The Good Life

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When you walk through the gates of my little urban homestead, there is a sense of serenity within its walls.  The trees grow abundantly and circles and rectangles and wild tufts of herbs and flowers and vegetables grow everywhere.  Climbing grapes and flourishing raspberries, rows of corn.  The chicks chirp madly for more food and the hens strut about their yard.  The farm dog stretches lazily on the couch.  The cats are curled up in the sun.  Homemade bread and fresh eggs for breakfast with hot coffee on the porch listening to crickets and birds sing.

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Yes, we lead a very sweet life.  This is the life of a homesteader.  I have given you 27 ways and gone into more detail over 24 days of what loveliness goes into being a homesteader.  I hope you know now that you can homestead anywhere, at any age.  You can start with baking from scratch and move on to full out farming later.  That you should most definitely get a cute apron.

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Always buy the best you can afford.  Cast iron is the best.  Do your chores kind of slow.  Keep your mind easy.  Get a pen pal.  Strive to live an old fashioned life.  There are great joys and blessings that come with being a homesteader.

Now, I happen to know of a darling homestead coming up for sale.  It is fully solar powered, with a wood stove, and a root cellar.  It has a chicken coop and outbuildings.  It has established gardens and a sense of home and place.  It is beautifully kept up, wood floors, large kitchen.  My homestead goes on the market today.  I am going back to the country.

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I will post the MLS as soon as I have it.  If anyone knows of anyone who wants a sweet little urban homestead in Colorado, I’ve got one!

I’m going to have goats again, y’all.

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

Cheesemaking (How to Homestead Day 5)

It only takes one moment to change and swirl views and to clarify answers.  One moment.  I have been near out of my mind trying to make a decision over the last nine months or so.  Should I go back to school?  For what?  Do I want a career?  School is upwards of (an additional from last time) fifty grand.  Should I focus on paying off debt instead?  Am I meant to be a teacher, anthropologist, or chef?  A conversation between Emily, Reed, Doug and I and we were pricing out land.  Even though it turns out we will have to wait another one to three years to move forward with that idea, it snapped me into the present.  My confusion should have been the key that I was not on the right path pursuing school.  My career is homesteading.

You can save a lot of money by homesteading, and you can make money if you choose as well, making it a viable career, particularly for a housewife.  There is great serenity to be found slowly stirring a pot of curdling milk and turning it into sharp cheddar.  Or sitting before a fire while crocheting a blanket.  Carefully pulling tiny weeds among the lettuces.  Gathering eggs and throwing scratch.  Hanging clothes on the line.  Piecing a quilt.  The smell of baking bread filling the house.  Serving delicious farmstead fresh food to your family and loved ones.  Yes, this is the life for me and mine.

If you are like me and are homesteading in a city that does not allow goats, then you will need to find a milk share.  I had a choice between goat milk and cow’s milk.  Goat’s milk contains identical enzymes to ours so is easier to digest.  It tastes delicious to us, but some folks prefer the super creamy cow’s milk.  You can use pasteurized milk (not ultra-pasteurized) for making cheese, but I am a raw milk gal myself.  Why kill all the nutrients?  That seems silly.

For soft cheeses, you will need nothing more than a pot, a thermometer, and cheesecloth.  Soft cheese is rather forgiving and you can use lemon juice or specific enzymes for making soft white cheese, like chevre.  (You can get these at Cheesemaking.com)

Simply heat a gallon of goat’s milk on the stove slowly until it reaches 86 degrees.  Pour in a packet of enzymes for chevre.  Let sit for 2 minutes.  Stir well and cover for 12 hours.  (I forgot to take a picture.  I also forgot after 12 hours and it ended up sitting for 24 hours!)

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Strain through a cheesecloth, reserving whey.  Whey is highly nutritious.  I gave some to my old cats and my dog.  I reserved some for the cheese to make it the consistency I want.  And some can be saved for bread making as well.  I use a strainer and clothes line clips to secure.  Let sit for 4-8 hours.  (Now, I had to go to bed two hours later so I put the whole thing in the fridge so it ended up sitting for 11 hours.  See!  Very forgiving.)

I only had 1/2 a gallon of milk this time so I used 1/2 packet of enzymes.  I will add lots of fresh herbs from the garden to this and make a lovely cheese for homemade pizza tonight.

If you make a lot more than you need you can roll a small log into plastic wrap, then foil, then pile the logs into a gallon bag and freeze.

