Simplifying Meals and the Budget (So You Want to Be a Homesteader #19)

I am learning a lot this summer.  I am learning to simplify my meal plan, my shopping list, and my budget in order to save time, energy, and a whole lot of money that will be used for other things.

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Making cookies is super easy and keeps Pa from buying packaged.

My meals are usually pretty elaborate affairs.  I would always have a long menu plan filled with delicious looking recipes from magazines and cookbooks.  Great if I happen to have all of those ingredients (not usually), and if I happen to want that particular meal on the night allotted.  No?  Then we were out at a restaurant.

When do you think restaurants skyrocketed in price?  It seems like overnight but yet, a few years later, I am still shocked that $40-$60 is the average ticket for two of us!  We noticed how we feel, the extra weight gain, the heartburn and pinned it down to when we go out.  I generally serve much smaller portions and the food is fresh and additive free at home.  We also took a look at the average we were spending on restaurants in a month.  Lord, have mercy.  That is money that could certainly be used elsewhere.

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Eggs, a little milk, chopped spinach and chives, sprinkle of cheese, salt and pepper.  Bake at 350 degrees until a knife comes out clean.  About 20 minutes.

I have found a few ways to make meals super easy.  First, choose a side or a main.  What do I have in the freezer?  Do I feel like wild rice?  What is growing in the garden?  Basically, what do I have?  Chicken, rice, frozen peas, carrots….I can make a homemade cream of celery sauce (milk, flour, salt, celery…you don’t need to buy those cans of cream soup), and fresh salad from the garden.  I plan that the day before so I can defrost as needed.  Things don’t get wasted, nothing languishes in the back of the fridge, and we eat clean and simply.  If I am short one ingredient, I go get it.

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I plan Doug’s lunch the day before as well.  Leftovers?  Sandwiches?  Do I need to make bread?

Hot cereal or homemade yogurt and granola start the day.

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By taking out elaborate and processed foods, I have saved time, money, and a lot of stress.

Now for simplifying the budget; this is important!  I needed to glean through and find lots of money.  Wedding, down payments….I have my reasons.  We usually do the envelope system.  I have $200 allotted for groceries for the week.  I would take two weeks worth of money and go to the store with my elaborate lists and spend the amount.  Until I noticed that I have tons of staples, frozen foods, and vegetables growing in the garden.  I was spending the money just to spend the money!  So instead I only get what I need.  A short list at the end of the weeks of things like flour, yeast, coffee, etc.  We are saving $400 a month on groceries.

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So then I’m on a roll, ’cause Mama wants a bigger farm.  Where else am I spending just to spend?  Well, let’s just say I am busy spending only what I absolutely need to.  No dwindling “extra” money in envelopes and using the dreaded budget buster- the debit card.  I am saving an average of $800 a month!

Try it!  Don’t use credit cards.  Rarely use the debit card.  Pull out a hundred bucks and make it last as looooong as possible.  Use what you have.  Cook simply with what you have.  Try to sell some things and earn a little more and see how quickly things add up.

Simple=Peace of Mind

The Simply Clean Home

Listen, if the baby gets under the cupboard and there is something in there that will kill her, I don’t want it in my house.  What that also means is that anything I use to clean is non-toxic, safe to breathe in, easy on the environment, inexpensive, and effective.  Are you sure it works?  Of course I am sure it works!  I have a zillion animals and a lot of dust.  I cook a lot and like things clean and tidy (for the two seconds they stay that way.)

I use baking soda in place of Ajax-style cleaners.  Put some on a dripping wet rag and smear all over the kitchen sink, the bathtub and tiles, and the bathroom sink.  Now rinse off.  Super shiny!  Add a little bit of tea tree oil to make it disinfectant.  You can also add a drop of castile soap.  I like Dr. Bronner’s.  I tried the discount one and it was oddly oily.

