Monthly Archives: December 2012

Cold Days..Warm Hearts

About a week or so ago we had a winter snow storm.  I live in Indiana and let me just tell you I hate snow.  We only got like 2 inches but did I mention I hate snow??  Lake effect is a pair of words I dread hearing.  As I sat in my house with my woodburner going, I listened to the howl of the wind blowing at 30 miles per hour.  I saw snow whipping past my window.  I looked out at the driveway puddle from the nights rain, and saw the glisten of ice.  All I could think to myself was BRRRRRR I’m not going out there!!

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Then I looked at the 3 pieces of wood left on my indoor woodpile. I thought about the poor cats without water and food.  I told the kids to bundle  up and we were doing chores.  BRRRRR chores.  30 mile and hour winds whipping icy snow in my face, kids asking to ride their bikes on the snow filled road. “WHAT?? Hurry up and get this wood brought in..run through the house if you have to!”  So 15 minutes later wood was in, a pile in the house of dry and another pile in the breezeway of not so dry.  I ran out to find the lean to was actually pretty warm where the cats were. I gave them food and water and loved on them for a bit then went to the chickens.   As soon as I opened the door the bigger ones knew what that white stuff meant…Scratch Indoors! and scrambled to the feeders.

When all the chores were done, I sat down to a wonderful blueberry muffin cake I had made before we went outside and a tall glass of milk.  I watched as the kids came inside in their snow gear with smiles on their faces.  They sat down in front of the warm fire going.  They talked about how frozen their bikes were and how much the wind was blowing.  Then they went off to play games together.

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I sat and reflected on how lucky I am, how much God had blessed me.  I didn’t have to go to a job far away. I didn’t have to scrape my car or let it warm up. I didn’t have to get up early for any reason. I was in a warm home.  I had nice warm things to eat. I had the kids home, warm, and cozy.  They were playing nicely together.  Yes it was cold outside, but inside I was not only warm but I had a warm heart as well.

Happy Homesteading!! 😀

Categories: Homesteading | 2 Comments

“Green” Homesteading

Green is a word that used to mean a color.  Now it’s a movement.  Everyone is “Going Green” to save the environment.  As a homesteader you have to be frugal with what you have. No one wants to spend more for things than they have to.  A lot of people are blind to the fact that there are tons of chemicals and additives in the food they are eating. They can make plastic taste like anything, so what are they doing with our food??  Why is it that pre-sliced cheese can have an expiration date of a year from now?  Why is it that when you go to Mc D’s, a chicken nugget falls onto the floor of the car, is it still good two years later??

Real Food costs a lot of money.  You definitely want to get every dime out of your effort to live healthy.  This brings me to the actual subject of the blog.  What can you do with an animal to use as much as you can?  Well it depends on the animal but for the most part you can use the meat, bones, hide, and innards and that pretty much uses all the animal up.  I am a big supporter of internet. I believe it connects all of us together in a way that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.  This place is where ideas are born, nurtured, and improved upon.  Research research research what to do with what you have.

Here are some possibilities for what to do with an animal.

Hide– Most animals have to be skinned to eat.  Learn to cure that hide!  Hide can either become leather to make clothing with or you can keep the fur on for rugs, blankets, slippers, pillows.  That was/is my goal for this last year and this coming year, curing hides.  Try doing it the natural way first instead of chemicals.  Cow hide is huge and can be used for many things. Even pig skin can be used. It takes some work but it’s worth it for someone who just bought an $800+ cow.

Meat and innards and fat– a given, bacon, chops, hamburger,ribs.. just about anything you can think of. Don’t forget the meat on the cheeks of the face. Use all the meat somehow. Take the brain of the animal and keep it for brain tanning the hide, use the tongue and heart and pressure cook it. It makes great meat even though some of you just barfed in the corner. 😯  I think cow tongue is the most tender, most delicious part of the cow honestly.  If you eat liver, save that too.  The rest of the innards can be used as bait to catch other animals. Take the fat of the animals and you can make lard, tallow, or other healthy fats.  Full fat from grassfed animals is healthy despite what the government says.