To go further, purchase a cheese press, mesophilic and thermophilic starters along with rennet (vegetable or animal), and a great book.  That will get you started.  Cheese making is not as hard as it sounds and you may find yourself coming up with all sorts of delicious creations to serve with a glass of homemade wine!

Here are just a few of my posts with exact instructions.  Easy Homemade Goat Cheese and How to Make Hard Cheese 

Where Did the Time Go?

That was probably the most common question asked in my grandparent’s home.  Where did the time go? They would be telling a story about a friend who used to live there, or the neighbor and her daughter, or look at how tall we had gotten and shake their heads and utter the question.  This continued on through my children growing up, and even still, with Grandma gone, Grandpa shakes his head and says it again.  Where did the time go?

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I found myself the other day, as my youngest daughter had her wedding dress tailored, muttering under my breath the same words.  It’s really all so beautiful, this life.

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I have an amazing relationship with my children that I do not take for granted.  Emily and I (and our men) have been talking about going in together on a family farm for some time now.  I have learned better than to force it or hurry it up before the doors naturally open, but we are actively planning what we need to do to achieve this goal.  All of my hair brained schemes (new businesses, new career ideas, etc.) are essentially routes to the farm.  In my heart all I really want to do is homestead.

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I cannot believe that my granddaughter, Maryjane, is six years old!

Emily and I talked yesterday on the phone about how much money we could save by staying home and working our family farm.  We would be growing our own food (right now I grow four months worth of our produce (hopefully eight months worth this year), we are talking about chickens, goats, and I want to learn to fish.  She went on to say how incredible it would be for her children to learn homesteading skills while being homeschooled and being so close to their grandparents.  Growing up on a farm.  This is what all of us have always wanted. For four years we lived that dream.  We are ready to get back to it.

 

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My granddaughter, Ayla Mae, is 6 months old and growing fast!

I love my little urban farm here.  Solar powered, chickens, huge gardens, a farm dog, it’s good livin’ here.  I am very grateful.  I love donning an apron in the mornings.  I love feeding the chickens, and gathering eggs, and watering the extensive beds, and harvesting weeds for salad.  I love seeing everything grow, and the stack of wood on the porch, and the fruit trees leaf out.  I love the look of colorful jars cooling after being processed in boiling water and listening to the pop-pop of the lids sealing the contents of summer within.  I love going down to the cellar to bring up corn or tomatoes or jam or dandelion wine.

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Gandalf is ready for a farm.

So, we plan to eat out less, put more money towards debt, start saving, keep an eye out for properties coming up, continue to dream.  Whether it is here in this beautiful house in the city on a third of an acre, or on a larger family farm, this is the only life for me.  And if I am going to shake my head and wonder where the time has gone, it may as well be in my rocking chair in front of a fire with a grandbaby on my lap on a family farm.

Two Pressure Canners (and inventorying the freezer and root cellar)

When I closed my shops, everything went into my basement.  I am slowly swimming my way out of it.  I set up a homestead shelf in the root cellar and organized the things I had brought home from my not-so-popular homestead shop.  With this lifestyle, I will use them or use them up at some point.  Soap making supplies, extra boxes of canning supplies, cheese presses, and loads of candles are carefully organized on shelves so that I can see what I have.  I now have two canners and two pressure canners, which really came in handy yesterday.

Now is a good time to empty your freezer and take stock of what you have and what has been lingering for years and what needs to be replenished this gardening season.  Out went several bags of way-too-spicy peppers and half opened this and thats.  Into the ginormous soup pot went all the frozen veggies and odds and ends that I had saved; wilted celery, a few carrots, ends of onions, and all the bags of frozen veggies I thought we would eat; eggplant, Brussels sprouts, green peppers.  Some things are better fresh.  Some herbs and salt and pepper and two hours of simmering later, I had a beautiful vegetable broth waiting to be canned.

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20 pint jars of aromatic liquid were put up.  Usually I would take all day to wait for the canner to come to pressure, can the jars, wait for the pressure to come down, and then do it all again.  With two canners, it was done so fast that I am looking forward to canning season!  I really boosted my production while saving time with just one more pot.  The extra six cups of broth from the pot went into the fridge to use in recipes this week.  A pressure canner fits 10 pint jars or 9 quart jars.  I never freeze broth.  It takes up too much room and I will never remember to take it out in time for supper.

This is a great time to start your canning.  Get some stocks and beans done now on rainy days and before the rush of summer veggies and fruits.  While you are at it, take stock of your root cellar items too.  Start eating some of those canned foods and make room for new ones.  A full cellar is a thing of great comfort and joy!  And it turns out, a second canner is too.

