such as tomato plants. The more you feed a tomato, the better your harvest. If you think your plants are getting too tall, do just like you would in a regular garden and pinch the top suckers off so the plant bushes out more than it grows up.
Keep an eye on the moisture level and you'll do so well, you'll wonder why you haven't been container gardening all along.
There's plants that have been bred specifically for container growing such as the tom thumb series of tomatoes and peppers but even regular garden varieties will grow in containers. it's harder to control plants such as cherry tomatoes since they vine all over the place so stick with the bush variety of whatever plant you choose to grow and the plant will do much better for you without extra labor intensive attention.
Now, go find a bucket and plant something for those windows!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Back to the routine

Well, after some minor troubles and some aggravation, here I am, back online with a laptop I intend to give my college kid very soon. A bit of a bumpy ride but we made it.

Some sad news on the farm this morning, Moo cow gave up on me. This morning at sun-up, she wasn't with me any more. I was really surprised, I thought she was doing so well. guess I was wrong because she passed sometime in the night.

Today is the day I had written down on the calendar to put nesting boxes in with rabbits. With that done, I hope to see some new baby bunnies by the holiday. The weather has turned a bit cooler than it's been, hope that doesn't throw the momma bunnies off track.

Now that we're in a bit of a better situation for the time being, some of those projects around, here are going to get done! I'm relieved, a few sleepless nights thinking on how I was going to get them done. No worries now.....

I'm already getting seed catalogs, my all time favorite one just came in the mail today. My seed savers exchange catalog. I can get into so much trouble looking thru that little book, all the plants I'd like to try out. Makes me itch for spring and it's not Thanksgiving yet, shame on me. I'm trying to keep my mind where it should be but looking at all those seeds makes it so hard.
I'm going to gear a few more things toward container growing this next season just to see what I can get to prosper in a bucket. I'm also thinking on a new home made fertilize mix to try. Now that I have goats I want to try my old mix compared to a mix with the goat in it to see if i can improve plant production. Hehehe my own little science experiment.

Oh, I almost forgot...... I picked up 5 gallons of fresh milk yesterday and made a couple wheels of cheese with it. Not sure I like the milk tho, the colby cheese seems a bit mushier than it should be. It cooked up right but it just doesn't seem right. I won't know for sure until it dries a rind and I cut it but it seems a bit soft. I also made a batch of cheddar but it doesn't come out of the press for a few more hours. I'm anxious to see how it looks. I'm not feeling like the milk qualtiy is as good as I used to hget, different feed and all.

I've got 9 young roos lined up for the cook pot for tomorrows supper. All are from this past springs hatches. They're starting to do a little bit of fighting and they're chasing the hens quite a bit. I'm worried it might be affecting my egg production numbers so they gotta go. I'm thinking chicken and dumplings sounds pretty good!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Missed it!

Of course, since I wanted to see the meteor shower, it had to rain all night! That is so disappointing. The day started overcast and drizzling but the sun has come out now. Moo cow made it thru the rain in good shape I think, and all looks good around the barn lot.

Oh! When I tended that English Game Cock yesterday, the bugger escaped on me and then spurred my leg! Got me front and back, drew blood. Normally I'd squash a flogging rooster instantly but this feller can't help it. He was bred to be aggressive and he just can't help it. Of course he ran right out into the barn lot and jumped on the first roo he saw which happened to be my little Seabright. He didn't get a chance to do any damage tho, I trapped him quick with a manure fork and put him back in his pen. Now I've got a nice bruise on my shin from that goofy rooster with a matching spot in the middle of my calf muscle. Ah, the joys of farm life!

Hey Gen! Yep, I only got a couple eggs compared to normal. Not sure what happened, it's possible that the chickens have chosen to lay in a new spot I just haven't found yet or the weather coming in contributed. They were all up to roost by 3pm and then there's the natural fact that chickens do not lay every day. Sunlight is a major factor along with the 26 to 28 hour laying thing. I'm sure I've have a pile of eggs today tho, the sun is back out!

The baby bunnies I've got right now got sold yesterday. They aren't ready to go yet but the guy paid me and said he'd wait to pick them up until they are. He also bought 4 banty roosters. Can't imagine what he'd want with 4 roos but it's his money, he can do what he wants with it. I'm pretty happy about it all and this man could turn into a regular rabbit customer from the way he talked. Might be a good thing!

