Welcome to Mama Homesteader!

Follow my family in year 3 of our homesteading journey. Along the way we try to answer the question ," What can one small family do to change their lives on little more than 1/10th of an acre?" Let's Find Out!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Wonderful Dandelion!


      Last Tuesday, while outside for a much needed outdoor fix, Sarah and I gathered Dandelion Greens.
      It's an old practice from my Grandpa Richard. He used to gather fresh spring greens and serve them in hot bacon dressing. It was a frugal, nutrient packed side dish for a large family of nine!
     Sarah loved helping Mama find "dand-y-li-ons". Of course to her, every plant in the yard was a dandelion! A lot of grass ended up in our bowl, but she had fun. After cleaning them yesterday, we still managed to have a rather fair amount of usable greens. Ideally you'd want to cook them the same day they are gathered. You lose vitamins and minerals the longer they sit, but due to time constraints I've been a bit behind. Dandelions are versatile., and persistent. They can be eaten as a salad green, cooked like typical greens, made into jelly, and make an awesome wine. Best of all, unless you get store bought greens, they're FREE!
    The original recipe that Grandpa Richard used has been under some debate, and my Mom has forgotten it. After a quick search online, I managed to find an older recipe that is VERY close to the one he used. Today I'll be serving the dressed greens as a side dish with some nice steaks. (Dad was gracious enough to share some of the beef he purchased from my dairy farming cousins, Terry and JR Rosenberger.) I may make some cornbread or rolls and a fresh batch of homemade applesauce.  Yumm.....
    Later, I'll post recipes and photos. But for now, either plan a little vengeance against (OR pay homage to) the humble Dandelion. Happy eating!!

                                                Cheers! ~ Mama Homesteader

Ode to the Dandelions


Ode To The Dandelions (or Why I Shouldn't Cut The Grass)

The sun shines high: the rain's gone by.
It's Dandelion Day.
From fertile spawn my plush green lawn
Is mottled yellow spray.

The neighbors' round, all cutting down
Their blades and flowers gay -
Now green they've got, a common lot,
While mine's in vast array.

Why should I mow these lovelies low,
Defying Sunshine's ray?
To bring them down the sun might frown,
And turn blue sky to gray.

I'll let their seeds fallow new weeds
And mow another day.
Resplay they should, the neighborhood.
The Dandelions stay.

Housework, Gardening, and of course- SNOW!

   I looked out the kitchen window today and was repulsed by sight of snowflakes drifting about the backyard. Usually I find snow beautiful, but I'm done with it already!! Didn't Mother Nature get the memo? I mean really, the crocus and daffodils are coming up! Sarah found the first, most perfect dandelion just this past Tuesday! Aye, that Mother Nature is a cruel mistress....
   Everyone here is still feeling the effects of the "Bug" that swept through, but all are getting better. Sarah is back to her old rambunctious self. She adamantly insists that we go outside to "play in the dirt momma!". This had been her insistence since the end of last week. I can't blame her, spring fever has hit and the need for the outdoors is calling. I kept her happy for a day or two with a cake pan of dirt. She sat up at the dining room table and was quite content looking for "buggies" and "wormies". (We managed to find a baby centipede and a small spider.) But even that wasn't enough after awhile. So Tuesday she was feeling well enough to go outside, and although still chilly, I didn't see much harm in doing so. She played in her sandbox, and I hung up her new wind chimes and bird feeders. It was great to let her run off some much built up energy!
   My Mother's boyfriend, Dave, stopped by last Sunday to take a look at what I need help with in the backyard. There are various tree limbs and bushes that need removed to prepare for the garden. As of right now, I do not own all the equipment to do it myself.  (That will be a future investment.) Dave has graciously agreed to help me this year. At this point though I'm not sure when, seeing as there is a few inches of snow on the ground!
  So far, I've got all the seeds I'm using this year. I've opted to wait until next year for rutabagas, edamame, and shallots. These would need to be special ordered. I simply do not have time or funds to do so this year. I did however find Yukon Gold seed potatoes and seed onions at the local Walmart, which are now sitting patiently in a dark cupboard...
   I'll be starting my seeds this week.  I haven't yet figured out my lighting issues with my 4 tier greenhouse, or rather the lack of light for it. We moved the greenhouse into an upstairs bedroom in hopes that there would  be more light, but it seems that the roof overhang blocks most of it. Well, I guess I'll be brainstorming the next day or two for a low cost solution. But I'm confident I'll figure it out!
    It's also time to line up a tiller for warmer weather to get the soil ready. I've had to rethink my garden layout yet again, as Dave pointed out what I was trying not to notice (SHAME on me!) Behind my shed, there is a large part in full shade and will not be suitable for a vegetable garden. I haven't decided what to put there yet, but I have managed to redo everything. WHEW! Thank God for my garden planner. When Dave is here next time, I'll have him double check it. But so far, everything seems good!
    I've FINALLY gotten to the point that my kitchen is under control again. With being sick a LOT of housework fell by the wayside. I've conquered the bathroom, the living room, the dining room, the laundry, the kitty litter LOL. You get the idea. Now that the kitchen is just about done, that leaves the entryway and the bedrooms. Those seem like good weekend projects for when Daddy is home!! I finally feel like I'm getting order out of the chaos!

