Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring Contest

The Spring Contest is finally here. Like us on Facebook for your chance to Win! 

Thanks to PrairieWind Creations for these two lovely pieces we get to give away. They look so beautiful in person. PrairieWind ship World Wide so you can enter the contest from anywhere and still win! If you're not local for using the gift certificate I will donate it to the food bank. 

They look awesome in person, I'd love to have either in my Windows. You will too. They'd also make a wonderful Mothers Day gift. Check out PrairieWind for more unique pieces.

Happy Almost Spring

It's Spring. You'd never know it if you were looking at the weather here in Nova Scotia though. It's warming up for sure, -2 at 7am and schools are closed for a snow day. At least it's not the -11 we are going to get a few nights this week. It snowed 2-3 inches overnight again plus freezing rain so the roads and sidewalks are really slick which is why it's a snow day. Most of the kids are bussed to school and this isn't a good morning for driving. However the ducks are out like idiots sliding down the piles of snow that slid off the greenhouse roof like 6 year olds with no fear. They're whooping and hollering in their ducky voices and generally having a good time as they slide down and clamber back up again. The roosters however, have stayed indoors so far. 

Spring marks the beginning of warmer and happier days after the dark chill of Winter. It does for me anyways. More outside work, fresh air and exercise. Plus just feeling the sun on your skin is something most of us northerners can relate to. Life seems to just have a more hopeful outlook.

Tomorrow, being the first full day of spring, means a new contest. I'll post it here before it goes up on Facebook and Twitter. Prizes include a veggie strip maker from Pampered Chef, an original Stained Glass piece from Prairie Wind Creations, and one month of veggie box delivery. Let's celebrate he beginning of another growing season by celebrating Spring 2017!

It's a busy week for us so I should go. Have a wonderful week no matter where you are and keep your loved ones close. 


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Vegetable Noodles

Driving ice and snow against my windows has me very grateful for my wood stove and good local food. A warm meal on a yucky night is one of lifes comforts and pleasures. We're pretty frugal as you know but every now and then we treat ourselves to a new tool. Our mantis tiller, our soil blockers (read more tomorrow) and our veggie spiralizer. Tonight's menu, stir fry with sweet potato noodles. Yum! The spiralizer turns veggies into fettuccini, spaghetti, or broad noodle-like slices. It's a good way to include more veggies in your diet and something fun for kids. They also make very even slices for making pie or soup. Tonight we are making sweet potato noodles and a pineapple lemon pork stir fry. Mmmmm. Cooking sweet potato noodles is easy. Toss with a couple tbsp of olive oil, add 1tsp kosher salt, sauté for 5-10 mins, tossing every few mins to prevent sticking or burning. Tongs make this easier as does dividing the noodles into batches. The only hard thing about making sweet potato noodles is not eating them all before you serve them. So delicious and simple! And great local sweet potatoes from Keddy's. 

In spite of this winter weather, plans continue for a great 2017. The wood is purchased for the bunny hutch. I'm hoping to work on it tomorrow with the girls as a Spring Break project. And we will start painting our signs too. Having the covered space of the greenhouse to work in is wonderful. Given the weather, I think it's a good night to go to bed early. Let the wind howl and the storm rage, Spring is coming and I'll keep looking forward. Goodnight my friends. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom Week 4 - Hay Box Cooking