Some more good news for the farm.... looks like hubby has a good line on employment. A little farther away than he wanted to go but we kind of need it right now. It looks like he should be heading to a new job by the end of next week. Good things always come to those who have the patience and fortitude to wait for it. I hope it works out the way it's supposed to....

I found a new book to read, it's a book on the older farming and farm living skills. The print is very small and I am in desperate need of a new pair of glasses so I'm stumbling thru it the best I can right now. Maybe next week I can get a magnafying glass and I'll tell you all more about it then...... Now I must get off the library computer and get back to the farm, the bread won't bake itself! LOL

Monday, November 16, 2009

Another Monday...

I'm full of hope today even tho it's overcast and misting rain outside. Today could be a great day. On the way over here to the library, as I topped a small hill along the rural state highway, coming thru a combined bean field was a beautiful 8 point buck. He was trailing a doe because he was trotting along with his nose on the ground, not paying attention to anything which of course scares me since he's close to the road and not slowing down. So, common sense prevails and I go ahead and slow down just in case he runs right out in front of me. He gets right to the edge of the road, stops and raises his head. If there was ever a time I wish I had a camera....

I made a nice loaf of french bread last night plus my normal every day bread to go with the chicken I butchered. I breaded(home made breading mix) the pieces and fried them up with corn and potatoes I grew for the sides. For some reason, my chickens were in roost by 3pm yesterday and I only got 6 eggs which I used for the egg dip with the chicken.

I'm concerned about the weather we've been having lately and how it's going to affect next planting season. November and February as normally our wettest months and so for November here has been unseasonably warm and dry. So, I've been working on plotting out what I will container garden next season to ensure I don't suffer crop failures with plants I need to eat with in the coming year. Container growing will help me a great deal if we have another wet spring as well as a dry one. Control of the plant is all mine with the containers.

Okay, now a news flash for all you early risers...... the Leonid Meteor shower is going to be at it's peak Tuesday in the pre dawn hours. I'm hoping it's not overcast here like the last meteor shower... I just love that stuff and hate to miss it due to weather.

I'm having a bit of a craving for carrots and radish. I'm thinking about pulling a planter out of storage and setting it in the kitchen window and planting some carrot and radish in it. Both are super simple to grow and the 10" deep windowbox planters work pretty good for them. Maybe I'll have fresh baby carrots for Christmas!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A little excitement around here

It's normally just kind of quiet around here but I'm not complaining, I like it that way. Nothing wrong with things going like they are expected to be. The animals are all doing well and the house is still standing, lol. I've just bee piddling around the farm, working on little things that I'm not happy with. I was giving the Moo cow a little attention, rubbing on her, giving her water and hay, working her legs for her when she stood up. Just stood up and stayed up. She walked in a circle and moved forward 4 or 5 steps and laid back down. I steadied her as best I could and notcied instantly where her problem is. All this time I thought it was her back legs but it's not. Her front ankles are stiff and she's walking on them. So, more cow therapy is in order to help her get back on her feet. I will work on getting her ankle muscles stretched back out so she can run and play like a young cow should do. I'm so excited( hard to tell when typing or reading) about her progress. Everyone around me has said that since she's been down so long, she'll never get back up. Well, I guess Moo is going to make farmer history then because she is getting back up! Go Moo!

I had a wild day with the chickens, I guess we have to be missing some eggs when we pick up each day because I found 48 eggs last night! I'm going to have to whip up a couple quiches and some pound cake or we'll never get all those eaten.

The countdown to getting the home computer fixed is coming to a close and boy, am I glad about that! I so can not tolerate nosey people at the library, they just can't mind their own business! Also, you get these kids sitting next to you that think they are computer guru's and constantly mumble and curse..... not to mention all the work I need to be getting done around the farm that I have to put on hold so I can go to the library. LOL, I so love being in public. Can you tell I miss my home computer??

Easy stuff happening around the farm today. I'll just be gridning a little chicken feed for the week, digging some potatoes from what's left of the patch out back, working on Moo, cleaning up more of the straw in the loft that the chickens have so graciously scattered for me(they peck the strings and break bales) and maybe a new bread recipe for supper. Nothing special for supper tonite, just a couple of pork butterflies from the hog I butchered.

