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!