Growing and Preparing Horseradish

Horseradish is delicious.  I just ran out of the jar from last year but luckily it is time to harvest again!  Another round of snow is set to arrive Wednesday so I am busy in the gardens putting beds to sleep and harvesting the rest of the root crops.  Horseradish is one of them.

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If you could get a plant start from someone or from a nursery in the spring, horseradish will reward you with delicious roots for years to come as it spreads quite nicely.  I only take about half or two thirds so that there is plenty to grow back.  You may need a shovel to loosen a bit.

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Horseradish is medicinal (as most plants are), and is excellent for sinuses and upper respiratory infections.  You can tincture them in alcohol with Echinacea and garlic for a powerful antibiotic.  Or you can take the culinary approach to medicine.  A most delicious one, I must say.

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Scrub the roots clean in fresh water.  Cut into two inch pieces and place in a food processor.  I like to add a small beet to mine for vibrant color but we had no spring crops and very, very few fall crops this year, so no beets.  Grind on high for a bit until it gets nice and chunky.  Add in a touch of vinegar for consistency and preserving.  I used 2 Tablespoons for four roots.  Continue processing until it looks nice and blended.

One might want to take the bowl outside before opening the lid.  I never remember to do this.  The fumes are mighty and a bit stingy.  Beware.  Scrape down sides, see if it needs any more pulsing.  Pour into a small canning jar and keep in refrigerator.  The vinegar will mellow the heat over time.

Add to mashed potatoes or cocktail sauce or whatever you like.  What do you like to have horseradish with?

Growing and Blending Seasonings

rosemaryI shall grow basil in plots

I shall grow oregano lots

The chives shall come up fine

along rows of heady thyme

I shall grow rosemary too

And red chile for New Mexican stew

I shall grow sumac if I can find

and lavender to breathe and unwind

Could I grow caraway too?

for rye bread to eat with a good brew?

The onions and garlic are growing now

I can make them dried somehow

I use all these herbs in dishes galore.

I will grow so many herbs you can’t see the earth floor.

Along with herbs for medicine and herbs for aroma and more

I will grow herbs to blend instead of spending money at the store!

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I admit it, I spend hundreds of dollars on culinary seasonings.  I have a large basket and two full cupboards of seasonings that we use all of the time.  Many are the very same herbs that I grow for medicine and to use fresh.  I spend hundreds on infused oils.  You know how it is at the end of summer, you are already pushing time to get all of the harvest in, preserved, garden beds cleaned, and trying to catch some of the glorious last warmth.  Blending herbs for the kitchen just seemed like one more thing I didn’t have time for when a nice store already did it for me.  Because I am an herbalist I also get bulk herbs that are going to be a lot cheaper than the specialty stores.  If I just use bulk herbs for what I cannot grow, and grow and blend the rest, I will save SO much money!  I can infuse my own oils.  Dry, dehydrate, and blend my own seasonings.  It will be worth the time!  Another DIY for this homesteader.  We are going to be busy this summer on Farmgirl School!

Creative Ways to Cook With A Lot More Vegetables

_BBF2511_gThere is something about the various colors of vegetables that I find so beautiful.  Artists for centuries have been painting their curves, their textures, their light.  Vegetables are among the most appealing sights to me.  It fuels my gardening.  It fuels my diet.

I am still surprised when people tell me that they, or their spouse, or their children do not eat vegetables.  Missing out on that satisfying crunch, the way the savory slices gather in sauce and spices, the bright colors creating a mesmerizing palette on the dinner table.

I will never forget when my friend, Nancy, and I were running our market booth and two women came over and pointed at green, frilly leaves and asked, “What’s that?”  We stared at them for a minute.  “Lettuce,” we replied.  “What do you do with it?” they inquired.

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So, perhaps folks do not know what to do with vegetables.  Here are some ideas to easily incorporate lots of glorious colors, textures, and flavors into your meals.  Listen, if mama is cooking, the folks around the table are going to eat it.  We raised our children vegetarian.  Their primary diet was vegetables!  They never turned their nose up because they were never given an option.  That goes for men too.  No one got their own meals.  There were no chicken nuggets and fries for the kids while we ate crisp slices of eggplant with spaghetti.  The kids (and this goes for how school lunches should be too) should eat the same fabulous food as adults.  That is how they learn to love vegetables.