Bones- Take the bones of the body and cut them up so you can make broth out of them.  What little meat is on them braise in an oven and start crockin it over night in water, 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, and some veggie scraps, to make broth. Then can the broth.  Freeze them if you don’t have enough room to do all the bones at one time.  

Extremities- Save those parts too and use as far down as you can with the bones for broth.

Once you are done with everything, then take all that is left. The innards, the broth bones, the feet, the head..all of it.  Burn it in a nice hot fire.  Once you are done take those ashes and sprinkle them over the garden.  Those bones are still plenty full of calcium and with the wood they have a lot of other nutrients your garden needs.

It is my hope that one day you will be sitting all wrapped up in your hide blanket, sipping some homemade broth, watching your garden grow big and strong, and smiling because you know not one ounce of your precious animal went to waste.

Happy Homesteading!! 😀

Categories: Homesteading, Livestock, Skills | Leave a comment

Skill: Cooking on a wood stove

So every year I try to learn at least one new skill. The skill isn’t really new per say. I’ve cooked on one before when the power was out, but I’m going to try to cook more this winter on my wood stove.  I’m setting out to save electric.  We use this already to heat the house during the winter so why not use it?  My whole house is electric and hopefully soon we will be moving. (By soon I mean within 6 months.) That house is all gas. I’m not a fan of either quite frankly. Money sucked out of my pocket by a company really isn’t my cup of tea. Speaking of tea..I have a teapot that will go on there too now.

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So here is my Christmas gift to myself. This dutch oven is not the camping one you use outside. It has a flat bottom and a roundish lid.  It holds as much water as my double handled pan and was a perfect purchase.  I have all cast iron frying pans already and all I need now is a sauce pan!

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What’s for dinner?? Spagetti!  We are adding mushroom soup to it for our meal. It’s nice to go meatless every now and then.  I will post later about a great mushroom soup recipe.

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Yum Yum.  BTW my husband said, “What are you doing?”  I said, “Cooking on the wood burner.” He just smiled that, ‘ You’re crazy’ smile.  Oh well he will get used to my crazy ways! He didn’t have any trouble eating the food!

Happy Homesteading!! 😀

Categories: Homesteading, Skills | 11 Comments

Brownie Pie

OMG this is the brownie from heaven.  If I haven’t said it I’ll say it now. I LOVE Stacy Makes Cents.  Ok I don’t love her per say but the blog lol.  She has the most delicious things on there.  This have been a favorite of mine for a long time. I made it again the other night. I always have the ingredients on hand.  You absosmurfly have to make this and eat it all yourself.  I swear you will never go back to box brownies again..ever!

I usually make mine in an 8×8 baking dish. It is always gone as soon as I can scrape it out of the hot dish and bare to put it in my mouth without jumping all over screaming because it was too hot.  It is that good people.  Here is the link to the recipe.

Brownie Pie.

Here is her picture. It doesn’t do it justice but I cant ever get a picture of mine. By the time I grab the camera it’s gone already!!

Stacy Makes Cents Brownie Pie

Stacy Makes Cents Brownie Pie

 

Happy Homesteading!! 😀

Categories: Homesteading, Recipes | Leave a comment

Holiday Bustle

It’s the day before Christmas and all through the house all the creatures are stirring..even the mouse!  It is so easy to to get swept up into the busy holiday, especially if you are the one hosting the Christmas meal.  Please remember to take time out from everything and just spend 30 minutes doing something to make you happy.  You probably are already prepping for the meal, making cookies, finishing up gift wrapping, but honestly is this what it’s all about?

Everyone seems to have taken Christmas to a whole new level!  Our family has tried to simplify Christmas this year.  For us it is a time to remember the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I have told the children for years now that we give gifts to others because we cannot physically give a gift to Jesus.  We give them to people we love to show them we appreciate them and love them.  I explained who St. Nick was instead of using Santa as the reason for the season.