The weather is still nice here so it will be an outdoor day and supper will be made on the grill over a fire tonite. Just can't beat a real wood smoke and flame pork chop!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Another Beautiful Day

This warm weather is so nice. I know come January we're going to pay for it. I'm dreading the 2" of ice and the freezing temperatures.

I had to take a quick cell phone pic of the baby bunnies this morning, they were just so darn cute. They are eating feed now and completely out of the box. They grow so quick.

I had a nice time last night, my daughters first home game, they won. I took around 30 pictures that I can't get off that old Kodak camera until I get my computer back. The countdown is killing me, I should have it back in around 10 days. I'm so excited about it, I can finally get all my garden plans for the coming season worked out. I've got all my old garden plans on a cd-ROM I can't access until my computer is fixed so I'm wormy waiting. Hahahaha, I guess I'll live thru it okay.

Moo Cow got up yesterday! She stood for just a few seconds but it was great. Now she knows she can get up and she's really moving around the barn lot now. I'm pumping the feed to her in the hopes she continues to get stronger. After all this time, no one around here can beleive she's not dead yet anyway so when she gets up, she will surely be the talk of the farming community. Not that I really care about that but maybe some of my farming ideas might rub off on others because of her.

I still haven't found a milk cow but I haven't given up. I've got a few leads to run down in the next week or so that hopefully will give me an opportunity to aquire my own milk source. Speaking of milk, the nanny goat is doing well and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that she's got at least one kid inside her growing. 2 would be better ;)

Not much going on around the farm today other than enjoying the warm weather. I've been tossing the idea of making a different goat pen away from the barns but nothing serious yet. I've got a couple spots in mind but they need some cleaning up and clearing out. Brush and a few pieces of farm equipment in the way. Maybe by the end of the week I'll get more motivated toward getting something solid going.....

Monday, November 9, 2009

Lazy days

lazy days, yep, it seems that way lately. This past week has been absolutely gorgeous! 70 degess, mostly sunny, mild nights, not what one expects for November. It's overcast today tho, looks like a bit of rain might come this way. Now I have to figure out how to get that cow back in the barn. She's made it 20 or so feet out into the barn lot and she's grown a bit.

I've got a bucket all set up to transplant the mini bell peppers from the tub by the porch to the kitchen garden for the winter. Since the frost didn't kill it back and it's still flowering, I might as well save it. The peppers are sweet and spicey, a nice addition to just about everything I cook around here. I will give the plants a juice of rabbit poo as fertilizer and let them grow in the windows.

The Muscovy duck hatched a chick out yesterday, she still has 6 chicken eggs and 7 duck eggs under her. I'm not sure exactly how long the Rouen has still, she's just got duck eggs under her, all her own. So, we've got 7 more days before the ducklings start to hatch, 21 for chicks and 28 for ducks.

The bunnies have jumped out of the box and this is the size where they are so darn cute! I love playing with them. At this size, it's hard to imagine them as supper. I've got 3 does hopefully to kindle on the 24th as well.

I've been doing double duty with the cooking, more than one meal at a time going. I've got a sweet sauce simmering on the stove today for pizza sauce, a couple italian dishes and what's left will go with meatballs. A little of the pork mixed with some of the beef rolled up with my own little recipe. I made a couple batches of french bread so we could have garlic bread with our meals. I like the french bread better than the italian bread.

Hubby is still unemployed and we're starting to feel the squeeze just a little bit. I'm still sitting on a few projects that need finished before the bad weather comes along. Always thankful we had a decent harvest this year, plenty to eat!

It's time to start thinking about the coming holidays. I love this time of year... I need to make some soap and some cheese, get back after that quilt that's been sitiing folded up in the drawer for more than a year...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Indian Summer maybe?

The days have been amazing lately, makes me think we've got a little bit of Indian Summer going on here. It's wierd to run around the farm in a t-shirt in November and all the trees are bare.

