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.

 

 

Bread Baking (So You Want to Be a Homesteader Series- Day 9)

For the past ten years or so we have purchased very little that is electronic, instead opting for hand cranked or self powered items.  Oil lamps, a hand cranked coffee grinder, food processor, and cast iron that can be used on a wood stove if necessary fill my cupboards.  After reading Jim Lahey’s great book, My Bread, I have baked many a loaf of good bread.  I don’t remember when I gave away my bread maker (when we became raw foodies for a short time?  When we were trying to go off grid?) but when I plugged in the one from Grandma’s house that Grandpa sent me home with, a big smile crossed my face.  All I had to do was layer the ingredients into the pan, slide it into the oven, press 7, and go about my chores.  It mixed, raised, kneaded, and baked a heavenly loaf of bread for supper while I got laundry, gardening, and housework done.  What have I been missing all these years?

Now that we are 100% solar powered, I tend to plug a few more things in (but not much!).  The bread from the breadmaker is delicious.  If I want a good boule, I will whip some up myself in mixing bowls and over hours, and bake it in my Dutch oven.  It’s nice to have options.  And nothing beats coming home to a house smelling of fresh bread.

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By making your own bread for sandwiches, toast, croutons, pizza crust, and bread crumbs, you really cut down on the food bill and can control what you are eating.  Flour, salt, yeast, and sugar do not cost much.  I recently read what is in “dough conditioner”…well folks, let me just tell you that we won’t be eating take out pizza or processed bread any longer.

I bought my daughter a breadmaker for her bridal shower.  I think it is the best of both worlds between convenience and homemade.  A little homemade butter and you have heaven on a plate.

Here are a few recipes of mine from over the years on this blog if you want to try your hand at a homemade loaf.  But do consider a breadmaker.  I bet there is one at a second hand store by you!

Grain Mills and Rye Bread

Maple Molasses Whole Wheat Bread

So You Want to Be a Homesteader (27 ways, a new series)

I read a blog post that talked about homesteading.  In it the author states that people in the city can say they are gardeners, can say they are homemakers, but cannot say that they are homesteaders.  I beg to differ.  I have homesteaded in the country, a small town, and in the city.  Our plan is to get back on land, but that does not change our lifestyle.  In fact, I believe we are actually more sustainable in the city.  We are just missing a well and a couple of goats.

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The word homesteading isn’t really a relevant word anymore because the government is not giving us parcels of land to try to live on for five years before we get to keep it.  So, we need to go by the new definition of homesteading and leave it open to everyone.  You can homestead anywhere.  Homesteading starts and ends with high self sufficiency, appreciation for the natural world, sustainability, community, health, and pride in hard work that we do ourselves.

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Homesteading can be done on any level, but as you grow your own food, chop your own wood, eat from your own root cellar, create your own medicines, it does get addictive.  This is a great lifestyle and one that anyone can incorporate into their lives.  The more aspects of it that you pick up, the more money you save, the healthier physiologically and psychologically you become, and things that are really important come to the forefront of life.  Family, food, security, counting blessings, and the good life.

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I have come up with a list of 27 ways to start homesteading.  27 aspects of homesteading that keep a heart humming, the fam fed, and the home fires burning.  Join me over the next month as I cover each one to inspire, teach, and swap ideas with you.  We will talk about searching for land, preserving, growing, animals, home arts, and more!

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27 Ways to Homestead

  1. Organic gardening
  2. Canning
  3. Fermenting
  4. Dehydrating food
  5. Smoking food
  6. Freezing food
  7. Raising chickens
  8. Fishing/Hunting
  9. Supporting local farmers
  10. Bread baking
  11. Cooking three meals a day
  12. Preparing simple, unprocessed food
  13. Sewing/Mending
  14. Crocheting
  15. Purchasing second hand
  16. Cheese making
  17. Generating your own electricity
  18. Generating your own heat
  19. Making your own medicine
  20. Making your own cleaning products
  21. Making your own body products
  22. Making homemade gifts and cards
  23. Free entertainment
  24. Learning to make everything from scratch
  25. Budgeting
  26. Using original homesteading items that last
  27. Learning from other homesteaders

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Go get yourself a cute apron and let’s get to work!  We are embarking on the good life.

Victory Gardens (and beating Monsanto ourselves)

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I wonder if most people understand the dire consequences of a bill signed by our president last week.  A bill that protects Monsanto from all law suits, present and future, from any claims that their products causes serious health problems, even death.  Research shows it does and every other country in the world has banned them.  Why, I ask, would the president protect this company in particular?  Of course we know the answer, money, and the money from Monsanto haunts the halls of Congress and the White House.

That is sad that the American people, who are by and large against genetically modified crops, did not have a voice despite Marches against Monsanto across the country, and that our health, our children’s health, and definitely our grandchildren’s health is going to be sacrificed for a few bucks.  It feels overwhelming and devastating.

Is there anything we can do?  Is there any way to beat big business at its own game?  Not directly, but indirectly perhaps.  I think of all the convenience food my grown children eat daily, fast food, and supposedly healthy boxes of dinners.  The effect that will be having on them.  The effects on my granddaughter Maryjane’s new organs and system.  I cannot change the world, indeed I may not be able to change my children’s worlds, but I can work within my own boundaries and possibly inspire or help folks around me and maybe help my children start gardens when they get into their own houses, or at least let them come raid the root cellar and my gardens.  So what can we do?

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This is war.  Not war in the sense of World War II but war against the people all the same.  In the time of WWII, Victory Gardens were the answer.  Victory Gardens provided sustenance against insecurity and fear.  It provided healthy food, grown from seed, from back door to table.  Back yard chickens provided eggs and meat.  Grains stored so that fresh bread could be made.  Sugar and other items that were experiencing a shortage were creatively replaced.  The housewives of the 1930’s and 40’s fought for their families and protected them by ensuring food was in the back yard.  We can do the same.