                                              Cheers! ~ Mama Homesteader

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tip: Chamomile Tea

A great idea I stumbled upon recently- Chamomile Tea!! With having a sick and cranky toddler lounging around lately, this has been soothing- for me and her :) Take 1/2 cup brewed chamomile tea and add to 1/2 cup 100% fruit juice. I sometimes now give this prior to bedtime, and no more than 1/2 cup of chamomile tea per day for a Toddler (1/4 cup for an Infant). It works well for Mama too! I suggest Celestial Seasonings Chamomile Tea. It is 100% natural chamomile. It's also inexpensive. I'll be keeping this on hand to turn to first when something relaxing is needed in the evening. I'm trying to wean off my nightly dose of benadryl!

The Great Clean Out

    A little over a week ago (March 20th to be exact), I had a very disturbing experience involving medications that I had been given for the "cold" I've had. I had been given amoxacillin, and took Naprocin for pain. Apparently I have developed an allergy to one or both medications. I woke up and found that my throat was swollen, and soon realized that I was gaging on myself. While not spectacularly life threatening, the sensation of choking on one's Uvula (that dangling fleshy bit in your throat) is one I'd rather  never have again. The ER doctor ruled it an an allergy to a medication that I was currently taking, which one is unclear, and that I add both to my list of allergies. Fine by me.
   Only it wasn't. As I thought more and more about the incident, it occurred to me that adding those medications as an allergy wasn't the only solution. Everyday we're bombarded by chemicals. In detergent, in medications, in lotions- well you get the idea. Everything we use on a daily basis is a chemical cocktail. Any one of which can cause health problems.  There has to be a better way.
 There was: I gave away all my chemical laden cleaning products.

    In my way of thinking, it could have been any number of  chemical combinations that caused my allergic reaction. It had been floating around in my head for awhile about switching to alternatives to all these various chemicals. I hated the smell of most of them, I hated that they were so harsh, and I really didn't want them around. Who knows what would happen should a little one get into them!!  They were also expensive and weren't as environmentally friendly as I was hoping our family to be. I finally decided to trust my instincts and make the switch. It has been a wonderfully freeing experience!
    I must have given away over two dozen bottles of various cleaners and unused bath products. I disposed of old medications that we had no had use for. I cut my (mostly unused) makeup stash by three fourths. There is no longer a single aerosol of any sort in my house. I freed up a lot of space, made my home safer, and lifted a lot of burden off my shoulders. And I didn't even know I'd been carrying the weight!!
   After a lot of research on safe, alternative cleaning methods- I created a new line up in my cleaning arsenal.

 Vinegar/Lavender Tincture All purpose cleaner  -  To a spray, bottle add two cups white distilled vinegar and two cups strongly brewed lavender "tea". Shake to mix. Cuts grease and kills germs really well. Vinegar is naturally antiseptic and so is lavender. (You could also use lavender essential oil in the mix. But the tea is cheaper!)) So safe, my Toddler could drink it and it wouldn't hurt her. (Except it would taste like vinegar!)

For tougher scrub jobs I add baking soda and salt, spray with vinegar then let sit. Usually takes care of more caked on messes. Like my stove! Indeed this is embarrassing, but when everyone has been sick- housework is lax I admit :( The right side was formerly like the left.