Every year I make it a point to not make holidays stressful.  Minimal gift buying also helps because there is nothing worse then the after Christmas budget numbers.  I don’t want to stress over holiday bills.  We do not use credit cards. We hand make gifts when possible.  We share in the meal prep so that it doesn’t fall on one person.  All these things help, but we have to remember the reason we are celebrating Christmas.  Is it worth all the hustle and bustle to prepare a meal and buy gifts if you are a mean ol grinch because of it?  Relax Martha! Be a Mary! Even if it is just 5 minutes.  Take some time this holiday to quiet your soul. It will make the holiday even more special.

Merry Christmas and Happy Homesteading!! 😀

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The Not so Pleasant part…

So today we are going to address the not so pleasant part of homesteading.  A lot of people homestead without doing this, but it really makes you more self sufficient and less dependent on grocery stores.  What is this I speak of??

Processing Animals

Yup eventually..you’re going to have to get bloody.  You have to be able to look at blood, be ok with an animal dying, and know how to use every part of it so that you don’t waste any.  Now because I know a lot of you are moms with small children, I will not post any graphic pictures here or in later posts, but I will link you to youtube videos that I have either made or have found helpful.  If you absolutely cannot stand the site of blood you can either trade services with another homesteader or you can call a local butcher and have your meat processed.  I must tell you though that it gets expensive to pay processing fees and much of it you can do yourself.

Raising your own meat is non profit for the most part.  Most of us do it because you always have a supply of meat on hand, you know exactly what is in the meat, and where your meat came from. No matter how much land you have, you should be able to raise something for meat.  If you live in town you should be able to raise rabbits.  If you are Sub-Urban you should be able to have rabbits and maybe even chickens.  If you are rural, well that is where you get whatever you want!

3 Easy Critters to Raise

Courtesy of thecrunchychicken.com

Courtesy of thecrunchychicken.com

Meat Rabbits: These guys are very easy to raise. Depending on how many you have, you can raise them solely on things you’ve grown in your garden and you can also pasture your rabbits as shown above.  It also depends on if you have the means of storing things for winter feedings too. Rabbits are not expensive to raise but you really need hanging cages that no raccoon or dog can get into and just know they get hot in the summer so make sure you have a way to cool them down.  You can use their droppings are fertilizer right away on gardens and boy does that make a huge difference in your veggies! I am hoping to raise some starting next year if I can talk the hubby into it.

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Sheep: The pictures above are of my sheep.  We went to the sale barn and purchased sheep. If you don’t know what to look for please do not use this route, use a breeder instead.  Sheep are again super easy to keep.  You only raise them about 4-6 month before you process.  Three sheep can easily live on half an acre of grass/weed pasture and be fine.  They will eat a lot of weeds (I was actually surprised as the amount), leaves of trees they can reach, and some grass. Mine preferred clover mixed with crab grass.  You do not need to feed the sheep grain if they are 4 months old, although we did give them some scratch grain from the chickens in the mornings. They keep easily with minimal care. Strong fences and a cool place to lay in the summer is a must.

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Chickens: Chickens can cost a lot depending on what you want to do with them. If you have a fenced yard, let them free range all day and feed for them is next to nothing.  They can pretty much go without feed all summer but I would feed them chicken feed in the winter when the bugs are not as plentiful.  Garden scraps make a wonderful supplement to any feeding.  Here is a roo that hatched two years ago.  You can raise your own chicks and cull the roosters for meat, leaving the hens to produce eggs or you can just raise hens.  You need a fenced area, a place for the chickens to lay their eggs, and a place to lock them in at night.  Insulated coops are recommended if winters in your area get below 32. Chickens are hardy and good to can up to a year old. After a  year they are considered stewing hens because the meat wont peel off the bone for canning. You can have one sit in a crock pot all day and it can be eaten for dinner though.  You should get twice as many hens as you want eggs a day. They don’t always lay.

