The farm is all a buzz, literally, with two bee hives and spring flowers we have the hum of bees in our ears. The downside to the bees is that they like the water that drips out of hoses. We have to be very careful when we pick up the hose and fill the animal waterers. The bees are very helpful with farm chores and will ride on your shoulder or pant leg to keep you company. We are very thankful to have them around. I would hate to have to hand pollenate all of our plants. We already have tomato flowers that are ready for the bee’s assistance.
Every spring on the farm is filled with the sound of chicks. PEEP PEEP PEEP PEEP. This sound can be heard in the barn, the backyard and our bathroom. Turkeys and ducks serenade us day and night, did I mention night! I am ready for the chicks to all be outside. I am thankful that warm weather is in the forecast.
Over the last several months we have been working on cleaning out the house and farm. With every load we take to the dump, recycling yard or the donation center a weight is lifted off of us. Now let me clarify, minimalism is a far way off. So I created a word, “simplism”. Autocorrect does not like me! We are attempting to simplify our life. We have a lot of manage, food, animals, garden, energy, water… the list goes on and on. I dont need to add clutter to that list. Throughout this process we have learned a lot, I am going to list three benefits of Simplism.
One: The greatest benefit has been the house is easier to clean. Can I get an “Amen”? We can speed clean the whole house in 30 mins as a family! When there is not as much clutter, there is not as much to pick up. We have eliminated “extra” furniture. This has reduced flat surfaces. Flat surfaces are magnets for clutter.
Two: We are organizing what is important and useful to us. This process has allowed us to better understand our resources. When I know what I have and I know where it is, I dont have to buy another one. It is saving us money and time.
Three: Reduced anxiety. I never realized how much clutter and chaos caused me anxiety. I admit it, at times, occasionally, once in a while, I am a control freak, maybe. Clutter makes me free completely out of control. It is embarrassing. It is distracting. Straight up stressful. With every load of “stuff”, most of which I cant even name what it was, the anxiety decreased.
How to Start? Just start with the easy stuff. Start by emptying trash bins. Recycle old newspapers and magazines. Clean out clothes have have holes or dont fit. It is a snowball effect. The more you clean out the more you want to clean out. You will not regret it. The hardest part is starting. Sent a timer, put on your jam and just start. It did not accumulate overnight, you dont have to get rid of it overnight. I will be praying for you!
Even though there are some dear friends who would tell you Im not right in the head, my brain is the only part of my body that I feel works right! The rest of my body has times when it betrays me. There are days when all I can do is lay in bed. POTs disease is the main diagnoses that keeps me down, but like so many things it is not straight forward. I have other “conditions” that when mixed with POTs equal difficult days. If you are not familiar with POTs disease, I encourage you to google it. They can explain it better than I can.
So when POTs leaves me in bed, I am stuck thinking, dreaming, at times feeling very defeated! At those times, in my mind, we make everything from scratch, never go to the store, we are out of debt, work 100% on the farm, are 100% self sufficient, food and energy independent. The reality is at that moment my kids are eating boxed cereal and dinner may be a frozen pizza. I am thankful that I have a local store to fall back on when I can’t do it all myself.
What I struggle with is compromise, am I a failure at homesteading because my kids are eating Chick-fil-a for dinner tonight. I feel like it. Learning to be at peace with my body and my abilities is not something I am doing with grace. I look like an emotional rollercoaster, one minute is making my own mayonnaise and the next I am dipping a fry in Chick-fil-a sauce. Total extremes from raising the food 100 percent on farm, the next a Big Mac.
I dont have the answers. I just wanted to share the struggle with you. Even if I am in bed or not able to work the farm 40% of the time, I am still proud of the other 60%. We are still learning. We are still striving to live a more sustainable life. The only one who puts guilt on me, is me. That is not how God wants me to live my life. I am learning to give every situation to God, daily. I am learning to pray and give thanks whether I am in bed or planting vegetables. I am praying for God to keep teaching me, keep molding me, keep leading me. My POTs is not a mistake, God has allowed it to happen and I pray he is glorified through it. My family is wonderful. They support me and care for me. My husband said that the POTs slows me down so the rest of the world can keep up. I appreciate his encouragement. If you are struggling with your health, don’t believe the lies of guilt. Believe that you are loved. Beautifully and wonderfully made.