 Murphy's Oil Soap- a great plant based cleaner when something with some "oomph" is needed. Great for walls and floors. I used it in my bathroom with great effect. (Vinegar and baking soda work well as a toilet bowl cleaner!)

DIY dishwasher powder-  One cup Borax, one cup Washing soda, and  4 packets of lemon flavored kool aid (or a tablespoon of citric acid/fruit fresh). Works as well as the "Eco friendly" sulfuric acid containing liquid I used prior. Has fewer chemicals, and is budget friendly. I use vinegar as a rinse agent!

    I cleaned my bathroom and kitchen with these with no problems, and other than some initial vinegar smell- I didn't feel as if I should flee from the fumes. In my small bathroom it was a lifesaver! But do I feel freakish for switching? No. Although some might view me as insane for giving away all those supplies, and not having one instantly recognizable cleaner in my house. But truthfully I feel better about it.

    I pledge to live with fewer chemicals in my life. I may not be Ed Begly Jr. or Sara Snow in terms of Eco friendly, but I'm a HOMESTEADER. I am making better choices for my family with what I have and with what is within my means. Is it for everyone? No it isn't. But the concept of taking charge of what affects your family is. You have final say, and not someone else.

                                                           What inspires you?

                                                      Cheers! ~ Mama Homesteader

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Homemade Kleenex

 OK, so it's not actually homemade Kleenex per say. But it does serve the same purpose. Introducing Mama's homemade handkerchiefs!

  I've recently been recovering from a virus, only to have my toddler inherit my germs. Any Moms out there know what it is to deal with being sick, and taking care of a small child who is sick as well. No Fun! But in dealing with all fun of runny noses, I began to ponder my family's usage of store bought tissue. The one thing that aggravates me to no end is a tissue, (even the moisturized kind), that leaves your nose red and irritated. It's awful for most adults, let alone a small child! Secondly, I hate buying something for the general purpose of throwing it away. It's my new pet peeve as of late. Getting a  remotely decent tissue is likely to set you back a few dollars a box. And then you throw it away!
  In a new urge to be more thrifty and more Eco-conscious, I decided it was time that the family give good old fashioned handkerchiefs a try. They are inexpensive to buy, even cheaper to make, are washable and long lasting, and reduce the amount of waste we're sending to the landfill.
  It occurred to me that I had some white fuzzy flannelette stored away with my fabrics. It's durable and soft. So after cutting some of the fabric, and double stitching the edges- kiddo and I gave the homemade handkerchiefs a try. They work really well! And as an added benefit, Sarah tolerates them a little better than a paper tissue. Toddlers are notorious about not liking their faces and noses cleaned, so I will take any small victory. After an evening of using one of these homemade handkerchiefs, my nose doesn't feel like raw meat!
   I've made eight of these soft white hankies, and have enough fabric to make more if needed. But at this point, I have no intention of buying another box of Kleenex!

The ABC's of Me

This is a lovely little idea that I absconded from Liz at Garden Variety Mama. It's just a little introduction for anyone who might drop by for a quick read!

A. Age: 31. Although I'm holding out at 22 :P
B. Bed Size: Queen. It was the only way to keep my toddler from beating DH and I to death in our sleep!
C. Chore you dislike: Cleaning litter boxes. When we win the lottery, I'll pay someone else to do it.
D. Dog: Nope. We miss having one, but don't miss the work involved.
E. Essential Start to you day: Having a 2 year old bouncing on my head screaming "Wake up mama!"
F. Favorite Color: Cobalt Blue
G. Gold or Silver: Silver
H. Height: A short 5'3"
I. Instruments: Primary: Euphonium Otherwise:. I am a former music ed. major  and learned to play them all.
J. Job Titles: SAHM, cook, waitress, maid, toddler wrangler.
K. Kids: One. My Two year old Sarah.
L. Live: Ohio
M. Mom's name: Maggie. Pretty sure she's never been here.
N. Nickname: AC, Buddha, Sisser, Etc. All have various explanations.
O. Overnight hospital stays: When I was born, when I was burned, when Sarah was born.
P. Pet Peeves: People who have a licence, yet can't drive worth a darn.
Q. Quote from a movie:  "Chupathingy."- Red Vs. Blue
R. Righty or Lefty: Righty.
S. Siblings: Only the closest of  my friends get the title.
T. Time you wake up: See E.
U. Underwear: Essential.
V. Vegetables you don't like: Cabbage.  Stuff stinks, nuff said.
W. What makes you run late: Refer to letter K.
X. Xrays: A few. Not sure why.
Y. Yummy food you make: Indian. I haven't met a curry yet I didn't like!
Z. Zoo Animal: Possum. They're zoo animals right? Me and the behbeh loves us some possums!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring has Sprung!

