Tuesday, December 28, 2010

i be jammin'

Today, I canned some triple berry jam to utilize some fruit that partially defrosted when our refrigerator went bust a few days ago. Waste not; want not and a great way to make lemonade out of our old refrigerator, I mean lemons. Oh, our old refrigerator was a lemon. Canning this jam has been on my list anyway, but I put it off for other things and to save heating up the kitchen in the middle of summer. Today was the first time I've used the low-sugar pectin, and I really like it. The jam is just sweet enough, and I feel much better about the quantity of sugar used.

I have to say I've been loving some pepper jelly on biscuits in the morning, but this will be a great change up.

What's your favorite jam/jelly?

Happy homesteading,


Monday, December 27, 2010

Living Without

We have been living without a refrigerator since yesterday. Plain and simple, our refrigerator is a lemon. We have only had it for about 5-6 years, and we've had to fix it 3 times prior to yesterday. Each time we pay to fix it and have to frantically eat and/or throw away good food while we wait for it to be repaired. Yesterday, we decided we have had enough and made the gut-wretching decision to buy a new one. Ugh!!! It absolutely killed us to make that decision, and we were probably the most unexcited consumers the salesperson has ever seen. The whole time the salesperson droned on about the newest technology and features, I was thinking this money could have gone to so many more useful purposes. Not that a refrigerator is not useful, but I expected more years from ours. Our saving grace is our small chest freezer. With the refrigerator being so unreliable, I started using the freezer to store our meat. Fortunately, the temperature is hovering at freezing or below outside, so we shoved what we could into our chest freezer, and packed everything else in coolers and containers and put them in the workshop. Meanwhile, I've been using what I can because most of the fruits and vegetables are now partially defrosted, and they will never be the same if I try to refreeze them. I have an interesting soup concoction in the slow cooker right now, and tomorrow I plan to can some blackberry jam, which has been on my list anyway, and probably bake some cranberry/blueberry muffins. I made a joke this morning about going out to the spring house to get breakfast materials and had to tell Nate what a spring house was. So, if you don't know what a spring house is, here's your pioneer lesson for the day.

A spring house, or springhouse, is a small building used for refrigeration once commonly found in rural areas before the advent of electric refrigeration. It is usually a one-room building constructed over the source of a spring. The water of the spring maintains a constant cool temperature inside the spring house throughout the year. In settings where no natural spring is available, another source of natural running water, such as a small creek or diverted portion of a larger creek, may be used. The main use of a spring house is for the long-term storage of food that would otherwise spoil, such as meat, fruit or dairy products.

Happy homesteading,


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Greenhouse Installation, Part Two, a Comedy of Errors

The greenhouse assembly was really more comedy than errors. Prior to purchasing this kit, I had read alot online about the assembly process of this particular greenhouse and already knew the instructions would be vague and hard to follow. There are whole discussion threads on the subject on various websites where people post pictures and clarification of the instructions and how they improved the basic plan. I literally spent over an hour one morning just reading through the various threads to prepare. So, we approached the project warily and with the great tools provided. Just joking.

Luckily, Nate is very handy and can assemble anything. He did a few things backwards, but fortunately they were easily remedied. The biggest problem he had was with the window assembly, and we didn't get quite enough bolts. Luckily Nate had some that would work in his workshop.

Now we just need to make sure this is the best location for it. Since it's small, it won't be hard to move. Once we decide it's permanent, we'll run electricity, build some shelving, and modify it a bit more for good cross ventilation. I'm so happy with it and look forward to a stable, permanent place to start seeds.

Happy homesteading,


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Baby Goat Holiday Cheer

These baby goats are too cute!


I see two Nigerian Dwarfs in my future! How soon? I don't know, but I anxiously await the day.