With that, let’s get cooking!

First buy or grow lots of beautiful, organic produce.  Whatever appeals to you or interests you.  Now think of a theme.

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If you want to go Asian- chop maybe five different vegetables (like cabbage, carrots, onion, snow peas, and red pepper) and saute them with tamari, scallion oil, a touch of orange juice, and serve topped with peanuts or cashews and rice.

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If you want to go Italian- slice eggplant real thin and bread in flour, non-dairy milk, then panko and fry or bake.  Put salt and pepper, nutritional yeast, onion and garlic powder, and oregano in the flour and panko mixtures.  Make your own sauce by sauteing onions and garlic, then add in diced tomatoes, and simmer with dried basil, oregano, a touch of thyme and paprika, a dash of wine, then top with basil as you add it to the pasta.  Or just pick out a great pasta sauce.

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Pizza night- Layer pizza sauce on thin pizza dough (15 minutes to make tops).  Layer on (or for more depth, saute first in olive oil) oyster or lobster mushrooms (these aren’t your slimy canned bit, they taste like seafood), red and green peppers, black olives, and diced eggplant and zucchini.  Top with nutritional yeast, Italian seasoning, maybe a bit of truffle salt and a swirl of truffle oil.  Bake.

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Maybe you want Mexican food tonight- How about sauteed red and green peppers and onions in mini-tacos.  Maybe add diced, roasted pumpkin, butternut squash, or zucchini.  Pinto beans with green chilies. Top with salsa (which is a vegetable), guacamole (best vegetable), lettuce, tomato, and a creamy vegan cashew queso (5 minutes to make).  Serve with a margarita (not a vegetable, sadly).

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Spanish calls for paella with its slow cooked rice, savory seasonings like garlic and paprika, and lots of finely diced vegetables like peppers, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, and kale.

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Indian food is quite easy with its various curries and sauces using any vegetable but especially lentils, cauliflower, peas, and potatoes.

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Create a hash by sauteing or baking onion, garlic, bright colored peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes.  You can add in crushed up tofu colored with turmeric for scrambled eggs.  If you have farm fresh eggs from happy chickens, you can throw all the vegetables you have into a cast iron pan, saute, then add eggs to make a frittata.

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Soups are always comforting and easy to put together.  With most meals start with a sofrito.  A sofrito is a blend of onion, garlic, celery, and carrots slowly sauteed in olive oil.  Then add diced veggies.  Any and all combinations.  Then add spices depending on what theme you chose.  Then add rich vegetable broth or bouillon.  At the end you could add a bit of cashew cream or almond milk for creaminess.  Add lots of beans.  Use an immersion blender to hide the Brussels sprouts if need be.

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A few tips:

Garlic should go in everything!

Top dishes with toasted pine nuts, almonds, cashews, or walnuts.

Add beans, lentils, or dried peas.

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Serve with pasta, big hunks of warm Italian bread and olive oil, rice, cooked rye, barley, or quinoa or homemade croutons.

Roasted vegetables cooked with rosemary, thyme, and garlic increase flavor and are wonderful served with bread and salad.

Top dishes with a drizzle of great olive oil or flavored olive oil.

A touch of sugar balances acidity in tomatoes.

Spices, spices, spices.  Layer flavors as you cook.

Put on some music (preferably Andrea Bocelli), pour a glass of wine, put your apron on, and enjoy cooking.  Vegetarian food takes half the time to prepare and is real easy on the wallet.  Antioxidants and nutrients kill disease and make healthy kids and hubbies.  And vegetables taste great!  Bon Appetit!

 

 

5 Reasons to Adopt a Plant Based Diet

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1- There is not a disease out there that can not be benefited, if not reversed entirely, by adopting a plant based diet.  Plants are medicine.  They contain every healing property needed to heal from cancer, diabetes, bone loss, dementia, heart problems, or colds.  That is what they were made for!  So in my work as a Clinical Herbalist when people are asking which medicine herbs to take, I always mention that they need to incorporate more plants into their diets too.  Kale and Broccoli can reverse bone loss.  Tomatoes and garlic heal the heart and wine relaxes the blood vessels.  Walnuts heal the brain and fresh greens remove built up mucous that inhibits memory.  There are thousands of food combinations and every single nutrient one needs is located in fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, grains, and vegetables.