     Although Jack Frost may have other ideas about the weather, spring has defiantly sprung in Ohio! Daffodils are in various stages of growth and bloom, as are hyacinths, iris, and even a few long forgotten crocus in my front yard.
      Last Friday was absolutely beautiful! The bug to get out in the sunshine hit, and off Sarah and I went for a walk. We went down to Grandma Pam's house (she wasn't home though) and we played in the back yard. I checked to see what flower bulbs had survived the poor soil conditions, to be transplanted to our current home this fall. I have daffodils, Grape Hyacinth, and Iris. AND as an added bonus, the roots to  my rose are intact. There may still be a chace to save it! After our romp around Grandma's yard, I took my girl to lunch at Mcdonald's. (It was a special treat.). then back home to play in the dirt for a few hours! It was so nice we played outside again on Saturday!  I can't wait for more sunshine to come our way!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Homemade Laundry Soap Update

    Not too long ago, I posted about my endeavors in making homemade laundry soap. While it seemed like a very cool, thrifty idea (and albeit an awesome goo making experiment in your own kitchen!), I still had a few reservations about it. Would my laundry actually come clean? Would it leave a slimy, soapy residue on my clothes? I mean come on, can bar soap in the detergent really work?
     I am thrilled to report that the results are in! Tonight I ditched the store bought stuff in favor of my homemade version to see how it stacked up. Incredibly, my clothing (socks and towels) came out just as clean, if not better, than if I had used a store bought detergent! They didn't have any sort of residue, odor, or  extra scent to them. They didn't smell like anything, just an odorless, scentless CLEAN. This kind of clean is good, because many times strong detergent and softener scents can give me a headache. We all know that socks are hard to get clean. You KNOW what I am talking about too, that stiff-grimy-crunchy STUFF on the bottoms. While this didn't remove old stains and leave them brilliantly white- it DID remove all the new crud and a lot of the old build up. No pulling crunchy, just-washed socks out of the washer.
   All that said, it definitely compares to any store bought, name brand detergent in its cleaning capacity. But the price is even better. My three gallon batch of homemade soap cost me $3.74. That is a definite savings over ANY detergent in the stores. But it gets even better! Today I found a website called Alice. Since Washing Soda is a hard commodity to find in my town, I used a pool PH adjuster that was Sodium Carbonate, the same thing as washing soda. Buying it online usually defeats the purpose of being inexpensive because of the shipping charges. But at Alice, I can buy a regular box of washing soda for $2.99 + Tax, with NO SHIPPING! Their Ivory soap is a great deal as well. And to top it all off, if there is a coupon out there for that product, they will automatically deduct that from the price- no hassle and no looking for coupons! Ordering from Alice means that I could bring my price down to under $1.25 for a batch of homemade laundry detergent.  Are we switching? You betcha! It's fun to make, Eco friendly, cleans like a dream, and the price has never been so nice!

                        Cheers! - Mama Homesteader

UPDATE: On 3/20/2011 I went to walmart to pick up a prescription and found a better deal on Ivory Soap. For a 10 bar pack it was 4.16 +Tx, For the 3 bar pack it was 1.07 + Tx. That would in fact, bring the final price to $1.10 a batch! I also invested in a downy Laundry Ball for 1.37 +Tx. Instead of buying fabric softener, we're switching to using vinegar in the rinse cycle. the ball just saves me time running to the basement to put it in at the correct time!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Homemade Applesauce

   The other day I found a really good deal on apples, and decided that I would attempt to make applesauce (and can it!).  The majority of the apples were Jonagold- a cross between Jonathan and Golden Delicious. I had never had one before and I was pleasantly surprised! They were crisp, tart yet sweet, and had a heavenly intense apple aroma and flavor. They were definitely a treat!
   Originally when I made applesauce for my family, it was a chunkier version. The recent batch ended up being much smoother because I worked on it over two nights because of time restraints. But the end result is just as tasty. Yum!