Dr. Bronner’s also cleans dishes but so does a non-toxic dish soap.  Either can be used in a big tub of hot water to clean the floors, walls, cupboards, etc.  A wrung out washcloth with a little soap cleans everything.  A touch of Dr. Bronner’s in the toilet bowl gets it nice and clean.

Once in awhile I will treat my wood with olive oil and lemon essential oil.  It is fabulous.

A touch of vinegar in any mixture disinfects as well.  In a book I just finished, My Life as an Amish Housewife by Lena Yoder (Amazon has it), she mentions adding a 1/2 cup of vinegar to the laundry as a fabric softener.

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I love using the clothes line to dry clothes.  I didn’t have a dryer for pry a decade before my adorable puppy started shredding all the clothes on the line and running around the yard with glee, a pair of stockings in his mouth.  I conceded and got a dryer.  I wonder if he is old enough that I can use the line again.  I love the time spent hanging clothes in the sun and the way they feel all warm as I fold them.  As with all chores on the homestead, it is meditative.  Wait until you read about my clothes “washer” below in the links of recipes I am sharing with you from my past blogs.  I am on the lookout for another one!

Conventional cleaners aren’t only poisonous when ingested, they aren’t biodegradable, which means they sit on the surface of waterways around the world, killing everything from microbes to fish and then reentering our water supply again.  Save money, go simple, and enjoy your gleaming house (until the puppy comes back in)!

The Handy Dandy Double Tub Washer (not a lick of rust)

The Clean Green Homestead

Fiber Arts, Animals, and Projects

These desert mornings are cool.  I put a cardigan on before I poured my coffee.  I put the chicks outside yesterday but I may need to run the heat lamp out there for mornings.  It’s going to get warm though.  It was ninety degrees yesterday and it will be again today (wasn’t I just wearing a winter hat Sunday?), so it may seem a terrible time to talk about fiber arts!  Fiber arts are apart of our series here and a welcome skill on the homestead.  Think cozy sweaters, gloves, blankets, and unique gifts all created by you.

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I have found that folks that begin crocheting first have a hard time knitting (where is that darned hook?).  I learned how to crochet from my grandmother, among many things (Lord, I miss her!), when I was thirteen.  I entered my first blanket into the school’s art show and won first place.  I was sure thrilled!  I went on to make many a baby blanket (about my patience level) for friends, all of my own children and my darling granddaughters.  Then moved on to cozies for candles and mugs and fingerless gloves.  Lots of fun ideas.  I have a loom downstairs I am just giddy to learn to how to use.  It may as well be a car in a million pieces; I haven’t the first idea how to put it together, let alone use it.  That is a goal for this winter.

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Gandalf at dusk.  That’s not snow, folks.

What about fiber animals?  I can’t have them here in the city (actually….I saw a weird video about folks spinning their dog’s fur), but I have had them before and will have them again.  Alpacas weren’t my loves.  They are cute and marionette-like, and kick.  Some of my friends adore their alpacas, it just may not have been our thing.  I need goofy, friendly, cuddly animals on my farm.  So we got sheep.  Oh goodness, I loved those sheep.  Olaf and Sven were just as bright as a pine cone but they adored me and followed me around the farm, in the house, and rather enjoyed rides in the truck.  They also liked to watch television.  (Spoiled much?)

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I have had a spinning wheel twice, and due to moving and patience issues in me (I do hope those are remedied now that I am an empty nester), I don’t have one, but that too will become one of my goals….maybe.  I once dropped off a whole bag of alpaca fleece a guy sold me to a fiber mill and I got back many skeins of lovely spun yarn.  I wonder if I could do it again myself.

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Homesteading is a lot of doing and a little bit dreaming.  We are always striving to do more, learn more, achieve more, enjoy more.  In the meantime, there are a few projects I am inspired to work on.  Better find some chunky wool…

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Here are some old past posts and projects for y’all!