The more meat or processed foods one puts on their plate, the less room there is for the plants.  By adopting a plant based diet one gets all of the nutrients, none of the disease.

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2- Saves Money and Time!  We actually cut our grocery bill in half by eating a plant based diet.  In half!  This week I shopped at King Soopers and bought a week’s worth of groceries-all organic- for a hundred bucks.  (Kuddos to King Soopers for hearing the need and desires for more organic!)  Instead of an hour in the kitchen, I spend thirty minutes preparing a meal.

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3- More Eco-friendly– We are all a little freaked out by our own lusts for oil and gas and the impacts we as a cumulative society are making on this beautiful planet of ours that sustains us and nurtures us.  We purchase more fuel efficient cars and try to remember to turn the lights off but the one huge impact that one person could make is to adopt a plant based diet.  After all this time after the reports came out many years ago, our mainstream meat production is still the number one cause of greenhouse gases and pollution, the loss of species and rainforests, and the reason that so many pollutants get into our water ways.

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4- Animals and Karma– Let’s face it, when it comes to creating suffering, none of us really want to make an animal suffer.  (There really is no difference between a horse, cat, cow, dog, pig…) Yet we tell ourselves that it’s the circle of life, the cavemen did it, or it’s healthier, and we continue to eat ten times more meat than our ancestors ever did, create so much suffering by being a consumer, and then wonder why our bodies begin to rebel and fall apart.

My brother-in-law lives and teaches in Thailand and I asked him when he was here visiting, “What is it like there?  What wild animals do you have there?”

He replied, “There are no wild animals.  The people ate them all a long time ago.”

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5- It’s Fun!– I think I heard some of y’all choke out there. It is fun!  I love cooking and creating and it is fun to cook through a new cookbook.  It is fun to see what flavor combinations can be had.  We cook together and as we chop and laugh and sauté and pour a drink, we talk about our day, alter seasonings, and eat really, really healthy food.

We were vegetarian/vegan for a long time.  When we stopped we both started seeing just what eating meat does.  Gout, weight gain, back problems, hormone disruptions, circulatory issues….It is nice feeding my husband foods that will nurture and heal him, give him energy and well being.  It is nice feeding myself those foods as well.  I know I am doing my part to help the animal kingdom whom I adore, and am lowering my footprint on this little homestead.  I am saving money and making amazing, delicious foods.  There are so many beautiful books out there.  My new favorite is “The Homemade Vegan Pantry” by the magnificent Miyoko Schinner.  We have been cooking our way through it this week.  I highly recommend it.  I don’t want processed food in my plant based journey, so this helps me in seconds whip up delicious substitutes.

After years of experimenting here is my favorite plant based milk recipe:

Cashew Milk– Place 1 cup of cashews with 4 cups of filtered water in blender and blend until completely smooth and frothy.  No need to strain!  It should be completely blended and smooth enough to go through the cappuccino machine or into your cereal.

It’s a bright new year, here’s to your health and your karma!

A Feast for the Senses on an Urban Homestead

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I put the kettle on. I am oddly consoled flipping the switch to turn on the fireplace. The sound of the dryer after nine years naught reverberates softly. I sip tea and watch the moon drift silently away above the rose hued mountain top in the early morning dawn. What shall I do now in my third floor apartment looking over the city blocks and the glorious mountain range? There are no chickens to tend to. No young lambs following on my skirts. No goats in need of milking. No ducks swimming in their icy pond. What shall we do?

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I positively glow at the sight of my kitchen. It is a beautiful, large expanse of creative space waiting for dinner parties and garnishes. For finishing touches of truffle salt and a sip of local Cabernet. It calls for melting butter and the smell of homemade bread. It speaks of decades of cookbooks and articles, of sustenance and my internal need to cook. Nay, create. Cooking is meatloaf every Tuesday. I have never made the same thing twice. I can be the entranced chef I long to be and still be in bed by nine.