This week is a short week with the Holiday and it is just an off week for us. Trying to prep for that is not always easy and sometimes makes me want to just order pizza! This week we will have to eat at least one meal out, but that is ok.
It is almost March and our apple supply is getting lower. We grow some of the fruit that we eat, but most of it comes from Lewis’ Orchard in Cavestown Maryland. http://www.lewisorchards.com/. We buy in bulk from them all year, strawberries, peaches, pears, apples and plums. At the end of the apple season, right before Thanksgiving, we purchase 5 bushels of apples. Some of these apples are storage apples and they last longer into the winter, than some of the others. We have a refrigerator dedicated to just apples for about 4 months of the year. The rest of the year, the refrigerator is the overflow of everything I need to process, milk, fruit, veggies, eggs and even cheese. We are so blessed.
As the apples start to go soft, I need to process them faster. I can do it all at once as apple sauce and can it for later, but instead we make it in smaller batches in the Insta-pot. This allows some whole apples to be made into pies as late in the season as possible. Mrs. Lewis will tell you the best pies comes from whatever mixture of apples your have left in the fridge. This week we made a large Insta-pot full of apple sauce and an apple pie. The apple pie will not last long, but the apple sauce will be for lunches all week.
With Wednesday, February 23 being National Banana Bread Day, I needed to make my banana bread ahead of time in honor of the holiday. We will have this for breakfast this week with our eggs. Having breakfast breads made ahead of time, makes mornings much easier for the kids.
I have made chicken salad the last few weeks and my son honestly prefers turkey. We raise 12 turkeys a year so that we can have one turkey a month for lunch meat. When we butcher the turkeys 9 of them are cut into quarters. This makes them easier to cook for just a weekend meal and then leftovers for lunch. Our meal tonight was turkey and the leftovers made two weeks worth of sliced turkey for lunches. I froze one weeks worth, pre-sliced and ready to go. Cooking a turkey also gave me a quart of wonderful bone broth. This will be used for Turkey Pot Pie on Friday and I will use it for my lunches of homemade ramen. Every time we roast meat, we also save the stock. It is so much better than store bought stock and can be used in so many ways. It freezes great in ice cube trays for small batch cooking later.
Our snacks for the week will be homemade Chex mix and popcorn. The popcorn we make in small batches as needed. Half the family prefers salt and butter, the other half prefer kettle. We will make both through out the week to change it up. This is part of our slow effort to replace processed snack foods with ones made at home. It has been a slow process, I love chips, but we are working on it. Chex mix is a great way to clean some of the “stale” nuts and seeds out of the pantry. I had pumpkin seeds that the lid did not get put back on, after roasting them for an hour with the Chex mix, they were perfect.
This week is going to be a quick dinner week because we are so busy, with one dinner out. I hope that when you read my weekly prep you are encouraged to prep your own week. Maybe not to the level we do, I am crazy, but whatever works for your family. Learning how to cook at home and plan ahead, saves so much money and keeps me from being hangry. I hope that what I write blesses you and your family in some way. Please feel free to leave me a message or pass it on to someone who could be blessed by it. Have a great week and try to enjoy National Banana Bread Day!
The farm is a busy place right now, spring seed starting season is upon us. We have seed trays in the dinning room, in bathrooms, and in the kitchen. Pretty much any and all sunny windows have seeds in front of them. We start seeds so early because we do a lot of planting in the high tunnel. We will actually be putting more seeds directly in the ground in the high tunnel soon. Currently, we have carrots, lettuce and chard growing. Depending on weather forecasts we will be starting more lettuce, beets, carrots, peas, kale, radishes, and kohlrabi.