Bottom line is do your research before you start raising anything.  Know what your doing and educate yourself on the expense, time, care, and processing of the animal before you buy.  There are many other things you can raise for meat such as pigs, cows, and goats.  You also can hunt your food and obtain deer, rabbit, coon, squirrel, quail, turkey, duck, geese..the list goes on.  Educate yourself and do what is easiest for you.  I wish you all luck and I will post about my adventures on what animals we get this year and how to cull/process/care for them.

Happy Homesteading!! 😀

Categories: Chickens, Homesteading, Livestock, Skills | 2 Comments

Raw Milk..the Controversy

Nothing like a good title to get to to read this! 😉  There seems to be a lot of controversy over this for some reason. You have your group of haters..you know USDA, FDA, and freaked out people that think only store products should be consumed.  Then you have people like me, raw milk all the way baby!!

I was scared when I first thought of going to raw milk.  I was scared first that the family would get sick. There are no regulations on raw milk. Raw milk around here comes from some questionable farms.  Second I worried that I wouldn’t be able to drink it. I’m allergic to dairy products.  Lastly, I worried the government would come to my house and seize my milk, then seize the farm where I got it!  It’s happened in California, why not here.

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Raw milk has been one of those changes that our family has made and I’ve only seen good things come out of it.  The cow above is on grass. How many are on grass that you know of that supply milk to the store?  Um none.  I once went to Fair Oak Farms. I thought it would be good for my family to see where milk comes from. Boy did I get a rude awakening.  They supply milk for Prairie Farms.  We were not even allowed to touch the cow for fear of contamination.  Cows were born almost every hour there. They milked 3 times a day, 1000’s of cows.  There was no grass in site.   Commercial milk factory my friends.  That day I went pretty much made up my mind I did not want to drink milk from that cow.

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This is what I wanted.. a pretty little calf raised on a big grass pasture, no hormones to make her grow fast, no hormones to make her produce more milk, not constantly bred to so she would give milk, and no antibiotics because of a “possible” contamination.  So I went on a search, and internet search for raw milk.  I live in a small town. I thought for sure I’d have to drive hours to find what I was looking for.  Turns out there was a farm that sold milk close by. I jumped on it.  Cows all grassfed, organic at that! I hopped in my car and went to see what they had.  What they had was super expensive organic grassfed milk. $6 a gallon! 😯

I just couldn’t justify $6 a gallon when I was used to paying $2.50 at the store, so my searched continued. A friend had found a Mennonite lady selling milk where she gets her eggs, but unfortunately her cow passed.  She asked her if she knew another person who sold raw milk and there birthed the compromise.  It is important to build a network of people. I can’t stress that enough.

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You have to decide as a homesteader what compromises you want to make for your family.  For me paying $6 a gallon for milk was not what I was willing to pay.  The alternative I found was a half grain, half grass cow .  They pasture as much as they can. They don’t give antibiotics unless it’s necessary and they always tell me before I get milk.  The milk is from a wonderful Mennonite lady and she gives it to her family.  She charges less than the grocery store and I feel it is still better.

My fears were put to rest when I saw her feeding the milk to her own family. They had been for years. I found I could drink raw milk and I didn’t have any allergies.  I learned how to tell bad milk from good milk by smell and taste. (It’s not the same as the store.)  I learned how to tell when the cow had eaten more grass by the yellowing of the milk.  Plus I can always pasteurize the milk myself by heating it to 160 and then cooling it down again.

Do I care about the government, yes..but you know what?  They need a new hobby. There are other things to occupy their time with than to run around deciding for Americans what we can and cannot put into our body. Until I get my own cow, I will continue to drink to my health with a tall glass of Raw Milk!

Happy Raw Milk Drinking and Happy Homesteading!! 😀

Categories: Homesteading, Livestock | 2 Comments

Skillet Cookie!!