   For my recipe you need:
   7 lbs of the apple of your choice, cleaned , peeled, cored, and wedged
   the Juice of two lemons

   Put all the apples, tossed in lemon juice, into a baking pan. Cover and bake at 350 F, until extremely tender.
And hour or so should do it.  After baked , mash with a potato masher for a chunkier sauce. For a thinner sauce, heat on the stove and mix until you get the desired consistency.
   Following correct water bath canning  steps and protocol, this applesauce could be canned after a 20 minute dip in 200 F water. I was pleased with the results! I ended up with seven pints of applesauce:)
   Notice: This applesauce has no added sugar or artificial sweeteners, no extra juice other than the lemon juice (in place of fruit fresh and the like),  and no added chemicals. While the apples and lemons were not organic, I did manage to cut out a LOT with a bit of my time. The sight of my kiddo digging into it and smiling, is well worth the effort.

    What are you doing to make a difference in the lives of your family?

    Cheers!- Mama Homesteader

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Homemade Laundry Soap

  Lately I've been reading a lot about some families making their own laundry soap. It's an intriguing idea, making one's own laundry soap- plus I'm all for anything that will save my family money. After a lot of reading, it seemed that if you could find all the ingredients at a reasonable price, that it would be worthwhile. On the plus side, the most popular recipe on the Internet is also fairly Eco friendly according to many Green living websites.
  I decided to go for it and give the homemade laundry soap a try. The recipe I chose only used four ingredients: Water, Borax, Washing Soda, and Ivory Soap. In my neck of the woods, Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (sodium Carbonate) can't be found. I know that I can ask a local store to stock it,  but I'd rather try the recipe first before doing so. I opted for swimming pool PH adjuster. It was more expensive, but was readily available for my chemistry experiment. And instead of Ivory, I chose to go with what I had on hand, Lavender Yardley.
For the recipe I used You need:

1 Bar of Ivory (or your choice) soap, grated
1 cup of Washing Soda
1/2 Cup Borax
3 gallons of hot water

In a saucepan add 4 cups hot water. Mix in the grated soap and stir until dissolved. Likewise in a large bucket add the remaining hot water. Add the soap mixture, stirring well.  Mix in your borax, then washing soda. Mix thoroughly and leave to sit overnight.

Overnight you go from runny soap water, to, well...laundry detergent! It looks and smells like the store bought stuff. My cost calculations bring the 52 plus load batch to $3.77- well worth the effort. I can bring the cost down even more once I find a less expensive source of calcium carbonate. AND if I use Ivory soap the next time, I'll shave off at LEAST 5 unnecessary chemicals! I haven't used it yet, but when I have I'll post the results.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Thrifty Homesteading

I love thrift stores. I always love being able to get a good deal on something that we need, or just something nice for the house- at a VERY discounted rate. Just today, DH and I, went to the local goodwill. I wasn't really shopping for anything in particular, except seeing if by chance they had another pressure canner. Not likely, but you never know what might turn up- and my pal Becky really wants one. No pressure canner today, but I did find a food dehydrator for $6. We didn't NEED it, but it will certainly help me make a new array of healthy snacks for the kiddo. I feel much more confident about leaving that on long hours to dry food as opposed to leaving my gas oven on.

   Even at the regular stores I love a good deal. For example, I scored several pounds of bananas for 19 cents/lb. We've been going through at least a pound a day, so that's a STEAL over 50/lb elsewhere. At the same store I also picked up 4 avocados for 49 cents. But today was even better, tomatoes for 28 cents/lb and apples for 51/lb. It pays to look on the discount rack! The bananas will probably not last the weekend, while the apples will most certainly become jars of homemade applesauce.
 What I enjoy even more is making things for the home from scratch. Many times is is by far cheaper (and healthier) to make something from scratch. I've been pondering laundry detergent lately. There are many sites on the Internet listing a blend of borax, washing soda, ivory soap, and water. While economical, there is some hesitation on my part on the borax, and washing soda. Both are chemicals that are harsh, and the toxicity on humans and environmental impact haven't been thoroughly studied. It may be a question of choosing the lesser evil. eventually I will try or formulate a recipe, with the goal being a product that is economical and environmentally safe. When I do I'll let you know!