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There are community gardens close by. My bicycle and basket yet to be purchased await and I can already feel the breeze against my warmed cheek as the summer sun heats the pavement as I whir past the buildings. Fresh produce overflows my carrier. I am planning a traditional Cherokee garden complete with language. Sacred sunflowers, the three sisters….more. Agaliha. Selu. Watsigu.

What shall we do here in our third floor apartment? Let’s cook. Let’s be chefs and farmers, shall we? Let’s preserve. Let’s not just can corn; let’s make relishes and marmalades and chutneys and more. Let’s create.

What’s that old saying? I think I have quoted it a time or two, Grow Where Planted!

The Accidental Stocked Pantry (yea for over-canning!)

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We are getting settled in our new place.  Our eight cats (we had to have our sweet Ichabod put to sleep) joined our roommate David’s three and they are all getting along wonderfully despite all of my worrying.

Part of the deal there is that I am cooking the meals.  After being so long without free run of a kitchen I am loving taking over his mother’s warm abode.  The other night I put Andrea Bocelli on Pandora, poured a glass of Montepulciano, and made a delicious wild mushroom risotto with fresh salad and bread.

Another friend of mine lost everything this year.  She explained it as going into shock when needing to move suddenly and gave away or sold everything.  She later fell into hysteria over it but the shock is the only way she could have done it.  I know no one likes to hear, “I know just how you feel!” but at that moment I did.  Someone closely related to me made a comment that I don’t care about anything, I just throw things away and have no attachments.  Those words punched me, stole the air from me, I do care about things.  I cared about Doug’s grandmother’s dishes.  I cared about the poster of the Rat Pack that my son lovingly gave me one year that someone took before I could off my walls.  The cards my daughter made me.  I cared about my pie safe and my things.  They all held memories to me.  They all spelled home.  But that shock of being conned and having to leave so quickly certainly did aide in my getting out.

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Oddly enough, I kept all the canned goods I had put up the previous years.  This was no easy feat.  Margie’s walls were lined with boxes of dusty jars of apples, tomatoes, potatoes, jams, pickles, and peppers.  I kept thinking I should try to sell them, but I didn’t.  I could not imagine where I would be or where we would end up so I couldn’t figure out what to keep because I didn’t know if we would be in an RV, in a tiny house, or under a viaduct.  I couldn’t see what was next but the homesteader in me brought the canned goods.

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I always go a little overboard.  It is easy to do with canning.  The first year I preserved over 700 items.  Last year over 500 because we were moving and I fell short of my goals.  This year I canned a few jellies before we had to go.  But the lovely thing about home preserved canned goods is that they last for years.  If there is no mold, and the lid is secure, then save it!  I have one jar of apricot syrup that is five years old but the rest are newer and still very good.  So, yesterday I lined the laundry room shelves with my remaining canned goods from years past.  It was a calming and warming action to be placing jars of food along the wooden shelves ready for winter.  Even though I took the summer off, some of my work had been done the year before.  A stocked pantry always looks lovely.

Traveling the World by Cookbook (my favorite cookbooks)

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Delicious food and inspiration, something I daily seek.  I like to travel around the world to see what folks are eating.  I like visit farms around the globe.  I like to sit in stranger’s kitchens and see if I can experience a bit of their life by eating what they eat.  Through cookbooks I can do this from my own farm kitchen and so cookbooks have always been a bit of an obsession for me.

Mind you, I never follow a recipe to its exact measure but the blueprints and guidelines for delightful food I wouldn’t have thought of is most welcome to a busy farm wife foodie who doesn’t like to prepare the same thing over and over.

“Grow Your Own, Eat Your Own” by Bob Flowerdew is a great book that I may have told you about before but I find it ever so enchanting as the photographs make the book come to life.  As if I am in England learning from a master.  He takes us through the gardening season, growing, harvesting, preserving, and preparing delicious foods.  It is filled with brilliant ideas and a way to make potato au gratin that will change your life forever.  Decadent.

