Posted in Homestead

This is Why We Homestead (and how we will prep better this year)

Five pounds of smoky, rich local coffee beans are a comfort to have. We still have 3/4 of a fifty pound bag of organic, unbleached flour. We have lots of wheat gluten and jars upon jars of pulses, like barley, rice, and pinto beans. Did we know that there would be a worldwide pandemic? Yes and no. We knew there would be something, and it is just a smart way to live. To be prepared. It is as comforting as a big cup of hot coffee on a cool spring morning.

We homestead for many reasons. Everyone knows that the power can go out at any time. Job losses and lay offs happen. Natural disasters happen. People get sick. But we don’t just homestead for disaster preparedness; there are other reasons too.

We homestead to save money. A five pound bag of organic coffee is $60, recently roasted locally and the beans are sourced sustainably and fair trade. A fifty pound bag of flour is about fifty bucks. That is a stellar price for organic, unbleached flour. Organic is very important to us and we would like items that we can’t produce ourselves to be fairly and sustainably grown and sold.

We also save money by preserving our own food. I save scraps from vegetables, the ends of onions, carrots, celery, leeks, mushrooms, veggies that are just turning, and make them into savory jars of broth. I make fourteen jars at a time for free, basically. I guess the lids cost a couple of bucks. A quart of organic vegetable broth in the store is a minimum of five dollars. I have jars of broth at the ready for cheaper than a Walmart special.

By having pulses and foods on hand, we eat out a lot less because we have food here. It is all displayed in beautiful canning jars and is easy to see and be inspired by.

We homestead for better food. By growing our own food, we control what is used to produce it, how it is handled, when it is harvested, and its freshness. And to have food. I suppose a lot of y’all are going to have a garden this year after seeing so many empty grocery store shelves! We have fresh eggs (we are vegan outside of that), plenty of grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and vegetables canned and frozen.

We have candles, lamp fuel, water in jugs, cleaning products, a bag of homemade soap, and craft projects for days. But here is what I have learned from this quarantine.

We need to save more money. Well, we need to save money period. All our bills are paid and we have everything we need but in these situations, an emergency fund would be more of a comfort than a cup of coffee.

We need to preserve more food. Last year we moved before harvest time. The year before I started a shop that promptly closed, but took up all my time during harvest season. Luckily I had canned a lot before that, but geez, no more slacking! I usually put up a couple hundred jars of food a year. This year I have a lofty goal of over five hundred jars of food and several gallon bags of frozen vegetables. I am also growing and/or buying a lot of things to dry and dehydrate.

We need to figure out how to save more water. We will look into rain barrels and ways to save drinking water this year in case of emergency. Right now, with our animals, we have maybe two day’s worth saved. Not enough!

Homesteading is an adventure. One can do it from anywhere. Joining a community garden, buying produce from a farmer’s market, canning in an apartment, saving jugs of water under the bed, learning to sew, getting a few oil lamps, buying second hand; the ways are endless. We gradually improve our ways of homesteading by experience. This year will be our most ambitious farm yet and this quarantined time has showed us what we need to focus on. I hope something good will come out of this time for all of you out there. How are you homesteading? What skills will you learn this year?

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 Food/Wine (and preserving)

What the World Eats (and being aware of what we eat!)

I saw the photo montage go by on my Facebook feed of What the World Eats.  Each photograph of a family in a different country with all the food that they eat in a week.  It took me by surprise, really.  Many of the countries that I thought would have healthier food choices did not.  And the ones that I would consider healthy had little more than five bags of staples like beans and rice.  What really astounded me though was the sheer amount of processed food.  My goodness, big companies have made their way around the world.  One photo showed liters and liters of Pepsi.  Packages of pre-cut meats.  Boxes and boxes of processed foods.  And some produce.  It made me think, What am I eating? What would our photograph look like?

Just for a day I began photographing my meals.

When we had our practically off-grid farm there for a bit, we were practically self-sufficient.  We had a root cellar filled with fruits and vegetables.  A freezer full of local meat and my own cheese curing from my own goats.  What that photo wouldn’t show is all the food that went to feed the animals that I consumed.  (Nor would it show the chronic heartburn, weight gain, and gout.)  What do I eat now? was a question that would ultimately help me see what I could make myself and just how much processed food I consumed.

Breakfast- I love a bowl of cereal for breakfast.  I buy the organic box of raisin granola for $4-$5 and it feeds me for five days with roughly four cups of cereal in the box.  I wrote a book many years ago called, Gone Vegan, and I pulled out that trusty manual to find my old granola recipe.  It is so good and it made doubled the granola in roughly 40 minutes for a fraction of the price.  One less box I need to send to recycling and one less plastic insert that goes in the trash.

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Homemade Granola

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix 6 cups of oats with 1 cup of brown sugar, 1 T pumpkin pie spice, and 3/4 cup of canola, sunflower, or safflower oil, and a 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.

Spray a cookie sheet with oil and after mixing all ingredients well, pour onto cookie sheet.  Drizzle with agave or maple syrup.  Bake for 30 minutes, stirring half way through.  Then add 1 cup of nuts and 1 1/2 cups of dried fruit (I used pecans, raisins, and cranberries) and continue to cook for 5 more minutes.  Stir a few times after it comes out of the oven as it’s cooling to keep it from sticking or clumping.

Now, this is delicious with almond milk.  And indeed, I can make my own cashew, hemp, or almond milk.  But, I usually buy the carton because it lasts longer.

Lunch- For lunch I had a power smoothie.  My Vitamix is ten years old (a new one is on my wish list) so I have to juice the big stuff first.  I put in the juicer a large leaf of aloe, 3 apples, 3 carrots, a big handful of chard, and a chunk of ginger and turmeric.  Then I poured that into the Vitamix and added a big banana, spirulina, maca, hemp protein powder, pumpkin pie spice, frozen berries, a dollop of both peanut butter and coconut oil.  A drizzle of maple syrup or agave and on the machine goes.  I split it in half and send my husband with his tomorrow in his lunch and drink my half with a few crackers and vegan cream cheese and jam that I preserved.  I could certainly make my own crackers but they aren’t quite as good as organic Ritz style.  But maybe I will work on that this week!  I do buy packaged vegan cheeses and meats.  The packaging is far less waste than the actual act of raising meat and dairy and the karmic value of going vegan is astronomical as well as the lessened impact on the environment.

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Dinner- Pizza with a homemade, 15 minute crust.  I topped it with my own preserved tomato sauce, vegan mozzarella and cream cheese, a ton of spices, and a bunch of delicious vegetables.

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The next night we had vegan carne asada with crisp oven fries, cashew queso, Beyond Meat crumbles, guacamole, tomatoes, and homemade red chile.

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The Big Picture– Well, I have a bit to go, don’t I?  But being aware is the first step to doing better.  So, yes, we use some packaged items and some of them could be made and some of them are the lesser of evils.  But produce is a large part of our diet and so are healthy grains.  I grow all of our produce for the four months we garden and I preserve a few hundred jars of produce a year.  This year with my expanded gardens and vertical gardening techniques, I hope to produce doubled what I have been.  This continues to increase our nutrition intake and lessen our footprint even more.  Preparing more ethnic dishes, like Indian and Mexican food allows the use of more beans and pulses, further increasing our health, and costs less environmentally and monetarily.

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Vegan cheesecake with homemade chokecherry sauce

As Americans especially, we have a lot of unwiring to do.  I hope in a year or so to look more like the family from Guatemala (sans meat) then the one from America.

http://time.com/8515/hungry-planet-what-the-world-eats/