Hay boxes are a marvellous way to slow cook food and save 75% of your fuel. They've been around for a long time and are just one way people have used insulation from earth or other sources to slow cook food. Simply put, you boil your ingredients using whatever heating method you have and then you cover your dish or pot and place it in an insulated box and leave it go continue cooking using the stored heat. My method is pretty simple. I sauté the meat for a few minutes and then turn off the heat and add the onions. They cook slightly as the pan cools. I then chop the rest of my veggies and add them to the pot or dish along with either stock or water and seasonings and I turn the heat on again. Once it's come to a full rolling boil for 5-10 minutes I turn off the heat, put on a lid, and place the pot inside my hay box which is on a level surface. A recent addition to my kitchen was a Pampered Chef Rock Crock. Its a pot that feels like stone but is safe to use on the grill, stovetop, oven and microwave. When using the Rock Crock I bring it slowly to a boil over medium heat so that the Crock has a chance to heat up. I'll leave it to simmer for 5-10 mins before I tuck it away in the hay box. The box can go anywhere that's not in your way. I cover it and then just leave it for hours sitting on the floor or counter.  The heat of the pot and food stays trapped and slowly finishes cooking resulting in veggies that keep their shape and meat that turns soft and delicious, all with no need to keep using power or fuel to cook it. Because there's no outside source of heat you don't need to worry about keeping it away from things that will melt like you do with a traditional slow cooker and it doesn't need to be by an electrical outlet. There's no reason why you couldn't have a good tightly fitting lid on your box then pack the whole thing into the car, go for a hike and return to a hot cooked meal trail side. 

My small hay box is simply a wooden crate lined with straw and covered in a pillowcase also filled with straw. I like straw because it's hollow stalks are good insulators and it saves hay to be fed to animals. I have an old pillowcase that's filled with straw and closed with a couple of clothes pins. You can use hay, straw, ground corn husks or whatever you've got.

Ok so my pot is now in the hay box. I must admit that I couldn't resist lifting the pillowcase after a few minutes and the Crock is still simmering away. Perfect! Cooking with no added heat. 

Update: Dinner was delicious. I'd use a little less water next time because there's no loss like there is from regular cooking methods so it doesn't cook down. Giving the meat time to soften and mellow was a great idea on the cheap blade roast I cut up the second time I used this method. It works to cook stew best rather than a whole potroast, but the money saved by buying cheaper cuts and slow cooking is worth it. Also the slow blending of flavours was wonderful. I think it's why stew tastes even better the second day, the blending of flavours. This time I also added bouillon cubes, tomato juice, pepper and Italian seasoning and it was so delicious we all sopped up our bowls with fresh crusty bread. Sigh. Yum. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom Week 2. Fence Posts

In our area there are to different types of post available, treated and untreated. I think that's common for most of the world. The treated posts typically are using the same chemical preservatives as pressure treated lumber and unlike their very noxious predecessors the modern day pwood preservatives at a lot less harmful to the environment. Natural posts are made from local wood, typically low value softwood such as pine cut to 6 or 7 for lengths and sharpened on one end with a chainsaw. 

Here are some of the pros and cons for posts.

                             Treated.                                     Untreated.  

Price.            $5-7 depending on size.                 $1.50-2 or make your own. 

Life span.      5 years+ depends on moisture.      2-5 years. Will rot faster in moist soil. 

Pollution.       Some chemical leaching                Little to no leaching

Ease.             Easy to use.                                   Some variation in size, may split. 
                      Harder to hammer nails.                 Easy to hammer nails when fresh, harden with age.

One of the main things to remember is that your fence wire will outlast the posts do you'll be doing repairs. The same amount of initial labour goes into both types of fence, it's just a question of spend more money now for treated posts and only do repairs once every 8 years or save money and repair every 2 years. 

Making your own posts does allow you to save money, use rot resistant species, or treat your posts by charring them. Charring forms a natural rot resistant layer that can easily double the life of a post and is worth looking into if you have the room. Some people also dip their posts in used oil or tar, but I'm not sure that's a method I want to try in my veggie garden. 

Whatever you decide, I hope this little bit of wisdom has been helpful. Happy Wednesday! 


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom week 3 - Repair or Replace?

Frugality was considered a virtue during the Depression of the 1930's and WW2, yet today it's seen as an absurd waste of time and effort because we live in a time of plenty. But the idea that recycling, upcycling and reusing things is passé is frankly one of the many things wrong with society. Long gone are the days of darning socks, putting new heels and soles on shoes, or turning flour sacks into clothing. Most of us just wouldn't even consider it today. It's so easy to pop down to walmart and buy the things we want in the latest colours. In less than a century we've forgotten or dismissed thrifty ways of living as being old fashioned and miserly. But as a homesteader I'd like you to consider how much you could save in time, dollars and fuel if you fix up a few things at home instead of driving to town every time you need something. 