Yesterday turned into a pretty nice and easy day for me since I had nothing really planned. On the way home from the library I stopped at the gas station and picked up a couple gallons of whole milk. I used it to make up some ricotta cheese. it's about the only kind of cheese store bought milk is good for since being homogenized ruins it. I hit my food storage and whipped up some home made lasagna. I used my handy dandy Joy of Cooking book for the french bread recipe, whipped some of that up for garlic bread. I like the recipe a bunch since it doesn't call for sourdough, you just scald your milk and go. Fresh garlic pressed with the hand press for the bread and we had us a fine supper. LOL I am still tasting the garlic with my coffee this morning. Maybe I went a little overboard with it but it's just so darn good!

Moo cow is a real dandy, I think she's been trying to get up in the middle of the night. This morning she was turned back around and headed back toward the barn and on her other hip. That's good for me since now I don't have to strain myself trying to get her pushed over but now the hip I wanted to doctor this morning is down. She'll shift herslef again I hope and I'll get it doctored then. She's full of spunk and she's bright eyed, glad I didn't give up on her. She may get up yet!

Polar Bear is in the dog house(literally), she woke me up at 4:30 this morning to go out and when I let her back in, she peed the floor! Wouldn't have been so bad if it was on the tile but she peed the carpet, again. She's smarter than that, just being a turd I think. So, she's been outside all morning chasing the cats.

This warm weather has me thinking I might try and start a few more plants for the kitchen garden. Maybe a couple more pepper plants and a cucumber or 2 more. The tobacco plant I grew in the ice cream bucket is finally coming to seed. I hand pollinated all the flowers and almost every one has a seed pod. Should give me plenty of fresh seed for spring planting. Hubby is already eyeballing the leaves and I haven't even mentioned cutting it yet. he must be running low on his tobacco stash. He smokes too much anyway.

The coffee plants I started this past spring are looking pretty good. I'm thinking of seperating them into their own little pots. I've got my pop bottle pots all cleaned and sanitized, I just need to get a bucket of composted dirt in the house to warm up. It should be good to go after 3 days in the house, don't want to shock the roots with cold dirt. All 9 plants are doing pretty good, I look forward to their first flowering.

I'm also thinking hard about tearing out the kitchen cabinets and counter over in the corner of my kitchen. That space seems to be a catch all for every piece of junk the hubby and the son can get their hands on. I'm thinking about building a walk in pantry in that space. It will eliminate a clutter spot and be much more useful as a meaningfull storage spot. If I do it, I'll take pictures. I am seriously considering it.

I need to go check on my neighbor with Cancer today, he just had a chemo treatment yesterday and he might not be feeling too good. I'll stop in and see if he needs anything done around his farm. Until tomorrow.............

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Momentarily Freaked Out

LOL, this morning started with a jolt to the system. like I do every morning while my coffee is brewing, I stare out the window into my barn lot and look at my critters. There's a critter missing! Hardly one you could miss, she's been laying in the middle of the barn doorway for the past 2 weeks but where is she???? She's gone, not in the barn doorway. So, with a hundred different thoughts running thru my head, I find my shoes and head out there in my pj's. She's either got up or crawled about 15' out of the barn and over by the pen I have that dump dog in. I don't know why she would do that, there isn't even a nibble of grass over there, but she did. Just couldn't see her from my viewing window! Now, of course, every critter out there knows I'm out there and the morning chorus begins. Goats bleating, horses nickering, chickens and ducks cackling, the dog barking....... "sigh" so I went ahead and did the morning chores in my pj's.
I finally got a cup of coffee tho it was around 25 minutes later than I intended. That's life!

I have no plans at all for around the farm today but I'm sure I'll find something to do and share it with you all in the morning.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Rabbit Day

I got woke up early this morning by a call from a neighbor asking for a little help. Worked out good, gave me a reason to pick up the home made rabbit hutch he'd given me a couple weeks ago. Hated to make a trip up the back roads for just a rabbit hutch. It's a decently sized, home made hutch with a kindle box built in so I put one of my bigger does in it for now. I know the picture isn't so great but it's the best of the 3 I took with the cell phone. I am so looking forward to the laptop being fixed! We're looking good on having the laptop going very soon so I can be back online at home instead of having to drive to the library. I hate being in town and it takes so much time I could be doing something else with.
Hey Gen, the hog is done! It was one a neighbor fed out, I just traded him out of it so I didn't have to feed the escape artist myself! LOL The hog is officially sausage. I ended up with around 150lbs. We should be good for the winter now. No wild hogs here in southern Illinois unless they are escaped farm hogs.
Not much else going on but grinding feed and baking bread today.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sunshine days

Wow, it's so nice to see the sun shining. A beautiful full moon for Halloween and also last night with the clear skies and bright stars. Still sloppy but the nice days are making it tolerable.