Candle Sweaters and Pin Cushions (homemade gifts)

The Yarn Weasel

Alpaca Scarves and Crooked Washcloths

Vintage Handkerchiefs (a crochet project)

How to Crochet Fingerless Gloves (easy pattern!)

The Homegrown, Healthy Life (So You Want to Be a Homesteader #16)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, somewhere during women’s liberation we got led astray.  The frozen dinner folks were ready to pounce.  “Yes, women, go get a job!  We’ll take care of dinner.”  Every convenience began to show up, pushing women into the work force in droves.  Children left raising themselves and food being neatly packaged in factories in other countries.  Oh, and we still get to do all the housework!

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I am thankful for the ability to vote and that my daughters can be lawyers if they so choose, but I will take my original jobs back, thank you very much.  My father-in-law wondered when I am getting a job.  Let me tell y’all about my job and earnings.

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When you gaze down fluorescent lighted grocery shelves with the sounds of bad music and customers in the background, do you ever wonder where the food came from?  Or ever wondered what would happen in an emergency and you couldn’t come shop these aluminum and box lined shelves?  Have you read the ingredients?  Lord, have mercy.  A good 50% of all those foods are poison.  Not to mention grown who knows where, handled by who knows who, sprayed with who knows what.  I am my own food preserver.  I can, I dry, I fill my own grocery store shelves with nutritious, delicious foods.

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I am the farmer.  I grow all of our produce for half of the year, increasing yields each season.  I grow our own chickens (a new venture, granted).  We gather our own eggs.  To fill in, I use other housewives’ farm goods; beef, pork, milk, and organic vegetables to preserve.  It takes a village of us.

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I am the cheese monger.  I make our own variety of cheese, along with yogurt and ice cream, and butter.

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I am the baker.  In my bakery I make coffee cakes, and fresh bread for sandwiches.

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I am my family’s own doctor.  I make my own medicines.  I am the veterinarian around here.

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I am the tailor.  I am the accountant.  I am a hell of a gourmet chef.  I am the winemaker.

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I make body products and cleaning products and support my husband in his job.

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I buy organic flour and coffee, sugar and nuts.  Things of that nature.  I save a ton of money by growing, bartering, supporting local farms, and doing it myself.  Just think of all the things I don’t buy!  I don’t really have time to get a job, you see.  I am busy working and giving my family a homegrown, healthy life.

 

 

Saving Money with Free Activities

Maybe you would like a cheese press, or a new hoe.  Maybe a few goats or maybe you realize that every hour of your life is valuable and perhaps you would like a few of them to not be working a job, but rather enjoying your homestead.  In everything, we save money so we can spend on something else, whether it be a new tree or time in a lawn chair with a good book.

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For us, our budget buster is entertaining ourselves.  In a weekend we can easily blow through a few hundred dollars just by visiting a fun strip of antique shops, a few restaurants- it goes fast!  So we try to entertain ourselves with as many free things to do as possible, so we can maybe save for a down payment on a farm in the country or pay the caterer for our child’s wedding!

We had a habit for a long time of meeting our growing family for a meal.  The kids live in all directions and it was just easier to find a central spot and enjoy dinner.  A few hundred dollars, a loud restaurant, and a bit of chaos later, we knew there had to be a better way.  Due to the screwy weather around here, we celebrated Father’s Day yesterday instead of last week.  We still donned winter hats and coats but the sky stayed clear and only a few rain drops threatened our merry band.

We all brought something to eat to share.  Andy and Bree brought chips and prickly pear soda.   Shyanne baked triple berry hand pies and poppy seed muffins.  Emily and Reed brought homemade mini quiches.  I made a mulberry coffee cake and brought along a few thermoses of coffee.  Andy also brought along his ukulele.  What a treat!

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We met at a glorious hidden park in the middle of Colorado Springs filled with hiking trails and trees, rock formations, and wildlife.  Acres and acres of breathtaking beauty, as only Colorado can dole out.

