Tag Archive | homesteading

Homesteading with Chronic Illness

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.

Lunch prep for the week

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.

Farm Update

Spring is in full swing and Summer will be here in a couple days. Hard to believe we are so close to the summer solstice. Im not ready for days to start getting shorter, but I am tired.

Our strawberries are producing, not enough for my massive strawberry addiction, they are my favorite, but a local family farm is helping make up for our farms shortcomings. We are freezing and canning away. This year my daughter is helping with the preserving, her knife skills are impressive. She is making her first batch of jam all by herself. Im not sure if her desire to learn homesteading skills has increased or if she is making every excuse possible to avoid going outside with the cicadas.

Oh the cicadas, I don’t mind the sound. I don’t even really mind them. They just make everything look dirty and they dog wont stop eating them! The chickens and ducks love them. Hindsight is 20/20, I should have covered the farm with 100s of birds. The backyard has very few cicadas. Everywhere else they fly in your face, your hair, your clothes. It is no fun. So my daughter has decided to stay inside and make jam. When life gives you cicadas!

We have 9 baby goats with hopefully 5 more on the way. Baby goats are the cutest animal. Add baby piglets and tiny kittens the farm is calendar cute. We might do a photo shoot next year! It is hard to be grumpy when your surrounded by so many things that are just happy to be alive and love you.

The garden is busy. Always lots of work. Im still working on never having weeds. When I figure it out I will let you know, but it is getting easier. We are expanding it to an additional 50×100 foot section. My head spins just thinking of it. Moving compost and mulch one bucket at a time. Who needs a gym membership!

Well, back to work. I pray you all are healthy. God is good and life is precious. I appreciate my animals reminding me of that everyday.

A Quick Step

I say that Homesteading is like dancing.  The challenge is you do not always get to plan what dance you will be doing.  Today, the Lord blessed us with a quick step.  Things happened rapid fire and we were just responding to them.  Which can be a blessing and God always works things out for our good, sometimes it is just hard to keep your footing!  

One the farm we are having a challenge with foxes.  Today, the fox took our “pet” turkey.  Now, we do not normally have pet turkeys, turkeys are here for a season and then they are frozen.  This turkey had an umbilical hernia when it was younger.  This needed time to heal and she was not able to go to butcher with everyone else.  The problem then compounded itself.  She became 30 pounds.  We did not have a way to disbatch her on the farm and she was too big for the butcher to do.  So we kept her until we had another plan.  Little did we know the fox was the plan.  My husband went out and saw the fox killing her.  So we knew this was a fresh situation.  As sad and horrible as it is.  This meant that we would be able to save some of that 30 pounds of meat!  We were able to save and cook that meat for the dogs.  There was nothing wrong with it. It was perfectly wonderful meat, but I just felt safer giving it to the dogs than to me.  This situation meant that our dance changed.  We had to process this animal right away.  We respected her, loved her and valued the gift God had given us, we did not want to see it go to waste.  

While all this was going, I was in the process of making chapstick, bottling vinegar and rendering lard in the kitchen.  I had to quickly finish what I was doing to make room for this blessing.  Time to turn on the music, put your head down and just dance.  

Making our own chapstick is something that we have started to clean up our lifestyle and use the blessings God has given us.  We use the wax from the bee hive and coconut oil.  That is it.  Clean simple chapstick using the “waste” product of bee keeping.  Part of the homestead is using all that you have been given.  
The vinegar is made from apples.  These are the storage apples that have started to go soft in the apple fridge.  I chop them up, fill a jar with apples, water and a tablespoon of sugar.  Cover with cheese cloth and let science do the work.  This jar sat on the counter for 6 weeks till it reached a pH of 3.  Today was the filtering and bottling day!  It feels good to be able to make vinegar for my family.

 
The dance continues.  This is the dance from a couple of weeks ago that I just never hit publish.  It can be added to the snapshot of this weekend. 

Sunday Snapshot for Jan 24. 

I am horrible at keeping up with the blog, I am sorry for that.  There are so many things that I do as part of the dance that we call life and I dont think of them as extraordinary.  My loving husband reminds me that our life is not ordinary and I need to write about it.  So I am just going to write about our weekend.  A normal weekend!  