I am in the process of butching a hog today. It's hanging right now, gutless and skinless. I'm looking forward to stuffed chops and sausage. I've been out of sausage for a couple months now.
I already have my meat grinder set out on the counter and I've gone thru all the parts, made sure they are clean and properly oiled for smooth operation. I use a hand operated grinder, it's efficient, operates smoothly and does a great job for just a small amount of effort.

I don't get fancy on my hog butchering. I keep the hams, the loins, prep myself a couple of roasts and the rest gets made into sausage. It's what we eat the most of so it makes complete sense and I've never been much of a chop eater anyway. I'll have it all cut,wrapped and ground up by this evening.

I've been digging potatoes from that disaster patch of the hubby's... I'm not any more disappointed than I thought I would be. Hahahaha, hubby is NOT allowed to plant taters for me anymore! Not all his fault tho, the crazy amount of rain we had did not help at all. We'll not be eating taters much this winter but I think we will live thru it.

Not much new with the cow, she's still laying in the barn doorway. We are considering slinging her up to the rafters. She's made several good efforts to get up the last few days, has even rolled herself over a couple of times. She amuses herself by turning in circles to suit her mood. Every time I check on her, she's facing a different direction. I think we need to make her use her legs. It's a work in progress.....

I made a divine tomato/meat sauce last night. I'm going to use it on some pizzas for supper tonight. it's been a while since I made any pizzas and my son asked if we could whip a couple up.

Well, off to finish the farm chores.......

Friday, October 30, 2009

Still miserable and muddy

Yup, the same old story, LOL. It's raining again, of course. One small bit of happiness tho, Halloween is supposed to be dry but cold. Looks like that cold front has finally made it's way here. I hope it freezes all the mud up for me so I can quit sloshing thru the barn lot!

Moo cow had a brush with death yesterday. Found her laid out flat in the barn doorway yesterday morning. It looks like she had been trying to get up but the barn doorway is slightly sloped and she wore herself out and gave up. She had a small bit of froth in her nose, I'll have to watch her carefully and possibly give her some medications. I was hoping to not have to give her any more but that's life I guess. She's still eating and drinking like she should and has occasional periods of where she tries to get up. Since I'm willing to tend her as long as she's still trying, she'll be okay I guess. She may not ever get back up.

I've got 2 ducks setting eggs! I guess the temps staying in the 60s during the day tricked them into thinking it was spring instead of fall. The Rouen has a nest with no telling how many eggs in it and the Muscovy cross has 9 chicken eggs and 5 duck eggs under her. Since chicken and duck eggs have different hatch times, I'll have to watch for the chicks hatching so I can grab them up. If I don't, she may get off the nest and not finish out the duck eggs since they need a week longer to hatch.

Speaking of chickens, I'm finally up to full egg production and we're picking up 35 eggs(not counting duck eggs) a day. I need to pick up a couple more egg customers!

I've been working on making cheese out of store bought milk but it's not going along as well as I'd hoped it would. The commercially processed milk is junk as far as I'm concerned and it's not good for anything, not even ricotta cheese making. The cheese, even with extended cook times and press times, comes out soft and slimey every time. I will not cave and go back to getting milk from the neighbor. To top insult and injury, apparently my (expensive) temperature control box for the cheese cave has mysteriously disappeared! Hmmm, they asked me if I had it. Well, duh, why would I have it? Last I saw it, it was on a fridge in their garage that contained 3 wheels of cheese aging......... Ah, I better quit on this subject or it will turn into a useless rant.

Anyhoo...... I'm working on finding a couple young milking heifers for the farm. I don't have any money to buy them yet so I'm just looking around. I figure I need something small with good milk production and reasonable butterfat content so I'll search for Jerseys. The goat will also be in milk come March so we'll be trying the goat cheese too.

Somebody the other day asked me for a Colby recipe that would work for their excess goats milk. I have one now but I can't find the email... if that person woudls end me another, I will send that recipe and directions to them........