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Cost?  Free.  Priceless time together.

 

Some other ideas for free entertainment:

We have an antenna on our television set instead of cable.  We can see basic channels so we can watch The Voice and most Bronco games.  The rest of the time it stays unplugged behind a painting.

We get free movies from the library.  If it looks interesting, we grab it.  We have seen a lot of wonderful films this way.  We jot down movies from the previews of the films we like and the list goes on.  We particularly love clever British films, especially with Maggie Smith.  New movies are at the library as well.

We utilize the library for our reading.  Reading is free and perhaps the most wonderful entertainment of all, as you can travel the world, see sights, eat foods, meet characters, live different lives, laugh, cry, get inspired!  I do buy books that are not available at the library, but the vast majority of my reading is from the library shelves.  For free.

Museums and zoos all have free days.  Museums and zoos in small towns are a lot more affordable and often less crowded and more fun.

We take long, meandering walks.  It gives us time to talk without distractions and we get exercise.

Play an instrument.  Have fun with the piano, guitar, or ukulele!  The chickens love good music.

I wouldn’t venture to say hobbies are free but there are ways to make them affordable and are a wonderful use of time.  Crocheting, cooking, sewing, painting, wood working, and so many more activities are actually homesteading activities that sweeten life and lead to a simpler, more peaceful lifestyle,

Pull up a lawn chair and grab a drink and set up in the chicken yard.  There’s nothing better on cable television than that!

 

What activities do you do that are free to entertain yourselves?

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Sustainable Energy on a Homestead

I know we are taking too much.  You know we are taking too much.  We know its a finite resource.  We all know the damage we are doing.  Part of the heart of homesteading is caring for the earth.  Knowing that it provides for us and we give back to it.  It is being in the natural world with the birds singing and less sound pollution.  It is the earth between our fingers and perennials that feed the bees.  It is a respect for natural order and weather patterns.  It is about using less (but getting back more!) and making sure our grandchildren have a place to run through fields of wildflowers and drink fresh water.

It is so much easier to not think about it.  But homesteaders don’t shield their eyes to reality.  We know where the red dyed meat in the styrofoam packing comes from.  We know that the oil fields and their destruction are fueling our cars.  We know how much petroleum is used to truck in nectarines from Peru in January.

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I love my wood stove.  It is a requirement for me on a homestead.  Wood is carbon neutral.  It quickly heats the house, makes the air smell amazing, and creates a beautiful cozy glow.  We have many downed branches and friends with downed branches so we haven’t had to buy wood.  (I was also a smidgen lazy this last winter.)  When our only heat source was wood in a homestead long ago, we used three cords and still had some in spring.  A cord is 4 ft x 8 ft x 4 ft wide.  Beware paying too much and only getting a face cord, which is 4 ft x 8 ft x 16 inches.

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We take Grandpa’s newspapers and get them from places that are about to throw them out.  Junk mail can be used as starter.  My go-to is small, dry pine pieces and pine cones to start a fire.  I am not as good as Doug at starting a fire and have the patience of a squirrel so I really pile up the kindling to make sure it starts.  The pine cones with the cinnamon scent that you can get over the holidays are the best.

Blessed summer has finally arrived, cool and slow, but warm indeed and I no longer need to make a fire.  But I do need to manipulate the cool nights and hot days to keep from running the air conditioning.  Open windows wide at night to let the cool air in.  Grow more trees around the house.  I despise curtains, so I don’t use those but they will keep it cooler/warmer.

When purchasing a new item, see if you can get one that is manual.  There are manual grain grinders, blenders, food processors, graters, and more.  You get a workout and save some electricity.  Purchase well made appliances that use less energy.  Unplug anything with an LED light.  Those buggers just keep sucking energy.  I didn’t like the television anyway.

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We invested in solar panels.  I cannot even say it was an investment because there was no money down and we pay the same amount we paid our electric company.  It is a no brainer.  We are providing one hundred percent of our own electricity here on our urban homestead.