We are down to only 6 bars of soap, so it was time to make another two batches.   Our soap is very simple, it is lard, goats milk and lye. We also have a few variations that include lavender oil or tea tree oil.  My family has sensitive skin and we like to keep our skin care simple.  We use this basic soap as hand soap, body soap and shampoo.  I prefer the lavender oil and during the summer when we have poison ivy and bug bites that tea tree oil is amazing.  This weekend we made a batch of with lavender oil and a batch with just goats milk.   We do this every couple of months, when we notice our supply is running low.  Start to finish it maybe takes us about an hour.  The bars of soap have to cure for about 6 weeks after they are made. 

Next, we organized and cleaned out one of our barns/sheds.  We use this building for many things throughout the year.  Right now, we are using it to get our wood splitter and lawn mowers out of the winter weather.  

The afternoon was brisk but the sun felt great.  We took advantage of the sun and split about a half a cord of  firewood. There is going to be a wintery mix of weather headed our direction this week and we wanted to get some firewood on the porch ready to use.  

As we approach the end of January, it is time to start planting for the high tunnel. Lettuces, kale, leeks and celery were started today.  We will be starting seeds now weekly till August.  It just becomes part of our weekly dance.  For the next few months the seeds will be started in the house, but eventually we head out to the high tunnel.  Our bathroom is our temporary winter  grow space, which means that we will not be fostering kittens for a while.  When we foster kittens we use our bathroom as the kitten room. We are sad to not have them, but thankful for the break and ready for the next season of our year. 

In addition to making dinner and planning out the details of our meals for the week, we made the dog’s food for the week.  Our dog has been put on a special diet by the vet.  It is rice, chicken and pumpkin to supplement her store bought dog food.  We buy the rice in bulk but the chicken and pumpkin come from the farm.  We feed the dogs old laying hens, roosters or male ducks.  This helps to keep the flock controled and allows everything to go to use.  Crock pots or the woodstove  make short work of cooking the squash, rice and chicken. We are thankful to reduce the amount of dog food we are buying at the store.  I do not think we will ever produce all our animal feed on the farm, but we are working to supplement not only the dogs food, but the pigs and chickens feed as well.  This year we will be planting a garden just for the animals.  A few seeds, soil and sunshine can save us hundreds of dollars in grain.  

This year we are still working on making as much as we can on the farm.  I have told you how we are replacing store soap with our soap.  Another simple replacement we have made to reduce waste and save money is paper products.  We use cloth napkins, washcloths, and handkerchiefs.  The toilet paper we use is bought in bulk and there is no plastic in the packaging.  Reducing our pastic useage, which is one of our goals. 

These are just things that we do as we go about our day.  The dance always changes as we the needs of the farm change.  I dont always know the steps or the song, but I dance my way through it anyway.  

Life is a Dance, You Learn as You Go. ~John Micheal Montgomery

June’s A Jumpin

I was talking with a friend this morning and I reviewed the list of things that I would be doing today, it goes something like this:

Breakfast, coffee, devotional, animal chores, plant crop of corn, cook breakfast for this kids, start them on their school work, process 30 pounds of strawberries, laundry, mop and wipe down kitchen after making jam, cook lunch, help kids with more school, clean up, work in garden till 6, cook dinner, eat dinner, clean up dinner, help with evening chores, bath children, shower, and pass out!

As I look at that list, a few things change from day to day, like I might weed instead of plant corn, or process beets instead of strawberries, but this is my day.  No wonder I do not have time to keep my blog up to date!  The difficult thing with never leaving work is you never leave work.  I never get to say “Ok, Im done for the day”.  The minute you do that a chicken gets out or someone throws up.  I do however, need to find a way to write more.  So here I am relaxing, thank you for listening.

The pigs have arrived!  They are doing great, we were able to move them out of their baby pen and into the field this week.  They are loving the grass and the open space.  Their names are Ketchup, Mustard and Relish.  We keep saying that we are going to have a race, like they do at the baseball game but it has not happened yet.  These pigs are just as sweet and lovable as our last ones and we are just head over heals in love with this breed.  It is looking more and more like pigs will become a forever animal on our farm.  Within the next year or two we will get a breeding pair to guarantee we always have this breed around.

