Posted in Homestead

Top 10 Homesteading Tips I Have Learned Over the Years

This was hard to narrow down, because in each area of homesteading, there are many great tips available. I wanted the most useful tips for this article; the ones that I use all the time.

1. Steaming Eggs- even following a plant based diet, we have happy chickens that lay a lot of eggs. Not ones to let things go to waste, and knowing that it isn’t harming anyone, we do enjoy our farm fresh eggs. Now, how to hard boil them so that peel without exhaustion, frustration, or loss of all the white part! The best tip I learned was to steam the eggs. Place the eggs in a steamer basket above boiling water, covered for 30ish minutes. Perfect every single time.

Last year, I asked my granddaughter, Maryjane, if she wanted to color Easter eggs. “Grammie, the chickens already colored the eggs!” The Araucanas are her favorite chickens with their beautiful blue eggs.

2. Freezing Greens- we grow a lot of greens. How I love curly kale, lacinato kale, 5 Silverbeet Swiss chard, spinach, and wild greens. But, how do you preserve them? Jars of mushy greens turns my stomach. They won’t stay good forever in the fridge. A great tip I learned from an old timer’s homesteading magazine was to stuff all the fresh greens tightly into a freezer bag, seal, and place in the freezer. A few hours later, or so, as the greens freeze, quickly use your fingers to crush up the greens through the bag. Don’t let them defrost. Keep doing that occasionally until you have a whole bag of crushed frozen greens. To use, just sprinkle a handful into soups, scrambled eggs, or stir fry. It is a delicious way to preserve excess greens.

My favorite recipe for frozen greens comes from my friend, Rodney. It is a rough recipe that we alter every time we make it. It is a delicious soup of potatoes, garlic, onions, greens, veggie sausage, and lots of white wine.

3. Labeling Canned Preserves- I used to dutifully notate the contents of each jar with carefully written labels. Should the labels get wet, they fell off. Should the labels be of good quality, they never came off. Perhaps the print was smudged or maybe I ran out of labels. A useful way to label home canned goods is with a Sharpie. A Sharpie is a homestead necessity, y’all. Just clearly mark the contents and date on the lid and that will stay put for as long as your have your beautiful jars of food on a shelf. The sharpie can be rubbed off with a little elbow grease, or maybe you won’t be using that lid for canning anymore so it won’t matter.

My new house looks like a show home. It is lovely and comfortable, but not made for a homesteader. The prior owners apparently never put up several hundred jars of produce. There is simply nowhere to store them. The house is undergoing a slight makeover soon with rows of rustic shelving all along the north wall. 60 feet total. Cookbooks, canned goods, pantry staples in canning jars, and this and that, shall grace one full side of the main area of the house. It is not often that folks showcase all of their food, but it is so lovely, why not? A half wall is coming down as well to open up the kitchen to the living room and create more space for visiting and cooking.

4. Unclog a Drain- I had to use this one just the other day. It doesn’t work if it is something like a washrag or huge clot of hair, but it works for slow running sinks. Pour a heavy hand of baking soda down the drain. Top off with a good pour of white vinegar and let sit. It shall bubble and start clearing. An hour later, pour in a kettle or two of boiling water. That should do the trick!

5. Replace Dryer Sheets- should you have to wait for a clothes line until spring as I do, you can create a simple dryer sheet that will leave your clothes smelling fresh and static clear. Take a washrag, dampen it, and shake about 5 good shakes of lavender oil onto it. Throw in dryer with clothes. Brilliant.

Dryer sheets have a lot of toxic (to you and the environment and are very harsh on the skin) ingredients in them and are just not necessary.

6. Bring Back Aprons- if you know me, or you have read my blog for some years, you know my obsession with aprons. I traipse all over town in them. I adore them whether they are vintage and have a story or the ones that were made by a few Mennonite gals for me. Aprons keep your clothes cleaner so you have to wash less. Aprons have pockets for eggs, clothes pins, quarters, a cell phone, a handkerchief, and children’s toys. I cannot wait until mine are holding seed packets again!

7. How to Take Care of Plants- I had the black thumb of death for so many years, it is hard to believe that I can grow plants so well now. Houseplants and garden plants succumbed to fates that I rather regret. A fellow at the garden center said this simple statement that changed how I take care of plants, “Treat the plant as if it is in its natural environment.” Tomatoes are tropical. They need sunshine and lots of water. Succulents and cacti go for weeks without water. My jasmine plant is crawling all over the bathroom because it loves humidity and filtered sun and a good watering once a week. My fine old aloe loves water every two weeks and at least a bit of direct sun.

8. How to Water Plants- this was a big one for me. I assumed one must never over-water the garden! It wasn’t until my friend, an accomplished Master Gardener, pointed out that it is really difficult to over-water in the high desert! For every plant, place a finger into the soil next to it and it should be damp to the second knuckle. Corn, houseplants, tomatoes. It changed the game for me.

9. How to Easily Garden- well, this one I came up with myself, but it is brilliant if one does not want to rototille the dirt driveway (or anywhere else). Dig a hole or a trench. Place a handful of organic gardening soil into it. Plant seeds or transplant seedlings. Cover with garden soil. Water. Place cardboard around plant and top with straw. Do this all over the yard and driveway. Every year the soil gets better and better.

10. Plant Perennials- by planting perennial food crops, one can assure harvest of something year to year. Annuals make up the majority of our food, but perennials create food security. Fruit bushes and trees, wild foods, and annuals that reseed themselves are all helpful on a homestead. Raspberries, burdock, apples, arugula, even lettuce will reseed itself if you let it.

I have learned many things over the last ten+ years, but these ten tips can be used anywhere, on any sized homestead or garden. I hope they make your life a little easier! Do you have a homestead tip to share? Write it in the comments! Happy Homesteading!

Posted in Farming, Food/Wine (and preserving)

Year Round Greens

You know you are a homesteader when things like poop that doesn’t have to be composted excites you.  Alpaca poo isn’t “hot” like other types of manure so it doesn’t have to be composted for six months.  We filled a wheel barrel full of alpaca droppings and took it over to one of the raised beds to spread.

chard

Now in November I had every intention of getting every bed cleaned out properly, covering them with compost then mulch for their long winter’s nap.  A good kink in my shoulder decided otherwise.  It would have been nice to have it all done, but it will surely wait for me, I decided.  So, on the bed that we started putting manure on, I noted emerald green from the patch of otherwise browned kale, chard, and collards.  Tiny Swiss chard leaves, two inches high were trying with all their might to grow.  It certainly was an epiphany for me.  If I cover the greens well with loose straw next year, I could be harvesting well into January!  That is without the help of a greenhouse, hoop house, or cold frame.  An easy way to extend the season.

Since I did not expect any more greens after November, I had been diligently snipping greens and freezing them.  No blanching necessary.  I have no desire to eat slimy food…ever.  All you do is pack sandwich bags with greens, release the air, and zip closed.  Put in freezer.  Now, the next day it will be frozen solid.  Don’t let it thaw!  Just crush it between your fingers so that the greens are crumbles.  When you need greens, crush the ones on top more and sprinkle handfuls into whatever you are cooking.  Replace the rest in freezer immediately.

I have been putting greens in all kinds of soups, in omelets, scrambled eggs, on potatoes to be roasted, and in sautés.  There are innumerable ways to use greens and the nutrients are especially desired this time of year.  The perfect blend of calcium and magnesium to make it bio-available, iron, A, C, E, and K, full of anti-oxidants and cancer killing properties.

Greens are one of the foods that I would have with me if I were trapped on an island…along with margaritas.  Is that a food?