Well, that wraps up day 14 of “So You Want to Be a Homesteader.”  Happy Solstice and enjoy the longest day of the year!

 

The Trusty Sewing Needle

I have a pretty specific style.  Oh, sometimes it changes depending on my mood, from Santa Fe diva to vintage rodeo queen, but I typically wear a mid to long skirt, top, and apron.  I have six Mennonite aprons that are my absolute favorite.  I have worn them nearly every day for so many years, I cannot believe how nice they still are.

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When I first starting writing this blog, a fellow blogger and I decided to make each other aprons and send them to each other.  It was a fun experiment and the one she sent me was from a pattern her Amish neighbor gave her.  Her neighbor then made me five more a few years later.  I adore their pinafore style and roomy pockets.  I still have a shy six year old hiding under my apron when we meet people.  I use my apron to wipe my hands on, carry in fresh produce, bring in eggs, and any number of other household tasks.  I get more compliments when I venture out in my flowy skirt and apron- most of the comments coming from young people.  I am bringing the apron back!

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My skirts are so worn that any day now they may just disintegrate off my hips while I am working in the garden.  Broomstick skirts and the like run $30-$100.  I would love some nice A line skirts.  I made a lovely, yellow print, long skirt before.  The elastic was a little weird, and I had to wear a shirt covering the top of the skirt at all times, but who cares?  I made it and wore it until it tore on a fence.  I really ought to get out my old Viking sewing machine and stitch some things together.  I am no sewing expert- my patience and lack of perfection just make everything “good enough.”  But who cares?  The chickens sure don’t!

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I have many aprons.  Some were precious gifts from friends.  Others belonged to my dear friend’s grandmother (both have passed away) and are close to a hundred years old.  I sewed quite a few myself.  But those Mennonite aprons, they are my favorite.  My blogger friend recently sent me the pattern to that apron.  Intimidating for sure!  But I can do it!  Right?

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Learning to sew is a wonderful homestead skill.

  1. You save money on clothes.
  2. You get exactly what you want.
  3. You help save the earth from cheap China clothes overload.
  4. Mending brings new life to clothes.

Sewing also leads to quilting, making cloth napkins, dresses for the chickens…

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Anyways, get yourself a sewing machine and a sewing kit and start on your creative journey!  Homesteading is incredibly satisfying, especially when you can create so much beauty.  We had a little fun with camera yesterday at my daughter’s house.  Here are a few pictures and a few other blogs I wrote over the years about this subject!

Farmgirl Swap

Love Wrapped Up in Stitches

Preserving Food- Dehydrating

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Remember last year I had a lovely young woman live with us during the summer?  Annie helped me out immensely and we have missed her since she has moved.  She and her long time boyfriend (my daughter, Emily’s fiance’s brother) are expecting their second little one in a few months, a baby girl named Alice.  They are moving to California after Emily and Reed’s wedding.  She came to visit me yesterday, which was such a treat.  We talked about how easy the gardening will be there and how nice for them to be near her family.  We recalled how she moved in a week from now a year ago and how she had just missed the mulberries.  We grabbed quart jars to head out and harvest but the weather had another idea, as the clouds opened and poured down heavy, nourishing rain.  We came inside and started the cheese instead.  I will be out there right after I finish this post getting those delicious mulberries!  Today I am making juice to can.

One of the main things to remember about being a homesteader is that you have to act quickly.  You have to be ready to drop everything and harvest all those berries, or eat all the lettuce before it bolts, or get a windfall preserved before it all goes bad.  There are many ways to preserve produce, including canning, freezing, and dehydrating.

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I highly recommend you get an Excalibur dehydrator.  They are top of the line, work forever, consistent work horses on the farm.  When we lost everything four years ago, I sold mine for $50.  Oy, the lament!  I must get a new one soon.