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“Another Amish cookbook?” my love asks as I purchase another.  I have…ahem…a few.  I love them for their stories.  I love the local ones that are say the recipe was submitted by Mrs. Elmer So and So.  I love the vague amounts in some and the tried in true in books like this one.  “The Amish Cook’s Family Favorite Recipes” by Lovina Eicher is my go-to in the summer when I am rushing around.  Perfect coffee cake to make and pack for the farmer’s markets, interesting recipes like chokecherry tapioca, and casseroles that make the kids want to move home.

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“Love Soup” by Anna Thomas is a book I have read from cover to cover many times.  Her soups are vegetarian and filled with flavor and comfort, sustenance, ease.  I love this book for its endless ideas for soup along with recipes for bread and salads.  Her stories along with the recipes are fun and the book is split up seasonally, which appeals to me more than ever.

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I have checked out “The Tuscan Sun Cookbook” by Frances and Edward Mayes from the library enough that it really ought to be a part of my collection at some point.  If I could go anywhere right now and enjoy a meal it would surely be in Tuscany.  I want to experience the long outdoor wooden table with twenty friends and strangers, water glasses filled, wine glasses raised.  Courses of flavorful foods that I have yet to prepare.  Many things that I have never heard of cooking or tasting in my Colorado raised existence.  I can hear the laughter, the long meal, the joy.  I loved the Under the Tuscan Sun books by Frances Mayes so it is a pleasure stopping by their house via library book for a meal. (Note: if you saw the movie, it is not even remotely the same as the books.  Do pick up the books!)

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Another library find, “Fresh from the Farm” by Susie Middleton is a delightful part memoir part cookbook using seasonal produce.  What to do with mustard greens, delicious ways with arugula, and much more.  I am definitely enjoying borrowing this book!

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If I make a menu plan and grocery shop regularly for the things we need then I am less likely to want to go out for subpar food.  This book, “The Casual Vineyard Table” by the owner of one of my favorite wines and vineyards, Carolyn Wente, makes me want to hurry home and cook!  I picked it up at the Wente winery when Doug and I were there visiting our friends, Lisa and Steve, in Northern California.  It was one of our best trips and we so enjoyed ourselves and became even bigger wine snobs, I rather fear.  Where do I start?  Potato Crusted Sea Bass with Gingered Blue Lake Beans or Bay Scallops with Rhubarb Puree?  Or one could always head straight to the back of the book and prepare Chocolate Chili Pecan cake with double bourbon whipped cream.  Oh my.

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Then there are lean times, which we are in more often than not.  Not poverty stricken, starving times, thank the Lord we always have food, but no sea bass or single vineyard wine times.  This book is practical, intelligent, and savvy.  Using minimal ingredients, all staples, one can put together hundreds of healthy meals on the cheap. “More-With-Less” by Doris Janzen Longacre is a homesteader’s necessity!

Do share your favorite cookbook titles!

Preserving Spring (freeze and pickle asparagus then make some dandelion jelly after eating the leaves!)

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One of the very first crops of spring is asparagus.  We enjoyed a few dishes of roasted asparagus and I preserved the rest for asparagus cravings in July…or December.  If one can find asparagus in the stores during those months I would highly question its origin, how old it is, and the flavor of really fresh asparagus isn’t going to be there, so what’s the point?  By preserving what is in season one can enjoy the flavors any time of year.  Here are a few ways to do so after you have enjoyed your fill of fresh.  Just snap the bottom woody part of each spear off by bending it until it cleanly breaks.

Freeze it!

Cut up asparagus into the sizes you desire.  I like one inch slices to put into frittatas or stir fries.  Have a pot of boiling water ready and one of ice water.  Throw the pieces into the boiling water, let it come up to boil again and a minute later remove the asparagus and place it in the cold water to stop the cooking.  Now, line it all onto a cookie sheet and place in freezer.  In thirty minutes transfer to a freezer bag.  This prevents the asparagus from sticking together in one swell lump.  Not ideal for retrieving a scant half a cup for cooking!

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I also freeze whole spears.  Since these I will roast I do not want to blanch them.  I will eat them before they lose their flavor.  So, I freeze them on cookie sheets for thirty minutes then transfer into a freezer bag.

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Pickle it!

