My Homestead Kitchen and Root Cellar

 

20170927_161036This is always a happily busy time of you year in my homestead kitchen.  There are lots of things being canned, lots of frozen items, lots of dried items, lots of staples.  Colorful eggs decorate the counter.

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We could walk to the grocery store.  Everything I need is already canned and frozen there.  We went from five plus people to just two of us here, why so much food?  Potential weather disasters, power outages, sh*t hits the fan, just in case, lots of reasons, but my grocery bill was only $36 this week, and that’s pretty great.

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I also love to cook.  I am rarely happy with restaurant meals or packaged foods.  I like my own sauces.  I love creating my own pickles, red chile sauce, sauerkraut, but also having lots of really fresh vegetables canned swiftly in glass containers.  No preservatives.  No Monsanto.

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We are busy folks.  It is nice to come home and have everything at the ready to make an amazing meal.  I enjoy the methodical time putting up the food and the pride I feel looking at my humble root cellar.  215 canned items.  I still have a bit more to do.  I will just leave the pressure canner upstairs this year.  That way I can quickly can more broth, beans, or soups as I go.  There is no real “end of the season”, homemaking pleasures continue through the year.

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If you had walked through my warm homestead kitchen this last week you would have smelled the cinnamon apples being canned, watched the apple cider vinegar and kombucha brewing.  Thick halves of pumpkins baking to be put up, their seeds washed and drying on the counter to plant next year.  A wheel of farmhouse cheddar was being waxed.  Sauerkraut fermenting.  Frozen meat from friends’ ranches.  Lots of beans and whole grains and spices.  Just need more flour, sugar, and coffee.  Lots of coffee.

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There is still much more in the garden.  I was pleased to unearth a sweet potato, something I haven’t been able to grow in higher climates.  More tomatoes, winter beans, burdock, carrots, beets, kale, zucchini, peppers, cabbage, spinach, lettuce, radishes, potatoes all await our autumn meals.

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Donning a cute apron and working quietly in one’s own homestead kitchen brings a peace I cannot even describe.  Food security, health, and peace of mind permeates the air along with the smells of chilies and pumpkins.  This is the life for me.

The Farmhouse Kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of the home, is it not?  Where sustenance and love culminates into family around the table, friends clinking glasses, the quiet of morning coffee, and the gentle stirring of a pot of something delicious.  This is the largest kitchen I have ever had and it is just wonderful.  Even more wonderful, I didn’t have to do anything to it!  I love the color and the punched tin back splash is something I would have chosen myself.  The twinkly lights and festive grape vine lights replace the harsh overhead lighting (when I’m not taking pictures).  I will never opt for overhead lighting if I can help it!  I also removed the curtains.

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We scored this sign last week and couldn’t believe our luck.

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In these old houses the washer hook up is in the kitchen.  That seems quite reasonable to me.  Doug will be putting up a clothes line for me today!

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My apron collection hangs primly around the pantry.  The sign was a gift from a student.  It is a lovely reminder that dreams do come true.

The children’s knick knacks that they created during their childhood surround the sink along with Maryjane’s miniature coffee cups for when she sleeps over.

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Plenty of counter space, beautiful gifts from friends, and years to come of precious memories and delicious food.  Sláinte!

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.

Decorating a Farmstead Kitchen (and making a chalkboard wall)

The kitchen is the heart of the home, where the fires are burning, where memories are made, where the cook stove will stay warm and where  at the breakfast nook near the warm stove we will play board games on snowy winter days.  Where sustaining food is prepared and the baby plays at my feet while I make a pot of tea.  The kitchen is my favorite room.

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In this kitchen I have a bit of space.  Usually my friends crowd around and chat while we all put finishing touches on drinks and food and inevitably a few are pushed out due to lack of space.  In this kitchen I have seating for four and places to mill around.

This is how I turned an ordinary kitchen added on in the early seventies with peeling linoleum into a culinary oasis.  I take inspirations from Amish, Italian, Pioneer, and Country kitchens.  Combined seamlessly together into what my extended family would call a “Katie kitchen”.

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I do not like overhead lighting so twinkly lights are employed to add charm and light to the house.

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The horrid florescent lamp (those always give off a light similar to horror movies in my mind) was covered with a quaint chicken valance.  Another valance was placed above the window in the kitchen.  Doug installed the curtain hardware eight inches over the window so that plenty of light could come through.

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A sunny place to play cards or have a cup of coffee and read.

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An old cabinet piece that I have had a long time is the base for a bookshelf to make a larger cabinet.  My friend, Nancy’s, chicken tea pot, pitcher, and cookie jar stand among pioneer cookbooks and wine glasses.

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Every nook and cranny, every drawer, every cupboard if filled.  I cannot bring one more thing into this kitchen!  Everything in its place is the mantra here now.  My aprons displayed on a vintage hanger along with Maryjane’s apron invite folks to put one on and start cooking!

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The top of the fridge is always a void of inspiration for me.  This whimsical wind catcher and a pretty enamel bowl fill the space with a little fun.

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The unique part of this room is the chalkboard wall.  Simply tape off a section that you would like to use.  Paint on four coats of chalkboard paint, letting dry in between coats.  Let set for two days.  Peel off tape the first day so that it doesn’t become a permanent frame!

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I added my favorite picture to the board by hanging it on a nail in the middle of the chalkboard.  If this little girl was a blonde, it would be Maryjane.  Maryjane loves her chickens!  Notes or menus can be written on the board.

It is easy to add small touches to any kitchen without spending a lot of money.  Any kitchen can benefit from vintage furniture, whimsical touches that bring a smile, and flowers….and a chalkboard wall.

 

How to Put Out a Kitchen Fire

I have set the stove on fire more times than I would like to admit.  It’s been a long time but I know my son would laugh at this statement because I am sure he remembers me as a young mom who kept my secret weapon by the stove to put the fire out.

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Sunday we were at family dinner at Maryjane’s other grandparents’ house sitting around laughing and enjoying good conversation as we waited for the pot pies to finish baking.  Their juices bubbling up over the crust, the smell of home cooking wafting through the air.  Until smoke started rising from the burners.  Susan opened the oven door and said calmly, “The oven is on fire!”

“Do you have baking soda?” I asked.  Frazzled, she said yes but it was in the refrigerator in the garage.  Someone said there was a fire extinguisher.  I said, “Don’t use the fire extinguisher!  The food will all be ruined.”  They continued opening the oven door to see the fire and closing it and beginning to panic.  I ran to the garage, grabbed the box of baking soda from the fridge and in two sprinkles the fire was out.  The food was unharmed, the bottom of the oven can be swept out, and their house is still in tact.  I do love baking soda.  A wonderful family dinner ensued.

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Other uses for baking soda:

Use as toothpaste.  It whitens and cleans teeth.

Place 1/2 a cup in a bath to detoxify skin and get chlorine out after swimming.  It also softens skin.

Use as a scrubbing cleanser on sinks and bathtubs.  It whitens and cleans without scratching.

Clear a drain with baking soda and vinegar.  Pour baking soda down drain then top with vinegar till fizzy. Leave overnight.  Pour a kettle of boiling water down drain.

Odor control in refrigerator.

Sprinkle a little in the cat box for odor control.

Bake with it, of course.

And put out fires!  Baking soda is a homesteading necessity!