                                         Cheers!- Mama Homesteader

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Is Homeschooling an option on the Homestead?

   I've given a lot of thought on the topic of homeschooling. In My Heart,  I know its something I want to do and should do. But could I do it?
    Anyone who knows me, knows that my Sarah drives me insane. I struggle daily to cope with toddler hood. But I know that the struggles in toddler hood won't last forever. When I think of the mom I would most like to be like, I think of my Mom's BF when I was in early grade school.
    Christa Henning was educated in the public education system and was a college graduate. She was an avid homemaker and chose to be a stay at home Mom in rural Ohio. She worked as a teacher at a local christian academy, BUT home schooled each of her 5 living children. It struck me as odd when I was young, but now I have a profound respect for her. She was always calm, always loving, always devoted.
    Education in America began with homeschooling. Be it for religious conviction, for necessity, or just by choice- our educational foundation initially centered around the home. And with good reason, Parents are a child's first teacher. In the first few years of life, before the age when children are given a formal education- all education takes place at home. Just the other day Sarah and I were looking at a book together. It was about different foods and utensils used for eating. On the first round through, she didn't know Broccoli and peas. When she was "re-reading" me the story, she promptly pointed out and identified the Broccoli and peas. She was beaming and I was amazed. I taught her that, not some teacher in a classroom. I did it.
    And as I think of homeschooling, I have begun to recognize all the things she has picked up from me teaching her- quickly, easily, and naturally. This is what I want her education to be. Not some cookie cutter, one size fits all, right outta the box program. Not all students are the same, and the current  cookie- cutter education system does not meet the needs of all students. Teachers are spread thin, and Adequate one on one time is nearly non existent. Parents and students aren't being held responsible and the burden is resting on the Teacher. Most teachers are now just "going through the motions", something akin to making food at a fast food restaurant. Little variation. There's bullying, there's drugs, there's terrible behavior. Children come home cranky and with god knows what germs. Parents send their children to schools for an education, but do they REALLY know what is going on in their child's day? Do they even know what they are learning?  And in most cases the answer is NO.
    But a homeschooling parent knows exactly what their child is learning and at what pace. They know strengths and weaknesses. Learning is on their pace, and not that set by conventional schools. There's no bullying, no drugs, no germs caught because some negligent parent sent their child to school with pink eye. And the best part is- when your child succeeds, you're to credit for it. You reap what you've sown.
    The homeschooling movement is growing. It's been stated that on average, properly  homeschooled children are several levels ahead of their public/private school counterparts. They tend to be well rounded individuals, with many friends across a broad spectrum of ages and walks of life. Its a misconception that they have no social skills, in many cases quite the opposite. Many go onto college. Christa obviously did something right, most of her children have gone onto/ or are receiving college educations.
     Could I do it? Looking at Sarah, IN A HEARTBEAT. Time will tell if my DH  and I make that decision. But when the question arises, I'll be prepared. What legacy do YOU leave your children?  What have you taught them today?

                                                           Cheers- Mama Homesteader

Around the Homestead

   Last night, I finally canned the Acorn/Turks Turban squash mix that I had prepped. I had to be real creative with what pots I had, as I don't have a pot big enough to heat quart jars upright....yet. I will soon though. Pumpkin and squash take a huge amount of time to pressure can, 90 minutes for quart jars. It felt like forever, but I got three golden quart jars of squash mix for my endeavor (I had measured it out as 4 quarts, but didn't keep in mind the shrinkage factor.)

We decided to let loose the other day to shrug off some cabin fever. Sarah's been asking to go "pay in the dirt". So I decided that the weather was just nice enough to humor her. It was kinda wet out, but seeing as I've been itching to do some readying outside for garden weather, I was happy to oblige.                                              