Happy homesteading,


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Greenhouse Installation, Disappointment and a Silver Lining

Today is oh so chilly and overcast, and Nate has been out in the cold starting the ressurection of my greehouse. Normally I would have suited up with my long johns and wellies and been out in the middle of it, but I've had several work appointments today and have been coming and going, so this phase has been totally up to him. First he started by leveling out the ground, then made the base to which the greenhouse will be connected, and then continued building up the ground until the base was level. The next phase will be to start assembling the frame. Seeing this activity makes me want to pull out my seeds and start planning for 2011. I received my favorite seed catalog a few days ago, so the wheels are already turning.

Yeah, progress! Now the disappointment. This location is not were we wanted to permanently leave the greenhouse. The problem with our lot is we are completely surrounded by trees. Our neighbors on all sides have trees galore! Not ornamental trees, but tall 30-60 year old oaks and pines. Our neighbor to the east has probably 6-8 trees in his front yard and even more in his backyard. I have always wanted to take down trees in both his front and back yards but have been too chicken to ask. It dawned on me a few weeks ago that the back half of his back yard, which is not as densely populated with trees as the front half of his back yard, would be a great location for gardening if a few trees, rather than many, were taken down. And it would give me a perfect place for the greenhouse. We approached him about selling, negotiated a price, and I went down to the courthouse and pulled our neighborhood covenants from the 1940s. Here's the disappointment. The covenants do not allow subdivision of lots, so he can't divide his lot and sell us a portion of it. Through this process we discovered he has been wanting to take down trees but hasn't had the money to do so. He has agreed to let us take down whatever trees we want, at our expense, of course, but the benefit to us is that it will open our yard to more sunlight and a larger gardening arena, which is what I have been craving for years. Of course, the negative is we would be paying money to improve someone else's property even thought it would benefit us to some degree. I still think he would let us use his back portion for gardening free of charge, or at the least, rent it to us. Either way, I would probably start with container gardening instead of spending the time and expense of clearing the undergrowth and tree roots that abound. To really maximize the space, there are some trees that could come down but, once again, spending money on someone else's property is not ideal. Whatever we decide to do, whether it's take down some trees or container garden where the sun hits the best, it's nice to know we now have options that we didn't have a month ago, and that's my silver lining.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

All I Want for Christmas...........

is a greenhouse. Well, I've wanted one for my birthday, last Christmas, and any holiday for that matter. I have been collecting old windows for this purpose, but just can't get Nate motivated to tackle the job. Working out the framework for different sized windows would be a nightmare, he says. I was promised a greenhouse this fall, and it's now winter. So, I've compromised because I've lost patience. We bought a greenhouse kit today and leveled out a pad for it. The chickens had a blast eating the worms that surfaced. The greenhouse is actually going in a temporary location for now, or at least I hope it's temporary. We have bigger plans for it in the coming months, but they aren't definite, so for now, we will work with what we have.

Oh, and I broke in my muck boots and had a blast myself playing in the dirt!

Happy homesteading,


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Muck Boots

Okay, a gift to myself. I have been needing a good pair of muck boots for general chores around the garden that could be washed off and cleaned without getting my feet wet. But sometimes my frugal side just gets the best of me, and I've been making due with an old pair of tennis shoes. They just weren't up to the task though. Trying to get chicken poop out of tennis shoe tread is no fun. Anyway, tonight these cuties were calling my name. I'm so glad I bought them and look forward to using them. I know they will serve me well. And, they're blue, my favorite color!

Happy homesteading,


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Backyard Homestead, Finally

I have been coveting this book for over a year now, and it's finally on my bookshelf! I browse through it every time I go to the bookstore. The best part is I only paid $2.88 with tax for it. Between a coupon and rewards program money, I got it for a song.

It covers everything from vegetable gardens to cheesemaking to raising livestock. It seems to me to be a great starting point for anyone interested in homesteading, especially for those who only have 1/10 to 1/2 an acre. It focuses on utilizing the land efficiently and productively to get the most out of the property.

I can't wait to really sit down and start reading.

Anonymous: If you are reading this, you are in trouble now! You know who you are. Get your hammer ready. LOL!

Happy homesteading,