I found a book at TSc the other day, it's got a bunch of old timey recipes in it. Several nice ones I'm going to try this weekend in the bread section. I will of course share the results.

Well, I must get back to the mud and the rain and finish my morning farm chores. Nothing big, just tending all the animals. I have to look at each one every morning to make sure they are all healthy and injury free while I'm feeding them...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's raining, again!

Geez I sound like a broken record, over and over, LOL. Well, it is raining again tho, no getting around that. The earth is like a wet dish towel, squishy and sloppy. Of course, the ducks just love it but I'm not so enthusiastic over it. Everything is slick and mushy, the tractor is leaving ruts everywhere we move it to. Hard to work on the equipment when you need to be laying in mud to do the work.

I finally got the part for the house oven, it cost me a whopping $40! Less than a year old and already burnt the element out. Guess when a manufacturer designs something like that, they don't take into account that somebody like me might buy it and actually use it! It's just another one of those trend things, companies make products designed to be throw aways. The average city folk that does not make thier own bread every day etc would have that stove a long time before the element, rated for 365 uses, would burn out. I really need to get that brick oven built!

Today I thought I would answer some previous post comments and questions if that's okay with you all.......

From the "World Turns" post
Goat Creek Grandma, I'm so happy to be an inspiration. I hope others will try some of the things I do here, they'll be glad they did!

Scifichick, I feel like we've known each other forever, wish you lived closer!

Katidids, oh yes, there's tons of stuff in the archives! As time allows, I will probably refresh some of the information I've shared over the last year again. Hopefully from the comfort of my own home in the next couple of weeks!

From the "Free Meat Day" post

Katidids, LOL, isn't it funny how those folks don't have a clue? I do that to everyone I can. They think the local processors sausage is a good example of venison, LMAO not hardly, eh?

Hello Gen! Oh yes, I'm a hunting fool! Hubby works midnights so if I want something hunted, I dang sure better do it for myself! I used to bow hunt all the time until my back injury, now I gun hunt.

Happy Hermit, heck yes you need to get paid back for all the free munching out of that garden! I'm a rabbit eater. The wild ones are very sparse here between the bobcats, coyotes and my own cats but the pens full of tame ones that get fed garden scraps make a great meal!

Hello Christine! Nope, I've not soaked deer meat in several years. Once I learned the fat/silver skin secret, I've never had another gamey tasting pile of meat. There's even times I don't "age" the meat for a day. I often will make deer meatloaf or sausage fresh while I'm finishing the processing. Standing there all that time working on the deer makes me hungry! Apple Cider vinegar sweets the meat up and it does change the taste. It could be why some people get turned off deer meat. It also covers the gamey taste from poor meat cleaning. Now, I do soak my rabbits in salt water for 12 hours but my chickens get the ice water bath while I'm processing to get the blood out of the meat and I often cook those fresh as well. But, I also don't pluck my chickens, I skin them.

Did it MY way, your'e absolutely right! The hunt is half the fun! I hate draggin the kill up but the hunt is awesome!

Hello Milton! a 6 point! That will make a nice deer caller. Middle of the rut the big does will even come to it. I prefer the smaller bucks, more tender meat. A nice sized spike or button for me if I don't see any does around.

Even city dwellers can enjoy hunting deer. Living in the Chicago area as a child and young adult, I know they are there. It may take a little time to find someone willing to allow you to hunt on their rural land and a bit of time to drive out away from the suburbs, but it's worth it. Even in a state as uptight as Illinois, the process to get deer tags isn't too complicated.

There's always alternatives to hunting if that's something you don't think you'd like to do. Chickens and rabbits are easy to raise and maintain in small areas and as long as you don't keep a rooster in the pen, the hens only cackle a bit when they lay an egg and the rest of the time they are quiet. Chicken and rabbit droppings make excellent fertilizer for your garden beds so you really can't go wrong.

For those of us out in the country, even a dairy breed cow makes for some good eating and you can get them as feeder calves dirt cheap. Don't forget about the alternative meats available as well. Goats, sheep and pigs are sometimes harder to keep penned up but easy to feed and all make good eating. The best part of feeding out your own is........ that's right! No chemicals, no steroids, no antibiotics!