Grab your skillet, you homesteader you!  Here is an awesome use for it!!

One day a while ago I don’t know how but I happened upon this skillet cookie.  I want to give credit where credit is due so here is the link to the site and the recipe Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Oatmeal Skillet Cookie.  She did hers slightly different, but they both taste really great!

Looks Yummy!

Yummy! We already ate the corners!

She uses a 10 inch pan and I use a 12. Don’t worry if there is a little bit not covered on the bottom..it doesn’t matter. Also she uses regular oatmeal and I use quick oats. She says not to use it but I did and it turns it more “cookie” than what her pictures are.  I also added sliced almonds to mine..heavenly.  Always add extra chocolate too.  😉

Enjoy your skillet cookie, it’s almost gone here already!  Happy Homesteading!! 😀

Categories: Homesteading, Recipes | 1 Comment

Homemade Christmas Gifts

I figured it’s pretty close to Christmas so I will be ok posting this.  It was a hard decision because my mom happens upon my blog every now and then.  Probably NOW lol.  This year I decided to help keep cost down by hand making Christmas gifts this year.  I also decided to give everyone the same gift.  Although slightly different based on the family, still it was the same materials.  I could buy bulk and pay less.

Hand made gifts used to be the normal thing way back on them Little house on the prairie days.  They phased out and are now popping back in again. We are saving for a house and so we decided this year to make gifts and spend as little as possible.  So now I’m going to show you what I have done for my Christmas presents.  I went with the family gift.  It is a lot easier and it’s only one gifts instead of two, three, or way  more depending on children.  This is a nice gift for everyone.

The first gift is a Snowman Jar.  These are so easy to make and a lady at my church showed me how.  Here is what it looks like and then I’ll explain how to make it. It’s so easy you could even whip a few up before Christmas this year!

Snowman Jars

Snowman Jars

These are an applesauce jar, a pickle jar, and two other jars a friend gave.  What you do is take an old jar and sponge paint it with white acrylic paint.  Then take the back of the paintbrush and dot-paint black eyes and a mouth.  Take orange paint and paint on a nose.  Take a cotton ball and dab pink cheeks on.  Once it is dry you need to take clear acrylic paint and spray the whole jar so that it can at the very least be dusted.  Then take an old sweater. Cut off the sleeve about 6 inches up and tie off the cut end.  These jars pictures were not quite done.  Then you roll the wrist part and slip it over the jar like a hat.   I also cut about a 1 inch strip on the sleeve, then cut it to make a long strip.  I then used hot glue to secure the sweater strip around the bottom of the jar and also tied and hot glued that.  You do not want to hot glue the top because you can either slip in a battery operated votive or fill it with goodies.  I filled all of mine with Halloween candy. I waited until it was like 90% off and grabbed all I could. Candy stays good for years and most of what I got you wouldn’t know it was anyway because it had regular wrappers.  VOILA  an easily made, cheaply made, but yet personal gift that they can reuse every winter as decor!

The second part of my gift took a bit more time. It took 1 hour per item and I made 4 for everyone.  That my friend is a crochet dishcloth.  A friend had a pattern but didn’t know how to crochet. I knew crochet but couldn’t find a decent pattern.  So there birthed a hand made person gift for both of us to give.  Basically this pattern is just a half double crochet for 13 rows, then at the end do two half double crochets into the last stitch to make a corner..and start going around the entire rag.  You have to make even stitches where ever you can along two of the sides. Once you get to the next 2 cornesr you need to do 3 double half crochets and continue on. When you get to the last corner you start slip stitching around the entire rag again until you get to the end. Tie off and weave in the ends.  If you don’t know how to crochet, get on youtube and learn what I’m talking about 😉 .  Here is a picture of that cloth made with the wrong yarn. Please use COTTON yarn. This was my rough draft lol.