       Our house is on a hill, with a set of stairs leading up into a yard. She "helped" me tackle the remnants of a pair of small bushes on either side of the stairs. One was dead, because the landlord and DH repeatedly mowed it over. The other was a small tangle of a barberry bush and a rose. The bush gave without much fuss, but the rose  retaliated. With minimal leverage it managed to break my new spade. Then I read the label on the shovel-"Made in China." Don't make them like the used too, eh? So I did what I could with the rose anyway, only to find it was growing part way under our side walk. So on the next fine-ish day we have, I'll promptly kill it with a small    handsaw. I plan on putting my purple iris on either side. They are very pretty, and tee hee- don't need pruned.      
    I plan on having a rose planted somewhere around the house, but it will be an antique variety. I had a rose from a house I lived in years ago. It was an ancient tea rose, more like a tree. I loved that rose! But alas when we moved to my in laws years ago, it suffered proximity toxicity. I didn't know until recently that you cannot plant a rose where a rose once stood. Something off keeps them from thriving. I had planned to bring it here, but someone put it out of its misery recently. So I am on the hunt to try and find the same or similar variety!
   Overall our time outside was fun filled. Sarah enjoyed the pill bugs and pink "wormies". I came across a baby dandelion with a HUGE tap root. She thought it was a wormie and wanted to hold it. When I said it was a baby dandelion, she promptly responded, "where's a baby lion?" How precious is that!? I'm going to thoroughly enjoy our time in the garden this year with my best lil' helper!
   My baby raspberry is thriving in my greenhouse. There are many more leaves (and more coming!) than when I bought it. Seems like a good sign to me. I'm thinking of getting at least two more this weekend. Eventually I need at least six.
                       What are YOU doing to prepare for spring? Leave a comment and let me know!

                                                           Cheers! - Mama Homesteader

Monday, March 7, 2011

Chicken Stock Recipe

This recipe is from the "Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving: 400 delicious and creative recipes for today." Edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine. Mine made less, because I was only using the carcass and hence used less water and other ingredients. I also added carrot.

Makes about 8 pints or 4 quarts

1 4lb. chicken cut into pieces
16 cups of water
2 celery stalks
2 medium onions, quartered
10 whole black peppercorns
2 Bay leaves
(1 Carrot , quartered)
1 tbsp salt

I. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine chicken and water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Add celery,onions,peppercorns,bay leaves and salt. Reduce heat and boil gently for 2 hours, or until chicken is tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove chicken and reserve for another use. Strain stock through cheesecloth lined sieve ( or through a mesh strainer). Let cool until fat solidifies, then skim as much fat as possible. Return to a boil before ladling into jars.

II. Prepare weighted gauge pressure canner, jars, and lids 30 minutes before stock is ready.

III. Ladle stock into hot jars, leaving 1 inch of head space. Wipe rim with a paper towel moistened with vinegar. center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight.

IV. Place jars in pressure canner. Adjust water level, lock lid, and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Vent steam for 10 minutes, then close the vent by adding the 10 lb. weight. Continue heating to achieve 10 lbs pressure. Process pint jars for 20 minutes, and quart jars for 25 minutes.

V. turn off the heat. Let the canner cool naturally. Wait to remove the gauge until the gauge no longer hisses or moves when prodded. Let the canner cool until no steam escapes from the vent. Remove canner lid. wait ten minutes, then  remove jars. Cool, wipe down, and store.

Even if you don't can the stock, it can just as easily be frozen. It is FAR superior to that watered down broth found in stores. ENJOY!!

Pressure Canning: First Contact

   I've never canned a thing in my life. So when my DH was home sick today, I upped my plans a day. As you recall, I made homemade chicken stock from a carcass left from Sunday night's dinner. I had planned on canning it Tuesday. With the Mark and Sarah safely watching Dora the Explorer in the next room, I dove in and gave it a try today.
   I prepped my jars, lids, and stock. Then step by step canned it per the instructions. It was scary at first, seeing as there are so many exploding pressure canner/cooker stories floating around. But after I started recognizing the clues mentioned by other canners, I felt more at ease. Actually, I can't even remember why I was so scared!! You've got to watch my "baby" in action:

  After all that fizzle sizzle, I let the canner cool down on its own. It didn't take nearly as long as I thought. After acclimating the jars, I set them out to cool for a few hours, and here is the end result- two pints of  beautiful, homemade stock! 

I already have four quarts worth of squash ready to can Tomorrow:)
Mama Homesteader

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Yogurt Recipe

When I began my blog I mentioned that I made my own yogurt at home. It's easy, and with some practice and a little diligence, it can be extrememly rewarding. The following recipe is for a quart. You can make it in smaller or larger batches depending on your family.