How to Make Broth (and for the record, we have thus far failed at eating roosters and Bob is quite safe here.)

How to Can Beans

The Humble Housewife

My mother was a housewife.  It was easier and more affordable for her to stay home with all of us kids.  We started caring for foster babies when I was young so there were no less than five of us at any given time.  The home was her domain and everything was tidy and clean and healthy supper was on the table nearly every night.  In the evenings she and my dad would often escape together to go get a Coke and take a drive with the portable cassette player singing tunes sans children.  I always assumed she would get a job when we all moved out.  But she didn’t.  It took awhile for me to realize, she has a job.  And even though my dad is retired, she still has the job. She is a full-time homemaker.

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Women are brilliant nurturers, mothers, and just asking one’s husband to get something that is clearly right in front of him in the cupboard but he can’t find it is proof that the home is our domain.  Men are our warriors, our providers, our heavy lifters.  There are exceptions, of course, but homesteading on a prairie practically off-grid taught me that our roles are not to “put us in our place” or “keep us in the kitchen,” they were (are) practical ways for survival.  Yes, we can all switch roles, but it took Doug a quarter of the time to chop wood, move hay, or fix something.  And if he goes to clean something, put something away, or heaven forbid, sew something, odds are I am going to have to do it again so we just stuck to our roles!  Men innately take pride in providing for the family.  Women in the past always took care of the children, took care of the home, took pride in their work, and would often make a little extra money for the household by selling hand crafted items.

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We have noticed over the years of raising children, and even as empty nesters, that when I have a job we spend more money.  At that point, I don’t have time to clean the house so we hire a house cleaner.  I don’t have the energy to cook so we go out.  I need a break so we go do something.  We spend a lot of money and eat terribly.

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I always stayed home or had my own business that I could take my kids to when they were growing up, but what about now?  I think about the judgment I passed on my mother in my late teens for staying home and making dad “do all the work.”  Is that how society will view me?  Now that my businesses have closed we have been talking about me being a homemaker.  We are modern homesteaders in the city.  We preserve as much food as possible.  We have chickens.  I crochet and quilt and sew.  We use a wood stove in the evenings.  I write books and this blog and I do get some small royalties.  I teach a few classes in my home and I am an herbalist.  Can I give myself permission to be a homemaker too?

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We purposely chose a city where our mortgage payment can easily be covered by one person.  We don’t have fancy cell phone plans or cable.  We have designed a life where I can be a housewife, which is where I am happiest.  I love nurturing, folding warm clothes, having a hot meal ready when my husband gets home from work, having the errands done so we can relax together on the weekends, hand making Christmas presents, caring for my animals, and being there when my grown children and grandbabies need me.  It is the hardest job I can think of but it suits my busy, independent nature just fine.  Yes, I think I will thrive here.

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If we give ourselves the option to be anything and to do anything, let us also give ourselves the right to be homemakers.  May we all give more respect and honor to the housewives, the homemakers, the stay-at-home Mamas, and the stay-at-home Grammies in our society for they keep the heart of the family and home beating strong.

 

 

My Mom’s Cheese Stuffed Peppers Recipe

 

20171011_084241My mom was a Farmgirl before I knew what a Farmgirl was.  She loves the Little House on the Prairie books as much as I do.  She always has an apron on if in the kitchen.  She was unabashedly a housewife; our house always clean, supper always on the table.  As soon as they could my parents bought land east of Denver and created a homestead of chickens, a very windy garden, bees, and at one point goats and horses.  My dad built them a darling farmhouse with his own two hands.

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It is funny how taste can transport you back to childhood.  For me the flavor of my mom’s green peppers is one of my favorites.  There are no stuffed peppers like these.  The combination of toasted almonds and juicy raisins plumped in rich tomato sauce has a flavor you will fall in love with!

I had some fresh green peppers and tomatoes in the garden that needed eating before the frost came so I emailed my mom (again) for the recipe.  I had put up plenty of spaghetti sauce.  I used my own homemade broth as well.  The directions are easy and in no time at all you will have a scrumptious dinner on the table!

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Recipe

Thanks Mom!

Farmgirl Fashionista

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In a world of jeans and yoga pants I suppose I stand out a bit.  I think folks are both mesmerized and baffled by my attire.  I was at the library last month and a mom came up to me, big eyes, all excited, and asked, “Is there going to be story time?” Heck if I know.  I looked down at my layered skirts, apron, old fashioned boots, and remembered my Santa hat and realized she thought I was in costume!