 

We are almost down with our spring meat birds.  One batched has already gone to butcher and the second batch will go in about 2 weeks.  This is the first year we have really been able to put them out on pasture and we are, as always, learning new things.  The major learning curve this year has been predators.  We have lost many birds, to raccoons and fox this year.  The fox is continuing to be a problem, we have trapped some, but electric fencing around the outside of everything seems to be our only solution.  We have added many small fence chargers for the moveable bird pens and for the pigs and goats.  This seems to be working but we still live in fear.

Lastly, we are happy to announce that we received our cost share grant from  Soil Conservation.  It has been a long, very long process and we are not done yet, but they did tell us we have been approved.  We are excited to start the next step which is planning, estimates, building and yet more paperwork.  It is worth it!  I can not wait to be able to open up those fields and let the animals run.

Alright, enough relaxing for me, time to start chores.  I hope you have a great day!

 

Buying a side of Pork

So we are starting a new chapter on the farm, we are selling sides of pork.  We loved raising pigs last year and this is something we are going to expand on.  I hope we continue to love it!

 

Pork Cuts Vintage Vintage blackboard cut of pork

the picture is from imgarcade.com

This is the email that I sent out to inform people about what it means to buy a side of pork.  I hope that it is helpful to you as well, even if you do not buy from us.

Hello,
Thank you for expressing an interest in buying Pork from our farm.  This email has a lot of information in it but if you still have questions please feel free to call me.  Most of the people that we sell to are friends and family or friends of friends and family.  We love you all and will not judge you one way or another if you decide not to buy from us, this is not for everyone, we understand that and will continue to love you no matter what!

About our Pigs: Our pigs are Gloucestershire Old Spots, a heritage breed of pig that is an original homesteading pig breed from England.  These pigs were almost extinct in 1990 in the United States but are making a come back now through awareness and education.  This breed thrives on pasture, has an amazing personality, is easy to handle and the meat tastes great!  We raise our pigs on grass, not concrete like most pork is raised.  They play in the mud and sunbath.  They are given as much pasture as they want, but are fed grain as well, they are not 100% pasture raised. They are also given treats like veggies from the garden and they love apples and watermelon.

When buying a half an animal you pay the farmer for the animal, the farmer transports the animal to the butcher for you, and then you pay the butcher for the custom processing.  Buying pork in bulk can sometimes be confusing, especially if you’ve never bought your meat this way. You want to think about what cuts of pork you and your family like to eat. In the Spring, you might be thinking about grilling meats, but remember to think ahead to the fall and winter when you might cook more roasts and stews. The butcher vacuum packs the pork and it will keep in the freezer for a year or more. When you buy a side of pork, you are the one that calls the butcher and tells them how you want the meat packaged and processed.  How big do you want your pork chops?  How many pounds of ground pork do you want in one package?  How big do you want your roasts / ham?  Do you want it cured or left uncured?  Buying this way gives you more control over your food.

Lets talk Money: The cost is $4.25 per pound of hanging weight to the farmer (which is me!), and the custom processing costs to the butcher.  The processing costs varies slightly depending on what you want but it is about $80 give or take depend on the size of the pig. The price is based on the hanging weight of the pig, which is the weight after the head, feet and organs have been removed, but before it has been butchered into usable cuts. We estimate that the hanging weight of a side of our pork will be between 70 and 100 lbs. That equates to about $400 for a side of pork, plus the $80 to the butcher. Add those together and that is the per pound cost of the meat.  To compare it to the cost at the store, look at the price for a pork loin, ground pork, bacon, ribs, ham and chops; average all that together and you will get an idea of how the price per pound compares.
You pay $200 now to me as a deposit and the remaining $4.25 per pound to me when we find out the hanging weight.  You pay the butcher directly when you pick up your meat.

Cuts of Pork
There are five specific sections to a hog, two of each section if you’re buying a whole hog, or one of each if you’re buying a side:

– Loin
– Belly
– Ham
– Shoulders
– Ribs

This is a rough picture of what you can get, it changes depending on the size of the pig and how you want it processed: 6 pounds of bacon, 7 pounds of rope sausage, 16 pounds of ground pork, 6 pounds of shoulder roast, 4 pound loin, 9 pound ham, 4 pounds ham steaks, 9 pounds pork chops, 1 smaller pork loin, 4 pounds spare ribs, 1 1/2 pound spare ribs, and 1 1/2 pound baby back ribs.