Most of our seeds have germinated really well. Every year I have some I have to plant more than once, but this year the pepper plants would not grow at all. I have a seed problem, as I have explained before, I read seed catalogues for fun. Better than any blockbuster Hollywood hit if you ask me. When I find a seed verity I like, I stick to it. I become very picky. One seed that I will not do without is Intruder Bell Pepper. These green beauties, grow amazing in my garden. Have thick walls with an mouth watering crunch. They are just sweet enough to eat like an apple straight from the plant. I know these seeds are tried and true. This year NONE of them sprouted. After panicking and having to take several deep breaths, I thought about reasons why they were not growing. I know the seed is good. They have light, the right amount of water and humidity. Still nothing. I had to walk away, then like a ton of bricks it hit me…. they were too cold. To solve this problem we put a heat pad underneath the seed tray. Like magic two days later we have germination starting. What a relief.
In addition to the seeds for the garden, I have started another round of sprouts. If you don’t grow anything else, grow sprouts. They are so good for you and give you the crunch in the winter when there is not much fresh. I grow my sprouts on the window ceil behind my kitchen sink. I use a mason jar and a wide mouth sprout lid. You can make one using window screen, cross stitch plastic mesh, or an old shirt. The air needs to be able to get in and out and you have to be able to drain the water off the sprouts. It takes about 5 days start to finish depending on the seed you use. These are alfalfa sprouts on day 3. I will have to fight to not eat them before day 5. I really enjoy them on a chicken salad sandwich, a salad, a turkey sandwich and sometimes just a pinch when I walk by!
The last two weeks have been a perfect time to prune our blueberry plants. They have just started to bud. We have several different verities that produce at different times, so they bud at different times. I have my lasted budding verity still to do, but everyone else has been all trimmed up. The cicadas really did a number on the blueberry plants last year. There was a lot that was dead and needed to be trimmed off. We have one plant that will be cut down to just one stem. You can see the pretty red stems with new buds on them. The brittle gray stems, especially those with visible cicada damage, are trimmed off.
Processing wood never stops. It is a blessing and a curse. We are thankful to be able to heat our house and cook at times with wood, however, a lot of “energy” still goes into firewood. This weekend however, I did not plan on processing wood. Mother Nature and a wind storm had other plans. An Ash tree came down on the fence in our goat yard. The blessing is no one is hurt. The bad thing is the fence took a major hit and the boy and girl goats got together for a Thursday night date. We do have some older nanny goats that we do not want to bred. Well, best laid plans, they may be kidding this year. I will let you know July 13th!
It has been a busy weekend. Still more to do as we prepare for the spring planting. We have fences to repair, chicken tractors to build, garden beds to build, pig fences to repair and rain watering systems to build. The work never ends. We are working to try and take it in stride. Doing what we can in small doses and sharing the work between everyone. I will trying to post again tomorrow with The Weekly Prep.
Sunday afternoon and evening is my time to prep for the week. We are doing a pantry challenge as a family so we are not going to the store. We are blessed to have a full root cellar and freezers from our years harvest. On Sundays, I turn those ingredients into lunch ready meals. This week I am prepping homemade apple sauce, chicken salad, hard boiled eggs, sausage kale soup and lemon blueberry muffins.
The apples from the orchard are starting to get soft. We are entering apple sauce, pie and cake season. We will be having an apple something for lunch every week till they are gone. Very rarely do I end up canning apple sauce. We normally eat them right up till strawberry season. Then we eat the fruit that is in season till apple season again. I mentioned that we limited our kitchen gadgets, however the instapot makes all this prepping possible. 8-10 apples, peeled and cored in the instapot. Warning stay below the fill line or it will squirt out when you release the pressure. Put in 1/4 cup of water to cover the bottom so it will not scald. I set the to 5 minutes. Most of the time I dont even need to puree, it is ready for jars straight from the instapot.
The chicken also goes into an instapot. I take the whole chickens from the freezer with the oldest date on them. Add chopped onion, chopped carrots and whatever other veggie scraps I have. These help favor the chicken a little, but they really are for the broth. Every week during the winter we have soup for dinner at least one night. This week will be potato soup. I will make extra and freeze it for lunches the week after that!