DIY Supplies A well stocked tool box or cupboard with hand tools, washers, screws and nails in various sizes, repair tape, oil, clamps and wire will save you time looking for hardware and trips to the store. Keep track of the things you use commonly and make sure to have a small supply on hand. Include household repair items too, glasses repair kit if you wear glasses and a sewing kit. We keep extra matches and a few tea light candles in ours plus a bar of hard sunlight soap. A pencil and measuring tape can also be very useful. 

Buttons How many times have you tossed away a shirt because the cuffs frayed or you lost a button? If you look inside the lower side seam you'll often find two shirt buttons sewn to the label for replacing buttons you lose. If you're not lucky enough to have them, and there are no exact matches in your button jar, then the best thing to do is put all the matching buttons at the top of the shirt and sew a same sized but non matching one to the bottom button or buttons. It'll be tucked in and nobody will see it. If your long sleeved shirt has a good collar but frayed wrists you can make it into a short sleeved shirt. Once both the neck and wrists are both worn it can be remade into an apron, painting shirt for children, dusting rags or cleaning rags. Don't forget to remove and keep the buttons in a jar once it's beyond use. 

Handles Brooms, garden tools, snow shovels, they all have handles and sticks that can break. Sometimes a repair is as simple as placing a screw in to keep pieces together or putting a jubilee clip over. Oh, there's my British-ness coming out again. Wikipedia says this "Jubilee Clip is a circular metal band or strip combined with a worm gear fixed to one end. It is designed to hold a soft, pliable hose onto a rigid circular pipe, or sometimes a solid spigot, of smaller diameter.

Jubilee Clips are generally made of stainless steel or galvanised or electro-plated steel. Rotating the screw has the effect of changing the diameter of the circle formed by the band. Jubilee Clips are available in a range of sizes (diameters). Larger-diameter Jubilee Clips tend to have wider bands.

In many countries, Jubilee Clips tend to be known almost exclusively by their brand name, but elsewhere (where the brand is not so well known for example), they are known by generic names such as worm drive hose clip or hose clamp or hose clip

Thank you Wikipedia.

I love these adjustable clips, they work well repairing hoses and all sorts of things. They're very handy to have around in a variety of sizes. 

Having replacement wooden handles that fit the shafts of your tools is also a good idea if your tools are of mid to high quality. They're generally forged and meant to last many years with occasional replacement of handles, regular sharpening, and oiling of the metal parts. Spending more on tools initially or buying good quality used tools will save you money in the long run. 

Sewing and Darning Learning the fine art of darning with a needle and yarn will extend the life of your good wool socks. Darning isn't simply sewing the hole edges together, that would create a seam that can give you blisters. Darning is more like weaving to fill in the hole in the sock. You should have on hand some sock yarn (usually a wool/nylon blend) a darning needle and a darning mushroom. If you don't have one, a hard ball or old lightbulb will work in a pinch to work over. I used an orange once but that's another story. There's lots of info on how to do this on the internet including videos. 

Sewing and patching knees and elbows can extend the life of your outer clothes, even of it means your favourite jeans now become work pants. If you're looking for work clothes for homesteading you can even buy used clothing that fits well and reinforce the knees and pockets to make them durable. It's not about looks when homesteading, it's about practicality and durability. The chickens don't care what you look like, they just care if you've got food for them. 