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I’ve made 4 of these for each family. They vary based on their kitchens and personality.  I plan on wrapping these dishcloths with a little bottle of dawn dishsoap and placing that and a snowman jar in a small basket or bag.  So now you know what I’m giving and if you don’t have a gift you can make these too!

Happy Gift Making and Happy Homesteading!! 😀

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Hiding food

The title is a little deceiving. I don’t mean hoarding for the Apocalypse or anything.  Today I’m talking about making the switch to good food when your family is used to eating junk.  My family was a processed food family.  My kids ate fruits and vegetables though because my husband and I like them. Most things in my garden they would eat, but when I started making changes it wasn’t always easy.

Kids and sometimes husbands have this thing about “healthy” food.  If the name sounds weird, if it looks weird, or if they think it would taste weird they won’t touch it with a ten foot pole.  The mark of a good mom is to hide healthy things in the junk.  You should definitely start simple.  Instead of box mashed potatoes..use actual potatoes.  Making switches on basic things really helps the hiding later.  Mac and cheese..instead of a box.. use melted cheddar and milk.  If you can get them used to the simple food changes then you can hide things better.

So what can you hide in food? All sorts of stuff.  One of the easiest to hide is Cauliflower in Potatoes.

Cauliflower

You have to be sneaky when you hide things because not only are you hiding them in the food, you have to hide them from the kids while preparing the food.  Cauliflower can be disguised in potatoes really easy. Don’t use a lot at first and then you can build it up.  Make sure to salt the water when boiling to help draw out that cauliflower taste. They mush really easily and can be blended with the blender when you do the potatoes. You can also use turnips in mashed potatoes too.  Cauliflower alone can be made into a “potato” salad.

Another item you can hide is greens.

Courtesy of pcc.edu

Courtesy of pcc.edu

Now here your not really hiding them but simply adding them in small quantities that they won’t notice.  Soup is great for hiding greens in.  I dehydrate my greens and crush them into tiny pieces.  Then I sprinkle them into my soups. The kids see me adding spices from jars and so grabbing that jar of crushed greens is just another “spice”.  Unknown to them it is a mixture of swiss chard, ruby red chard, kale, romaine lettuce, spinach, leaf lettuce, and turnip greens.  That’s a lot of vitamins for that “spice!”  Those crushed greens work well in hamburgers.  Stop buying the prefab burgers and make your own.  Hamburger with onions, some crushed greens, an egg, and some basil or thyme really makes a taste burger.  Help hide the good stuff by making it a cheese burger.

You can hide nuts and seeds in things also.

Courtesy of rawfoodrecipes.com

Courtesy of rawfoodrecipes.com

Meats, muffins, cakes.. adding crushed or ground nuts and seeds will boost flavor and nutrition. Flax seed, sesame seed, walnuts, pecans, peanuts…the list goes on. Cookies are a great hiding place for good stuff. Add in chocolate and they don’t even seem to notice!

Whole grain flours hide well also.  Most recipes you can swap out half for a good whole grain when it comes to flour.  My bread looks white..but it’s not all white.  It is half white and half white whole wheat. Plus I’ve got raw honey in there, raw milk, free range eggs, raw butter, olive oil..I mean its so healthy it would kill a kid if he knew!  Most recipes the kids/hubby won’t notice.

Barley apparently hides in meatloaf.  I read another blog recently that said to use barley in your meatloaf to hold it together. Who knew!  The internet is your friend.  There are sites that you can list ingredients and then they find you recipes. Do a search on hiding “x” in food.  You can also experiment with things. The worst that could happen is they don’t eat it.

Don’t be afraid to be a tad forceful when asking your family to eat it.  If it tastes good to you it probably tastes fine and they just know your up to something.  In our family we have a don’t ask/ don’t tell policy.  If they do ask what we are eating I usually say, “Food and if you don’t like it you can starve!”

Happy Hiding, and Happy Homesteading!! 😀

Categories: Homesteading | 2 Comments

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