I have tried air drying.  Old fashioned, effective.  The ants love it when I air dry produce.  I placed peach halves dipped in lemon juice and water (so they don’t brown) onto screens laid across an indoor clothes drying rack and placed it outside.  The ants just scampered themselves right up the legs.  I sprinkled cinnamon on the apples after dipping them in the lemon juice/water mixture.  Ants love cinnamon.

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Last year I lined cookie sheets with tomato halves and put them in the oven at the lowest setting.  They turned real crispy but not all the way dehydrated.  I put them all in olive oil in the fridge for sun dried tomatoes, but they are not the same consistency as when I used a proper dehydrator.

There are plenty of trays in a dehydrator and an amazing motor in the Excalibur.  It allows you to choose the temperature you desire.  In one of our old homesteads, I didn’t have a lot of counter space so the dehydrator sat out on the front porch humming for weeks at a time churning out tomatoes, apples, peaches, dried onions, and anything else I could think of!

You can dehydrate any vegetable and simply throw by the handful into soups or grind into seasonings.  Tomatoes and mushrooms can be rehydrated in a cup of hot water.  Dehydrated foods take up less space and are convenient.  My husband loves dried fruit.  I can never get it to the consistency of the store (because they use a preservatives) so mine are more chewy and act more like bubble gum.  Delicious to chew on until you can swallow it.  You can leave fruits still moist, just pop in the refrigerator or freezer.  Any moisture will make them mold.  You an also make jerky.

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Variety is the key to a successful homestead.  Lots of different fruits and vegetables and different ways to preserve them keep winter suppers interesting, delicious, and oh so nutritious!  While you are canning, blanching and freezing, and harvesting, the dehydrator just hums in the background doing its part on the homestead.

 

18 Authors, 30 Books (Great Homesteading and Farming Books)

On day eleven of our “So You Want to Be a Homesteader Series” we are learning from other homesteaders and farmers.  Now, there is nothing like learning first hand; sitting in a kitchen watching a farm wife deftly move from task to task.  Asking a homesteader how much wood you need to get through winter (3 cords ought to do ya if you live somewhere chilly), or working with a lifelong gardener for a summer is priceless.  And as you live this lifestyle you do find yourself gravitating and meeting more like minded folks.  But overall, there isn’t a lot of us per capita.  Trial and error plays a huge part in the learning curve for all of us.  But most of my education has been through books and memoirs.

These are just a hand full of great books I enjoyed.  I gleaned bits and gems of information and ideas from the day to day lives of regular folk trying to make a living as a farmer, trying to simplify life as a homesteader, or getting back to nature and a grounded life living off grid.  I have laughed, I have cried, I have learned.  And for books and the ability to read, I am incredibly grateful.  So, here are 18 authors and 30 books to check out and enjoy over a cup of tea.  Get ready to get inspired!  (An asterisk * denotes my favorite books.  The ones that really stuck with me.)

*1- A great place to start is with Jenna Woginrich.  Her books are some of my favorites.  Made From Scratch; Discovering the Pleasures of a Homemade Life is the first book I read in a long line of homesteading and farming books.  It is the book that made me go from, “Oh, that looks fun!” to “Let’s do this.”  Her series of books takes us from a rental in Idaho to her forever farm in New York with lots of lessons along the way.  Makes you want a hard cider and a fiddle.  

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2- Laura Ingalls Wilder may not have set out to be a teacher of all things homesteading when she wrote her nine books, but through these enchanting memoirs (which are mostly true, just the time lines are slightly different), the reader learns so much.  I gleaned a lot of practical farming and homesteading advice from reading these as an adult.  They are also beautifully written and hopelessly romantic.

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*3- If There’s Squash Bugs in Heaven, I Ain’t Staying is one of the best books I have read.  Stacia Spragg-Braude writes the story of an elder in Corrales, New Mexico.  We find ourselves in her adobe kitchen with preserves covering the counters, out in the fields learning generations of farming tips and hoeing chilies.  Evelyn’s life is beautifully written out in these pages and the lessons and history are sound.  I never had squash bugs before moving to Pueblo, but I now share that sentiment as well!