Place right sized spears in quart sized clean, warm canning jars.  In each jar add 2 cloves of garlic, 1 Tablespoon of dill (dried as fresh isn’t ready yet), 1 teaspoon of sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon of celery seed, and a 1/4 teaspoon of ground mustard.  These additions can be altered, removed, or things added to fit your taste.  They do not change the time processed!

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Now fill the jars half way with red wine vinegar (to learn how to make red wine vinegar click here) or apple cider vinegar and the rest of the way with water.  Leave a half inch head space on top.  Clean the rim and apply the lid.  Place in a large pot of boiling water so that the water covers the lid.  Boil for 20 minutes adding 1 minute per 1000 feet above sea level that one’s homestead is at.  I round up to seven.  So, I will boil the jars for 27 minutes.

Remove jars and let sit on counter overnight.  The jar should have sealed.  Label and place in pantry until July.

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The other crop to preserve right now is dandelions.  The leaves can and should be eaten in salads, smoothies, soups, and with roasted veggies.  The flowers will become dandelion jelly today.  Click here to find out how!

Hurray for spring vegetables!

How to Become a Homesteader-Part 2-Skills

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We try to learn two new skills each year.  There are some skills that are imperative to the survival of a homesteader.  Actually, not just for homesteaders, anyone who is trying to live as simply and on as few funds as possibly (less work for a paycheck=more freedom to live life how you want).  It is nice to have more than one person living on a homestead (doesn’t have to be a spouse) because generally what one person can’t do, or doesn’t care to do, the other can.  And for the things that neither are very good at, bartering with someone that has that skill set is invaluable.  Here is a rough list of important skills to learn to be a homesteader.

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1. Cooking– I have been cooking since I was quite small and Doug was a bachelor for some time before we got married so we both know how to cook.  That doesn’t mean that restaurants weren’t our worst vice!  We haven’t sworn off restaurants completely and we do go out more than our other homesteading friends.  I do, however, cook the vast majority of our meals.  And if I am too tired to cook in the morning Doug will fry up a delicious hash (fried potatoes, onions, garlic, eggs, and any vegetables or fish we have).

Cooking is not only obviously important to the modest budget required in a homestead, but it is better for you as well.  You need to stay strong while doing farm chores!  It is also much more ecologically friendly.  You can decide how many pesticides to put in your body, how many miles your food travelled, and how many boxes you put in the landfill.

We rarely buy anything in a box.  We use whole ingredients and in bulk if possible.  Grains, fresh vegetables fruits, or the ones we canned or froze, fish, legumes, eggs, milk, and cheese, make up our various meals along with a lot of great spices and flavor.  It is easy to put together meals with so much selection.  And because they weren’t in boxes, but rather larger bags or serve yourself, they were cheaper too.  I can add my own flavorings without all the additives.

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2. Gardening– Being able to grow your own food is a wondrous thing.  The cost of seeds is much less than the cost of groceries with the added benefit of being in the sunshine, knowing where your food came from, having all the nutrients still available, and helping out the bees.

One can successfully garden in a plot, the front yard, in five gallon buckets on the porch, anywhere really!  I combine all of these to get enough space!

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3. Canning– After World War II, women wanted a different life.  Canning, cleaning, country living, many normal ways of life were shunned in favor of city living, jobs, packaged food, cleaning ladies, and the earlier ways of living were thought of as mundane and peasant, if you will.

Canning is a great way to survive on a fixed income.  By putting up all the produce the summer brings (even if that means buying a bushel from a nearby farm) we don’t let all that glorious produce go to waste and come winter we scarcely ever need to go to the grocery store!  Just look in the pantry!

Canning is enjoyable as well.  It is a great sound when those jars click shut.  It is particularly fun with margaritas and other women to help!

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4. Fencing– This was one of the first things Doug had to learn and quick.  Come two squirrely, runaway goat kids, we had to learn to reinforce and put up good fencing on the cheap.  We have found that T-posts and pasture fencing are affordable options and moveable if necessary.  We will easily be able to fence in a large area off of the current goat pen for the goats and new arrivals.