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Steps to Winning the War Against Monsanto and Protecting Your Family

1. Grow a garden.  Be it in pots, 5 gallon buckets, the front yard, the back yard, the side yard, or at a community garden.

If you cannot grow a garden where you are at, or do not have the energy to have one, support someone that does.  Small farms are dotting the landscape and more and more new farmers are coming on the scene, particularly women.  They are all around you.  Check the farmer’s markets or ask around.

Not all farms are the same.  The big farms at the farmers market ship in produce this early in the season.  Is it organic?  Where did it come from?  Particularly corn.  That will protect you from the GMO’s but the pesticide free is very important as well.  Pesticide use is at an all time high and the residual is in the structure of the food.  You can’t wash it off.  Find a pesticide free farmer.  Local.  Small.  Eat in season.

Go in with a friend.  Do you have a friend that gardens?  Can they plant a row for you in exchange for something you create?  Or can you buy excess produce from a friend?

If all else fails, buy from the health food store and make sure it is organic!

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2. Get back yard chickens.  If you are allowed, get them.  You will not regret this most amazing, local protein source and classic entertainment.  Eggs have a million uses and if one chose, the meat could be harvested every few years.

If  you cannot have back yard chickens, find someone that is allowed to.  It is actually very easy to find someone to raise your livestock for you.  Farmsteaders are happy to share what they know and to help out city folks.

If all else fails, buy organic meat from the health food store.

3. Get a Milk Share or A Goat. Nothing tastes better than a cold glass of chocolate milk after watering the garden.  Raw milk is better for you than pasteurized.  It contains valuable enzymes and nutrients that are destroyed in pasteurization.

4. Avoid boxes at all costs.  Inside them lurks, not only every genetically modified ingredient known to man, but they are basically nutrient deplete, and unrecognizable to the body.

If you must use a box of something, make sure it is organic.

5. Make your own food.  This may seem impossible to a lot of people.  It does take time to make everything homemade, but not that much more time.  Make time.  A television show less and you could have a day’s worth of food pre-made if you needed to.  The time it takes to eat out could be spent in the kitchen.  Fast food on a farmstead is salad, boiled corn (organic of course!), fried fish, I mean seriously folks,  it really doesn’t take that long to cook dinner.  Pre-make breakfasts and plan lunches and bake bread on Sundays.

6. It doesn’t cost more to be organic.  Trust me on this one.  Yes, the individual prices of the vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, meats, and grains are a smidge higher than at Walmart.  However, you are saving money by not eating out, by not buying prepackaged meals, by not buying boxes, soft drinks, etc.  The grocery bill may even look a little lighter!

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Do it yourself.  Support someone local to do it for you.  Only eat organically.  Store food for winter.  Watch many of your diseases fall away.  And protect yourself in the future.  We can have the last laugh.

 

Goats in the Kitchen (and homemade chevre)

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Not in my kitchen, though that would be fun!  My cats would wonder what kind of odd dog I had brought home this time, and Bumble, the greyhound, would have thought he had a new playmate.

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I went to Nancy’s house for an impromptu lesson on cheese and butter making.  The snow was falling softly and thickly outdoors, creating a mood more like Christmas than Spring, but the effect was nonetheless calming and beautiful.  Her little farm lay softly beneath the quiet snow and inside the kitchen things were hopping.

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Faleena brought the infants in to play for a few minutes and as they skittered about the floor, and took to us snuggling them, all was right with the world.  Goats in the kitchen seemed a perfectly normal activity and fueled my desire to have a proper homestead, complete with goats.

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The kids are still nursing so there is less milk to be had then if Nancy chose to run her mini-dairy as a commercial operation.  Which suits us fine as we don’t do anything to maximum production, just enough is fine with us.  We still had several half gallon canning jars filled with fresh milk at our fingertips to turn into delicious chevre.

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These little packages sure make life easier.  If don’t happen to have a young calf or goat to slaughter and retrieve the stomach lining from (traditional rennet), you can use one of these packets that have the proper cultures already made up for you to make your cheese.  You can also use vegetable rennet.  All we had to do was sprinkle this packet onto a gallon of raw, fresh milk and wait for 12 hours.  Nancy set up a bit of a television test kitchen by preparing half the batch the night before and letting me prepare the second half.  The first half was ready for me to finish and take home.

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At the end of the 12 hours, the milk has coagulated into something resembling panna cotta which made me start craving caramel sauce.  I then strained the mixture through a thick cheesecloth lined colander saving the whey for soups or dressings.  I was instructed to gather up the ends of the cheesecloth and hang it over the bowl to drain for 4-12 hours depending on desired consistency.  Promptly at 4 hours I unwrapped it.  Forget desired consistency, it depends on one’s patience!

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I made a delicious dinner of chevre filled manicotti covered in rich sauce of tomato, spaghetti sauce, peppers, wine, and spices, all from the root cellar.  Topped it with parmesan and breadcrumbs and baked it for 25 minutes.  I still have more chevre in the fridge waiting for the addition of green chilies to be spread on crackers for lunch.  Self reliance never tasted so good!

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Feeling rather pioneer woman-like, we moved on to butter.  We set up an elaborate hand cranked cream separator (goat’s milk has to be separated manually) and went to work separating rich cream from sweet milk rendering it skim and still quite good.  We placed the cream in pint jars and each took one.  We shook, and shook, watched homesteading films, and shook…..then moved it to an old butter churner and cranked…and cranked.  Doug has delicious cream for his coffee but alas, we did not succeed at making butter.  Next time!