Footwear Shoes, sandals and particularly boots are crucial for homesteaders. They protect your feet from the elements and sharp objects. Sandals provide a cool environment for hot summer feet while protecting you from rocks. I also love my crocs but experience has taught me that these comfy foam shoes are fine for the house and greenhouse but lousy for regular farm use because it's simply so easy to step on something sharp and have it pass right through into your foot. Yes, this is the voice of experience. Pulling a bail out of your foot and sandal at the same time is much harder than you'd think, especially if it's essentially nailed the shoe tightly to your foot. Can we say OUCH?!? Podiatrists, trainers and many doctors will emphasize the importance of foot health. Investing in long lasting quality shoes and rubber boots will help prevent fatigue, plantar fasciitis, and keep you more comfortable. I would recommend buying good footwear on sale at the end of the season or during promotions. Get yourself properly fitted if you can too. 

Buckets Pails, scoops and buckets are used every day at our farm. From carrying water to collecting eggs, we use a variety of shapes and sizes to complete our daily tasks. Our buckets include store bought livestock pails in colourful plastic and some flexible rubber, to recycled 2, 3 and 5 gallon pails. We can get those at local restaurants for cheap or free and although they are broken more easily than livestock pails, the price is right. Livestock pails are often made of more UV resistant plastic than food pails which spend most of their time indoors. Buckets can often have the handles replaced by a piece of stiff wire if they break. If the handle bracket itself breaks you can drill 2 holes through the more rigid upper part of the bucket and put a rope handle through, leaving some slack and securely tying off the ends.  Holes and cracks can be patched with a fibre reinforced tape such as duct tape inside and out. Broken buckets get used for planters, dog water, compost pails if they don't leak, buckets with leaks can still hold rocks and dry goods or large veggies from the garden, it really depends. Buckets with a broken top can be cut down to make feed dishes. Use your imagination! At the end of their life we put them out for recycling. 

Food During WW2 rationing was essential to feed the troops and the home population. Wasting food simply would not be tolerated, or wise. Peelings were thin slivers, scraps were fed to pigs, and people realized that everyone was going to have to work together to get through from farmers to consumers. The top two ways were not wasting food in the first place and growing their own gardens to supplement what they could buy. Food isn't something homesteaders worry about all the time. We get into habits of preserving and growing food, but if you had to support yourself for 40 days without a trip to the store could you do it? What would you miss? What would you run short of? Careful menu planning and not wasting food could save the planet millions of tonnes of agricultural waste and pollution each year as well as feeding more hungry people. Something to think about isn't it?

So there you have it. Frugality. Bred into me from my Scottish ancestors and adapted for 2017. That's my Wednesday Wisdom for this week. Happy homesteading!

Pancake Day and Giving up Clutter

Although we're not Catholic we still celebrate the English tradition of Pancake Day by making crepes for breakfast served with lemon juice and sugar. It's a fun tradition carried over from my childhood that originally marked the beginning of the 40 days of Lent. This was a time for giving up rich foods like meat, sugar and eggs so a Pancake Day feast effectively used up your supplies before the austere Lenten period began. But there's a new idea I'm trying out this year. 

40 Bags

Many Catholics give something up for lent, perhaps alcohol or chocolate, generally something that's considered indulgent or bad for you. If you follow me on Twitter you'll have noticed my #40Bags post from yesterday and maybe wondered what I'm up to now. The plan is that everyday I'll do some de-cluttering and donate or give away a bag of things we no longer use or need. One bag, regardless of size, each day for 40 days. After I'm done my 40 bags I'm going to do the Spring cleaning. 

I think it's a great idea, and I really need the kick start so today is day one for us. One huge bag to give away I hope.  I think the first week will be easy and it'll get progressively harder as time goes on but I'm committed and as long as it's one bag per day the size doesn't matter.  I'll probably be using a combination of donation bin, Facebook free ads and the Salvation Army store to re-home my stuff and I hope they find new homes where they can be useful. I am going to do a general de-cluttering and then go room by room, closet by closet as the end approaches. I'll keep you posted. Is this something you'd consider doing with me? 

But first breakfast, then to the Dr because I've got a sore tooth that needs some antibiotics. 

Have a great day and good luck with your decluttering. 


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