One of the things I love about our life is everything is connected. There is very little waste. The veggie trimmings and bones become stock. The stock becomes soup. The apple peels become pig feed or apple cider vinegar. Lemon peels become lemon zest for muffins. This connection challenges my creativity and makes me appreciate everything we have been given.
Our family is in the middle of another pantry challenge. We are using what we have on hand and not going to the store. The exceptions are medical needs, small parts to repair what we already own and pet food. Like most things this is great when the world is perfect and you have time to plan.
A major disruption of our “perfect” world is my health conditions. I require a high salt diet and there are many days in a week that it is a struggle for me to get out of bed. Most of the time I am able to push through, but there are times that I end up in bed for several days. Today, I am at the end of one of those shut down times and I am trying to get going again. When I have low blood pressure I crave very high salt foods. Today, the high salt food I wanted was nachos. Well I also want to stick to my pantry challenge and I do not have any velveeta on hand.
Those of you who know me, understand the need for velveeta is real! I love queso. However, I have yet to be able to successfully grow velveeta. If you own the magic seeds, meet me in a dark alley where we can come to an arrangement!
Anyway, so today I had to make queso with what I had in hand. Not all of these things are from our farm, but that was not the challenge!
1/4 cup prechopped frozen onions
1/4 cup prechopped frozen bell peppers
1 tbsp prechopped frozen hot peppers
1 tbsp taco seasoning
1/2 bar of cream cheese
1/4 cup of milk
1/2 cup pre cooked frozen ground beef
1 tbsp of homemade canned salsa
1 handful of shredded cheddar
In a small cast iron skillet I added the chopped onions, bell peppers, hot peppers, meat, salsa and taco seasoning. Allowed everything to defrost and warm up. Once warm I added the 1/2 block of cream cheese. It melted together but was a little too thick, so that is where the milk comes in. Just enough to thin it out to make way for the shredded cheddar. Mix together, heat till bubbling. Burn your mouth checking thr flavor.
So I created this wonderful, soul pleasing dip, only to open the bag of corn chips and find out one of my family members put them away with only a few chips left in the bag. I was not going to let this slow me down. I got the corn tortillas and oil. I fried myself some chips. This is a great way to use expired corn tortillas from the pantry. The end result was everything I wanted and needed it to be, no velveeta needed. I look forward to trying this summer when I have homemade goat cream cheese instead of store cream cheese. Enjoy and let me know what you think!
Have you ever heard a news story or seen a product advertised and think, “I might be different than everyone else.” First of all I didn’t see a product advertised, a hear it on the radio. I dont watch TV so that might be the first clue that I am different. The product I heard about was a smart toilet and other smart bathroom fixtures that link to your cell phone. I am so dumbfounded that I cant even wrap my brain around it.
Where we live, we loose power more than we would like. We have a well, so water becomes a problem sometimes when we dont have power. We have learned to adjust. We have drinking and cooking water always on hand and we keep flushing water available for when we need to flush to toilet. Now, add the complexity of a smart toilet. I would have to have power, water and my cell phone to flush the toilet? Really? How is this easier? I think I just might be different.
We are having our kitchen stove converted to propane. One, because of the power problem and two I like cooking with gas better. While everything is getting hooked up and inspected we do not have a kitchen stove. Our solution:
We are heating water for coffee and cooking eggs on the wood stove. No power and no kitchen stove needed. However, there are electric kitchen gadgets that would make this easier. A coffee maker for example. I prefer the french press. I’m high maintenance and different.
There is also something called an breakfast maker. It will cook the eggs, toppings and toast for a breakfast sandwich. Again, sounds cool for two seconds, till I dont have power or I have to try and clean this gadget. A cast iron skillet and make a breakfast sandwich too, all in one pan. I am different.