Ok, I know that was a lot of information.  Please, please let me know if you have any questions!  I currently am picking up 3 baby pigs at the end of April.  I already have 1 1/2 reserved.  If you are interested please let me know so I make sure I have enough.

Still Learning

I wanted to set the record straight, right here and right now.  I know nothing about Homesteading! My husband and I have a dream.  We want to be food indepenant.  We want to live simplier lives and be good stewards of the gifts that we have been given.  This dream has grown and changed over the years leading us to where we are now, a small homestead.  Our dream has been fueled by fellow bloggers, Mother Earth News, YouTube, food sensitivities and a general love for dirt among other things. After growing food, composting, raising chickens, rabbits and fish for the past 3-5 years, I think it is still safe to say we have no idea what we are doing. 
I watched a documentory about Market Gardening and the woman said “how do you become an expert at something you only every do, maybe 50 times”.  That really resinated with me. Think about it, we are in our 30’s right now, if I grow potatoes for the next 50 years I will have only grown potatoes 50 times.  It is said that it takes doing something 30 times for it to become a habit.  How many times do you have to do something to become an expert? I am certain that I will never stop learning and I will never be an expert.
Now that we own our dream homestead, everything we are doing is new.  Even silly things like planting in the ground… I have never done that.  The only successfull gardening I have ever done has been in raised beds.  I do not know how to plant seeds in the ground!  This year is a perfect example of that inexperience.  All of our plants died.  I did not know to ask the previous farmer how much fertilizer he put on the field this Spring.  Who would know to ask that, it was just field grass. Well, weeks before we took over the property, he put the strongest fertilizer you can buy on the land and killed all my seedlings.  I just thought, “wow, you are really bad at this planting in the ground stuff”.

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Currently, we have 46 chickens and 7 ducks.  I have never owned this many chickens.  I honestly have no idea what I am doing.  We have read all the books, gone to workshops, researched online, but when it comes down to it, we have never done this before.  At this point I am just praying we do not get the bird flu and lose all our birds.
Within 3 weeks of closing on the farm, I decided it was the perfect time to get baby goats.  We have never owned baby goats, we had no structure to keep them in and no fences, we obviously needed goats.  I know nothing about goats, this is a fly by the seat of your pants, learn as you go operation.  With a lot of hard work from my husband, I can now say the goats have a great run in building and a fenced in yard. Currently are doing very well, but I have no idea what winter will bring.
Before closing on the farm, I contacted a pig breeder, because what you really need when you move to a farm with no buildings and no fences and no idea what you are doing, is pigs.  The pigs arrived a month after the goats and here it is 1120 at night and I am up researching how to raise pigs.  They are currently 5 months old, some people would have tried to figure things old before they bought them, but I am a fly by the seat of your pants kind of girl.

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So consider this your warning.  If you are coming here for experience and absolute education, this is not the site for you.  If you would like to come along side my family as we learn, please take my hand and we can jump in together. 

Beef Brisket

My husband told me that I needed to post more about our everyday life.  So today is just an ordinary Tuesday and I just put dinner in the oven. Tonight because I need to go to the grocery store, I am just using what I have on hand.  Tonight it is beef brisket.  Yes, I have beef brisket on hand.  We order 1/2 side of beef a year, every March. Ok stepping on my SOAP BOX: To make good meals, you need to start with good food. We grow our own or buy local as much as possible.  The beef that we buy, we know the name of the farm, we know the name of the farmer, the vet that takes care of the cows, the name of the cow, heck I know the name of the cow’s mother! I know where my beef comes from, that is so important.  It is really important to our family because there was this incident when stores where spraying their ground beef with red dye to make it look fresher, my husband is allergic to red dye.  I know 100% for a fact that there is no red dye in my beef!  Plus, I get a better price per pound than the store, plus, plus, I am helping small local farmers.  It is a win, win, win all around.This is the farm we choose to support, Family A’Fair Farm like them on Facebook to follow what they are up to.  OK stepping off soap box.