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5. Building and Fixing– I grew up in a home where my mom taught us girls how to do every domestic chore.  I am grateful for that.  I have never pushed a lawn mower or changed my own oil though.  My dad built their house by hand.  He can fix anything, my brother can too, but I was not taught these things.  Doug grew up in a house where if something broke, they called someone in.  So, when we first got together and something would break, I’d say, “Aren’t you going to fix that?” and he would look at me like I was crazy.  We spent a lot of money on hiring people over the years and we needed to learn how to build and fix things.  This is a skill we will work on more this year.  This is one that we barter classes or computer support for.  I traded a class for a fabulous cold frame.  We would like a better milking shed too.  Neither of us even know where to start!  That is where knowing how to barter comes in handy.  But we also need to learn for ourselves.

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6. Animal Care– Animals are an important part of a homestead.  For many they are a source of meat, but for this vegetarian farm, they are a source of food, fiber, and comedy shows.  We love our chickens and their eggs.  We love our goats, their milk, and the dairy products that we make from the milk.  We can sell their kids and milk shares to help cover costs of feed.  We are looking forward to our new sheep and their fleece as well as the new alpaca, Buddy the Cotton-headed-ninny-muggins.

We have needed to learn how to trim their feet, and how to know when they are sick, and what to give them.  How to put an animal out of its misery (still working on that one, we are getting a revolver this year), and how to house and feed them.  In my opinion, animals make the homestead.  Sharing your life with other creatures makes things more complete.

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7. Fire starting– We heat our house with wood and a propane heater.  We got the bill for the propane.  Next month we are putting in another wood stove that our friend found us so no more propane!  We have a lot of wood stacked up and Doug learned to wield an axe.  It keeps him in shape, helps him blow off steam, and keeps us in wood.  But it took us a bit to figure out how to get the fire started easily!  We weren’t scouts and we never needed to do much else but throw one of those ready to burn logs into an outdoor fireplace at a party.  We learned quick!

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8. Sewing– Being able to mend old clothes or turn too old of clothes into quilts and projects saves you from having to purchase it at the store.  Remember, anything we currently purchase at the store we want to learn to do ourselves!  I can make the baby dresses, sew a semi-decent quilt, and mend but I would like to learn this year how to sew more elaborate clothing, like men’s shirts and dresses for myself.

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9. Fiber Arts– Being able to knit a pair of warm socks is high on my list of skills I would like to master this year.  Along with animal shearing, carding, spinning, and dying yarn.

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10. Learning to Entertain Oneself– Being able to not be bored easily.  To be able to rest and entertain oneself is high in importance.  We can’t very well run off to see a stage production downtown anymore or away for a week in New Mexico.  We also don’t have a big cable package or media entertainment.  We read, write, draw, walk, have folks over, visit others, play with the baby, and sit outside in the sun.

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Being a homesteader doesn’t mean that one does less work.  Nay, you might end up doing doubled!  All of these skills take time.  Time is what you will have and it is much nicer to be doing what you would like on your own time and schedule wherever you please.  It is all good, pleasant work.  And learning to rest and play is important as well.  This is a great lifestyle.  I highly recommend it if you are thinking of living this way!  A good skill set makes it all the easier.

Harvest

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The sun came out and bounced off the crystal droplets that held fast to the plants in a great display of shimmer.  The water evaporated and the plants took a great breath of the fresh autumn air.  We headed out in sweaters with baskets to see what Mother Nature had left us.  Like Easter morning, our eyes full of wonder, searching for treasures within the rows.

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Doug deftly found the beans that we are drying for winter stews and chilies.  He filled quite a bag full.  I found rich purple and red tomatoes, bright spicy chilies, and sweet, small peppers.  Ear, after ear, after ear of corn.  The other side of the gardens yielded two gallons of Swiss chard, kale, and collard greens.  A gallon of fresh lettuce.  A bag of soybeans to eat in front of a football game boiled just right with a little sea salt and chipotle.  The last onion.  A handful of cherry tomatoes.  Spicy radishes making their second debut this year brought a spring to my step with each peppery bite.  Piles of earthy potatoes just waiting to join onions and garlic in the cast iron skillet.  And pumpkins.  I do love pumpkins.

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Through worry and work, through screwy weather and days of bliss watching the plants grow, this is truly the reward.  Seeing the rich palette of colors that start to glow and brighten the world in a majestic show.

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Happy Harvesting!