Now dont get me wrong, there are some electric gadgets that I love and really save me time and sanity. I love my instapot. However, I do own a stove top pressure cooker for when we dont have power. Being gluten free, we also use a rice cooker, a lot. But, I can use my pan. These things are great in the summer when we dont want to heat up the house. Or it I want to set it up and forget about it on a busy day. I also use these devices when we travel and have to cook gluten free meals in the hotel. We even have an electric ice cream maker. When you make everything from scratch you need some help sometimes. That was a gift after spending several summers with a really big left arm from cranking the ice cream churn. We do still use the churn for large batches. However, we do not have a cake pop maker, a tortilla heater, a hot dog warmer, George Forman grill, electric bread maker, espresso machine, panini maker, etc. The list goes on and on.
Part of simplifying our house was eliminating a lot of our one use items. Especially in the kitchen. If a skillet can do the job just as well, I dont need something I have to plug in. We are simplifying and unplugging. Again, I think I am different!
Being in the kitchen is something that brings me joy. I love creating and sampling my creations. On Sunday I get to be in the kitchen and let the rest of the world kinda drift away. I get to turn up music and sing while preparing for the week ahead.
For Christmas my daughter received a calendar with all the “National and World” Holidays on it. Today is National Pie day. Of course this is a holiday we must observe. We will have pot pie for lunch, which I made earlier this week and I will make small hand apple pies today with the left over pie crust in the freezer.
This week for breakfast we are going to be having sausage patties and bagels. Today I will cook the patties and bake the bagels. This makes mornings simple for everyone. I will be following a modified bagel recipe from www. glutenfreeonashoestring.com. I am still working out the kinks, when I get it to a good place, I will share the recipe here.
Lunches this week are going to be chicken salad and pulled pork. I have enough bread in the freezer so I dont have to bake that today. I roasted the chickens already, so I will shred it, add mayo, celery or radish, onion, and pepper. This will go in the fridge and be gone before I know it! Making chicken salad or other lunches ahead of time prevents us from having to buy lunch meat. The kids do not get much time for lunch and it has to be ready to go.
Dinner tonight will be pork roast. That will go in the instapot and the leftovers will become pulled pork for lunches. By making a “large” supper on Sunday, I can use the leftovers later in the week.
Since today is a light kitchen day, I will also spend time at the sewing machine. Also a very relaxing thing for me. I dont view it as a chores and Sunday is my day to do things I enjoy not just things on my to-do list. I have some clothing to mend and a gift to make for a friend.
The ground in the north east is covered with snow and the air has a bite to it. I am not a winter person, but it has its purpose. It is a time to focus on other things. A time for planning. Our whole year gets planned out in January / February time. I have taken inventory of our seeds and have ordered what we will need for the upcoming season. Trying to stay inside a tighter budget, I have ordered everything we will need for the next 12 months, including fall garlic. To resist the temptation of ordering more seeds, I am recycling the seed catalogs and they come in the mail. Which is so difficult. A seed catalog is like a romance novel for me. It is full of emotion and lust, dreams if things just out of reach. I did keep one, the PlayBoy of seed catalog, in my opinion. I just like to look at it and dream.
This week we have been focused on Menu Planning and rotating food in the cellar. We maintain a root cellar, a canning pantry, dry goods pantry and multiple freezers. Our basement is a grocery store. We have been so blessed with abundant harvests and blessings. For the most part all we have is raw ingredients. You are not going to find a frozen pot pie or pizza in my freezer. However, I have all the ingredients on hand to make either one of those. All things are possible with God and good planning. Our current challenge for ourselves, is how long can we go between store trips. We are hopefully going to make it till April.
Another focus we have right now is splitting firewood. I know this should be a summer task, but my boys hate splitting wood in the heat. So it is a winter family warm up activity. We are blessed to get lots of logs from the tree companies in the area. Allowing us to heat our house with our labor. We are very thankful.
All the goats are in with the buck, hopefully this will mean babies at the end of the school year. I work in a school and struggle managing school and kidding. We will have them ultrasound the first week of March to get a baby head count and rough due date.
I hope you are having a productive winter on the homestead. Stay warm. God Bless.