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4- Goat Song by Brad Kessler taught me the most about goats and cheesemaking.  I was inspired and enchanted as I walked through the woods with his goats, their bells clanging as I turned the pages.

5- Hit By a Farm and Sheepish by Catherine Friend taught me the most about sheep.  I loved my lambs, Olaf and Sven, and I hope to have a few again.  The author holds nothing back as she recounts her life with sheep.

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6- The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball was a good book.  I did enjoy it and learned quite a bit from it about raising cattle, CSA’s, and the adjustment it takes to lead this kind of life.

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7- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is the most inspiring book when it comes to local eating and sustainable farming for one’s own family.  It is filled with recipes and great advice.  Solid knowledge to help you walk away from the petroleum dripping banana and pick up a tomato start.

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*8- The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather is not so much about homesteading or farming, but about making do and eating locally.  The story is inspiring, the recipes mouthwatering, and the wisdom will make you want a Dutch oven and a wood stove.

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9- Farm City by Novella Carpenter was recommended to me by one of my old farm interns.  He said I must get it and I will be wanting pigs in the front yard in no time!  I actually still have no desire to raise pigs (I will leave that to Alli and Cindy) but I was intrigued by the vacant lot farm in a rough neighborhood of Oakland and her drive to eat locally.

*10- Kurt Timmermeister’s books are genius in prose and inspiration.  Growing a Farmer gets us started and Growing a Feast inspires us to take up bee keeping, cheese making, and put on a heck of a farm-to-table dinner for friends.

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*11- Off on Our Own by Ted Carns was the most inspiring book when it comes to going off grid.  I loved his laid back tone, the pond in the living room, his views on life.  It made me wish I were handier but it gave me ideas!

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12- Chickens in the Road by Suzanne McMinn was a cute book filled with real life, real decisions, and a quote Doug and I still use to this day about animals having many good days and one bad day on a farm.  Factory farm animals have lots of bad days and a super bad day at the end.  Her personal memoir is lovely and filled with great tips.

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13- Turn Here Sweet Corn by Atina Diffley was a good book.  It was marked with fights for land and other policies, a good tome of reality and life.

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*14- Better Off was one of my favorite books.  It is high time I read it again.  I was upset when I had no more pages to read!  Eric Brende and his wife’s experiment living with the Amish was at once educational and captivating as they figured out wood stoves, pumpkin farming, and the joys of a simple life.

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15- The Bucolic Plague will leave you laughing and wanting to visit upstate New York.  From the Martha Stewart Show to the small (slightly drunk) turkey on the Thanksgiving table, I was mesmerized by the characters and stories that Josh Kilmer-Purcell shares in this entertaining book.

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16- This Organic Life is one I need to read again.  I remember bits and pieces of it.  Her tale of local food and her passion to grow all of her food are the sentiments left with me.

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*17- Wisdom of a Radish is another favorite.  Her experiences directly helped me to be a better farmer and see what it takes to keep up.  Her prose is witty and sharp.  There is a quote in there that I use still regarding f@*k up tomatoes.  Read it!  You’ll love it.

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*18- Farmgirl School; Homesteading 101 by Katie Lynn Sanders (What?!  I am one of my favorite authors!)  This comprehensive manual is our first two years blogging and farming with plenty of how-to’s, from cheesemaking to homeschooling to canning corn.

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Some of these books focus on living off grid, simply, and some of them focus on farming or ranching, while others focus on homesteading.  There are a lot of facets to living simply.  There is solar and oil lamps, sewing and crocheting, shearing and milking, chickens and ducks, medicinal herbs and growing food.  There is canning and chopping wood, letter writing, and there are great books to read and tea to be brewed.  There is a never ending learning curve and plenty of experiences to enrich your life.

