Posted in Farmgirl Decorating

1860s General Store Style (making a homestead more efficient)

We do not have a lot of money so we designate extra funds to anything that builds or benefits our homestead. I picked up a “new” oil lamp and two beautiful wooden candle holders with chimneys at an antique store yesterday. Our house is so lovely and rather modern compared to our past houses. It was not built by homesteaders so a few changes were needed to prepare for our year of farming ahead.

Before

We put up hundreds and hundreds of jars of produce each year and where will we put them? There is no basement here and we have limited storage. We spend most of our time in the main room of our house. When you walk in the front door you are in the living room which is attached to the dining room and is separated from the kitchen by only a 3/4 wall that was made into a pantry. If that wall were gone, it would be a perfect square. The wood stove putters along nicely heating the house and the east and west windows keep the space light, the high ceilings make it feel airy and rustic. To make it fit our needs better, there are two things we wanted to do, build shelves along the north wall and take down the wall.

After

With the rebate we received from getting solar panels on our last house we hired the fellow that put up our shed. The shelves are stunning and rustic. It is rather amazing how shelves can totally transform a space. We chose the brackets (Celtic scroll) and the wood stain. Four 12 foot long shelves went up on one side and two 6″ boards went up on the other side. Kevin was kind enough to move my behemoth piano to where I wanted it. The result is stunning. You could call our decorating style, 1860’s General Store style, I guess!

Getting a little low on preserves! Come September, these shelves will be brimming with hundreds of colorful jars.

Each 12 foot shelf can hold 244 jars of produce. Is it safe to have all of one’s canned goods out in the open like that? I did my research and actively used a thermometer to monitor the temperatures of the wall in several places. The first time I ever saw canned goods was at one of my best friend’s houses when I was sixteen. Her family was Mormon and quite sufficient in their lifestyle. Rows of glimmering glass jars shone from open shelves on a sun porch. I was mesmerized. Funny how little things like that can change the course of your life.

According to my research, I learned a few things. 1)Canned goods are best kept out of direct sunlight. The shelves are on the north wall. Thanks to a covered patio out back, the sun never shines directly on that wall. 2) Homemade preserves are best kept between 50-70 degrees. No higher than 90-100 degrees. The highest temperature the wall got with the wood stove at its peak was 78 degrees. That was nearest the stove. The higher shelves were at the highest temperature because heat rises.

Books will fill the spaces nearest the stove.

I believe that the sight of hundreds of colorful jars of sustaining produce is the prettiest art installation I have ever seen. It may seem odd to have all of one’s pantry out in the open but the benefits are many. One, it is so beautiful! Two, you can see everything available and inspiration for supper comes easier and you can see what you are getting low on. Three, it looks like an 1860’s General Store- which happens to be my current decorating style.

If we had installed the shelves ourselves it would have been even more affordable, but we didn’t fancy having crooked shelves and we needed them to be put up strong and correctly to hold that much weight! The second phase happens Wednesday when the wall comes tumbling down. Such little changes to make a homestead more efficient and charming.

Bye bye wall!
Posted in Farmgirl Decorating, Food/Wine (and preserving)

The Well Stocked Pantry and Repurposed Antiques

I love interesting furniture pieces.  These were cubbies in a hardware store in 1950.  I love the original stenciled numbers.  I bought it at an antique store ten years ago and it was the primary showpiece, holding my tincture bottles, in my shops.  It now holds a place in my kitchen.  I realize that it is getting really dingy looking.  Sixty-nine years of army green can only hold up for so long.  (Spoiler alert!  Next week I am revamping my kitchen.  Can you guess what color the cubbies are becoming?)  I just sold my Hoosier yesterday to make room for my new kitchen idea.  It held glasses and barware.  You can take any old piece and reimagine its purpose.

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I love this idea with the pantry items.  It looks fun and unique while being practical.  Things do tend to get lost in the back of the pantry or spoil.  I end up buying way too many of one thing over time, thinking I am out.  This is a great way to keep track of what pantry pulses I have on hand.  It makes grocery planning easy.  And it serves as dinner inspiration.  Choose a grain or legume, see what veggies I have on hand, think up a theme, and go!  Dinner is on.

Posted in Homestead

The Joys of a Simple Life (goals, self reliance, a day in the life)

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Forget January first as New Year’s!  That is only one time of pondering goals for a homesteader.  There are several pivotal times in the year that homesteaders like us take stock and decide and dream and implement plans for the year.

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Our average spring day starts at dawn with strong cups of coffee.  Doug reads the news and I write.  We do outdoor farm chores like milking, feeding goats and sheep, letting the chickens and ducks out and making sure they are cared for.  We plant as the weather allows, watching the weather and clouds like an addiction.  Preparing soil, adding beds, caring for plants.

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Doug fixes fences and puts up gates.  He repairs things damaged from winter and makes sure we have plenty of firewood curing and in the house for the still chilly nights. We watch our beautiful granddaughter.  She wants to be a part of everything, carrying wood, making cheese, doing dishes.

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I keep up the farmhouse and put three meals a day on the table.  I preserve throughout the year to keep the pantry rotating.  Five pints of meat sauce put up the other day, seven quarts of broth last week.  Cheese rests in brine on the stove. (I will teach you that next week!)

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We watch owls swoop by, worry about family members from a distance, pray for sunny days, and relax in the evenings after milking, reading by oil lamp.  We lead a simple, busy, enchanting life.  In order to keep this lifestyle we have to find everything possible that we can do ourselves.  This allows us to live on very little money and enjoy the profound satisfaction of doing things ourselves.  We live softly on the planet and provide healthy food and peaceful living for ourselves and our children that came home.

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For the past six years we have added skill by skill and vast achievements but this year I would like to go one step further and do these things more intensely, more prolifically.  I have grown all my own green beans, but how about all our corn?  I have sewed a skirt, how about sew what I need this year? (I am in dreadful need of new aprons)  So, these are my goals for the next two and a half seasons and of course you will be drug along with me through my writings to see just how self-reliant we can be and how satisfying it is to live a life of freedom and work by hand and I hope I can inspire you to step back and live a little more simply and old fashioned too.

Can I: Grow all my own fruits and vegetables?

Make my own wine?

Prepare my own spices?

Make all my own dairy products?

Provide some of my own meat?  And source the rest from friends? (Whole Foods is killing me y’all!)

Bake all my own breads, tortillas, rolls, etc.?

Stock, organize, and fill staples so that we can practically eliminate the need to go to the store?

Grow enough variety to satisfy us?

Be creative with recipes?

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These are my goals for my farmhouse kitchen.  I have a list of what we need to reserve for winter.  How to improve my relationships. What to sew. How to rearrange the living room and kitchen.  But most of all I need to be present, unfettered,  and loving.  I need to not get so busy that I forget to hug my husband, sit and watch the rain from the window, read a good book, or play with the baby.  Our old lifestyle allowed a two week vacation.  This one allows a bit every day.  This is truly the best life for us.