This time of year,  I always seem to have the higher end cuts left at the end of our “beef year”.  I think that I am going to use them for Birthdays or Anniversaries, but I never do.  So here it is the end of February and I am almost out of ground beef and chicken.  So we are having beef brisket on a Tuesday! Let’s get cooking.

If I was organized and planned my life out perfectly, I would have taken this brisket out of the freezer yesterday. I know I am committing culinary sin by not marinating my meat, but I function in the real world and I honestly am proud of myself for thinking about dinner before 4:30.  Also, like I said, I need to go shopping and we are at the end of a “storage” season.  I am out of my canned tomato sauce, I am out of chicken, out of ground beef, running low on onions, BBQ sauce, stock… the list just goes on.  I am so ready for spring and the food abundance that it brings.  Anyway, I threw together this brisket with what I had in the fridge, so pardon my unclear measurements.

My last minute marinade, is the last of the BBQ sauce that I have in the fridge, plus some water to make sure I cleaned out every drop of sauce.  1/2 a cut up onion, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp mustard, 2 tbsp soy sauce, 3 cloves of garlic (various sizes, about 1/2 tbsp garlic), 4 tbsp blush wine, plus some for myself, and yes it is after noon somewhere.  I also added cracked pepper and some paprika, I have no idea how much, just till it looked right.  I stirred all this together and poured it over my half frozen, un-marinated brisket in a 8×11 baking dish and covered with tin foil.

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I threw the whole thing in the oven on 275.  The high temp today outside is suppose to be 10 degrees, so I was OK with running the stove for a couple of hours. If I did not want the stove on, I would have put this in the crock pot this morning.

I am going to serve this brisket with gluten free no yeast rolls that I making from scratch, hand cut french fries and whatever green vegetable I can find in the freezer. I think it will be green beans, again my stock is running low!

I tried to add a recipe card, but I am having software problems.  I will update final pictures of the meal and a recipe card later this evening.
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Baby Bunnies

Today began like any other day, I made breakfast and got my husband ready to go to work.  It was cold this morning and lightly snowing.  I asked him to bring in a load of wood and to check on our expecting momma rabbit, Aurora.  He returned from the yard with 4 ice cold baby bunnies. In the past I would have just said that they were dead and put them in the trash.  However, since the last time we had cold babies,  I have been told over and over again a baby is not dead until it is warm and dead.  So I did what any normal person would have done and stuffed the bunnies in my bra until I could get the heating pad warmed up.

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I folding the heating pad in half and put them inside like a taco.  I rubbed the outside of the heating pad trying to stimulate them. About 5 minutes passed and I noticed that one of the babies was starting to wiggle.  My heart skipped a beat.  I had no idea when these babies were born or how long they had been outside of the nesting box.  I never expected them to be alive!  It took about 20 minutes, but three out of the four babies came to after being rubbed and warmed up.

My husband brought a large tote with pine shavings, hay, the nesting box, food, water bowl and Aurora into the house.  We are getting a winter storm today and I wanted to be able to keep a close eye on these precious babies.  Aurora is one of my proven does.  She does great in the summer, she is the rabbit that lives in my garden.  She is slightly spoiled rotten, she lives in the two story hutch with a nesting area that does not require a nesting box.  During the summer, she never drags any babies out of the nesting area and she is a wonderful momma.  In the winter, we move her out of the garden and into the Bunny Barn.  She does not like this idea.  In the Bunny Barn she struggles with babies.  I think that the nesting boxes are just not the right size for these large breed rabbits.  She pulls fur and makes a great nest, but always ends up with babies outside the box. Last winter she did not have any successful winter litters.  We will keep her inside the house just long enough to make sure the babies are doing OK and then I will take her back outside, hopefully by then the storm will have passed.

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Bringing Aurora in the house was a shock to her so I helped her feed the babies the first time.  I am hoping that she will calm down and be able to feed them herself, but right now I know those babies are very hungry and can use some cuddle time with Mom.  I flipped Aurora on her back and she let the babies lay on her stomach and nurse.  It was very cute.   I am thankful for the three babies that we were able to save.  I think this litter will always have a special place in my heart.