There are so many books that I can vaguely remember the cover but not the title or author.  So many books I did not include here!  Here are a few more books that I discovered that I will have to get soon!  I have begun work on my own extensive farming memoir.  What are your favorite homesteading and farming books?

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Growing Older Joan Gussow

 

Preserving Food- Freezing

Freezing food is a practical and easy way to save the abundance of produce that flows into the kitchen and from farmer’s markets all season.  Freezing has its cons, for sure.  All one has to consider is the great possibility of power outage or malfunctioning freezer to remember a time that you opened the door of one to find melted, smelly food languishing in the musty interior.  Freezing is not my main form of preserving, but I still utilize in many ways because I find it very helpful on a homestead.

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There are some vegetables and fruits that are better frozen.  Eggplant and peas, for example, become mushy when canned.  Green peppers and chilies are easy to scoop out into a pot for soups.  Greens can be successfully frozen in plastic bags without becoming soggy.  And of course meat can be canned but it is easier to separate and freeze in individual bags for suppers.

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My granddaughter is here for a few days enjoying the farm.  We had fifteen chicks arrive chirping in the mail yesterday and she made sure to snuggle each one.  She also helped me harvest mulberries.  Berries are delicious as is, straight off the tree still warm, or in cereal, ice cream, or made into jam, or wine, or pie.  I will make all of those things and may still have some to preserve for winter.  It is lovely to pull out mulberries in December, or rhubarb or raspberries for that matter!  Freeze them on cookie sheets first, then pour into bags.  They will stay separate and easy to measure out.

I have a confession; I don’t typically blanch the vegetables before freezing.  I haven’t seen the point as of yet.  We eat them fairly quickly through the winter and they haven’t been bad at all.

I did blanch the peas once and it was easy enough.  Throw vegetables into boiling water for a few minutes then transfer to a bowl of ice water.  Lay out on cookie sheets, freeze, then pour into bags.

At the end of the summer, I like to have Doug throw peppers, chilies, and eggplant onto the grill.  Then I slice them into cubes and freeze on a cookie sheet.  Then pour into individual bags for pizza fixings all winter.

Here is the trick for fresh greens all winter.  Cut greens, like kale, chard, and spinach, and stuff into freezer bags.  Push out air and seal.  Then put in freezer.  When it is frozen, quickly crush the contents through the bag with your hand.  Don’t let it start to thaw.  You can easily pour out frozen, crisp greens into your soups and sautes all winter.

Cheese, milk, and eggs can be frozen, but it changes their consistency quite a bit.  I don’t freeze broth because I will never remember to take it out in time and big containers take up too much room.

Pile the remaining tomatoes after you are tired of canning into freezer bags and pull them out as needed and put them into the crock pot with soup, or bake on top of rice, or cook down for sauce and use an immersion blender to blend.

Shred zucchini and drain.  Then stuff  1 cup of zucchini into muffin tins and freeze.  Pop them out and into bags when solid.  These make great zucchini fritters, additions to soup, or zucchini bread during the winter and spring.

I am a bit adverse to even the slightest hint of freezer burn so I don’t let anything stay around for more than a year.  I start working my way through the freezer in the spring and any burned vegetables left go to the chickens.  I think one of those food sealers would be a good investment.

You can freeze juice concentrates, and nuts and seeds from your gardens, or fruit, and vegetables, scraps to make broth, meat, and bread.  That makes the freezer (and extra freezer) a good addition to a homestead.  Should the freezer break or be out of power for an extended time, you can rely on your root cellar and pantry.  But for many things, like fresh greens, peas, and chicken, (and mulberries) a freezer is great!

Homestead Anywhere and How to Preserve Rhubarb

Shelling, Preserving, Freezing Peas (an all day venture, bring friends)

Freezing Produce (it’s not too late to preserve!)