Maryjane wears her apron around with me and it is not uncommon for us to be asked if were just in a parade or festival.  Do we bake?  Why on earth would we be parading around as such?  Well, let me explain.  Let’s go through the elements of the Farmgirl attire.

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#1 Long skirt- This is important because I am too tall to find jeans that fit right.  I never stop moving so jeans aren’t exactly comfortable.  A long skirt is comfortable and practical.  Ever since Maryjane was about twelve months old she hides under my skirts.  Her hands wrapped around my leg, she giggles thinking no one can see her, her little feet sticking out.  As she gets taller and older I know this is limited now and I relish feeling her cold hands on my leg, that giggling, her security from the world hidden next to my leg.  It is a very maternal feeling and I know all too well she will grow out of it soon.  (I buy my skirts at the Elizabeth Celtic Festival.  It is a rather simple pattern that uses elastic or string to cinch the waist.)

#2 Slips- In a world of too tight skirts and panty lines, I do still love the look of a beautiful cotton slip.  Mine has a long swath of eyelet around the bottom.  It is feminine and beautiful.  I also wear a full skirt under my regular skirt as well.  Why?  Well, I am cool in the summer with the layers, and warm in the winter with the layers.  It makes my dress swish.  It is lovely and modest and sexy all at the same time.  And at my age, I don’t care what the style is.  I like the old fashioned look.

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#3 Apron- If you do not wear an apron each day how do you find your phone and keys?  Mine would be lost in my purse, possibly forever.  I also can carry a tissue, my to-do list, and a few flowers I harvested.  The original reason for an apron was to cover a woman’s dress, for she probably only had two, one for every day and one for church.  The apron is easier to wash and keeps clothes cleaner, meaning if you haven’t traipsed through mud, you can hang your skirt back up. (Mine were made by an Amish woman and her daughters, a neighbor of a blog reader.  Some of mine I made, or were gifts, or hand me downs, and some really quite old that belonged to Kat’s grandmother.)

#4 Old fashioned boots- Stickers, weeds, rain, snow, cold or hot weather, farming, shoveling, and a cute addition to any farmgirl attire.  (I got mine at Big R.)

We farmgirls have lots to do, from taking care of the homestead, cooking for folks, farming, and for me, being the local folk healer, so wearing beautiful, comfortable clothes is just one perk of being a farmgirl.

The Homesteading Bug…or in the Blood?

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There are some that are content with flowers in a pot.  There are those who are perfectly happy turning on a switch to make the fire come to life (the gas flame is rather pretty).  A package of this food or that blended with another to make “homemade” food.  Our society has a different view of homemaking these days.  But I, well I used to think I had the homesteading bug.  A bug that I wondered would pass once we entered the city.  Would I miss canning?  It is tedious work.  Would I miss hand washing dishes and clothes lines, and the smell of firewood setting aflame while a pot of beans is set on the wood stove to percolate?

I guess you know the answer.

City life can be rather easy.  My friend cleans my apartment once a week.  I leave for work with everyone else and work very, very hard all week long.  So does Doug.  We come home and fix supper or head out to eat.  We switch on the fire.  And a movie.  We feed the cats.  I do laundry.  It is quick, even though our clothes are a bit shrunk from the dryer…or the lifestyle.

We long for chores and the cool breeze as we run to the chicken coop to let the ladies out.  We miss the sight of dozens of jewel colored jars cooling on the counters waiting for the larder (I did get several dozen things put up, but we’ll be out by next month).  I miss the sound of the dehydrator and the smell of drying tomatoes.  The sound of crackling from the first log that catches in the wood stove.  I miss the extensive gardens to water and the music blaring from my earphones as I dance and water at the same time, entertaining the neighbors.  I miss pointing out what we grew on the plate (sometimes all of it).  I miss falling into bed exhausted with a huge smile of completion on my face.  Planning the winter rests of learning to knit and weave and spin and the books I’ll catch up on.  Only to be planning the next year’s gardens and pouring over seed catalogues instead.

We wondered if we would get over the homesteading bug when set into a life of a bit more ease.  But, no, it turns out, it was homesteading blood.  Not a bug.  We are a few of those folks that could go back to 1890 with ease.  Playing the fiddle or working as we please.  To step out of normal society is a plus.  Yes, on a mini-farm and homestead you will find us.

I look forward to donning my apron again.  The one that swaddled new born goats and chicks.  The one my granddaughter can hide under.  To wipe my hands on after chopping a zillion vegetables or to wipe my brow after crawling on my hands and knees to plant tiny seeds that will become life and infuse our life with…life.

Some of us just have homesteading in our blood.