4 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons plain live active cultured Yogurt (e.g. Greek Yogurt)

  Add the milk to a saucepan, then put a candy thermometer in the pan to keep track of the temprature. Heat the milk on medium until the temprature reaches 180 degrees Farenheit. Set aside and let the milk cool to 100 degrees Farenheit. Whisk in the two tablespoons of yogurt and pour into a clean quart jar. Screw on the cap.
   You will want to set the jar of yogurt in a large enough container to hold it and several jars of hot water (e.g a cooler) OR you can set the jar in a stock pot and pour hot water around it and then add a lid. In any case you want to keep the mixture warm. Then set aside somewhere where it won't be disturbed for 12 hours. After that refridgerate. Yogurt can be served with fruit mixed in or with a drizzle of honey.

You may use a 2% or skim milk for this recipe, but it will not be as thick as yogurt made from whole milk. Store yogurts have added ingredients to help them achieve that thick texture. (I've been known to leave the mixture for over 12 hours to let it really clot and thicken.)  Homemade yogurt is a great buttermilk or cream substitute in recipes, and it cuts calories! I've also used this process with sour cream with great effect. We use a greek yogurt culture that has a tarter taste and easily stands in for sour cream.


Rain or Snow, you just have to hate Ohio Weather:)

   Just yesterday we were "enjoying" the day long rain shower that decided to grace up with its presence. I turned in sometime in the wee hours of the morning, it was still raining. A little under an hour later I went to get a drink, Voila!, we had a nice covering of snow on the ground. Ohio weather is an oddity. Anywhere in the world if you say you are from Ohio, folks who've passed through (and some who haven't) just nod their heads in sympathy.
   My poor yard looks like a big muddy slushy. It's completely soggy. I know that come warmer weather, even with rain showers, that it will be dry enough to plant the garden. But right now it just looks pathetic. I'm excited to get this whole slush season over with and am ready to hop on into spring.
   On the garden front, I got my Arugula and parsnip seeds at Lowe's the other day. Still don't have edamame, onions,potatoes,and turnips. There may be other things I'm missing, but it's looking like I'll have to order some things online. Others I plan to get when one of the local greenhouses opens for the season on the 17th.
  I did get the peat plugs for my tomatoes today, and some smaller ones for my other plants. I may have to buy more, but I'll know once I take a gander at my garden plan on Vermont Beans Garden Planner (www.gardenplanner.vermontbean.com). The planner is awesome! Once you have a layout of where you want to garden, and an idea of how you want to garden, you just click and add what you want to plant. It tells you how much you can plant in that space, as well as the requirements of each plant. Mine is set for square foot gardening- which tells you how many plants you can put in 1 sq. foot. THAT is how you can grow a lot of food in a small space. I know that some may view the planner as cheating when it comes to homesteading, but being that I'm fairly inexperienced with gardening- it's a life saver. And if I pay the subscription rate after my 30 day trial is over (25 a year/40 for 2 years), then my garden planner is there to access all year long. It will tell me when to do certain things at certain times, when to expect my harvest. It will also help with crop rotation for the following season by keeping those things notated for me. At least for this year it will be a valuable asset, and once I have a season under my belt- then I'll no longer need it!
 Along with my peat plugs, I also bought my first raspberry bush! It's a black raspberry variety called Jewel. Walmart had them on sale for $5, and the one I bought is sporting some awesome looking green leaves. Next time I'm up there I'll pick out a few more and keep them in my greenhouse until time to plant. And here I was thinking I wouldn't be able to get them until next year!!!
  We had roasted chicken for dinner tonight. I promptly made stock out of the carcass, and plan on using the pressure canner ( my new baby) to process pint jars Tuesday. I may make up some beef broth sometime soon as well, but we'll see how the chicken stock goes. If all goes well then I'll post my recipe and instructions on Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Homemade Bagels

Jessy at Becoming Molly Mormon (http://www.becomingmollymormon.blogspot.com/) had a wonderful recipe post on her blog today- I just had to sneak in one more post for the day!

She hit the nail on the head when she posted that,"I love finding things that I always felt were too hard to make at home that are actually easy!". I have also learned to make bagels at home, and they are by all means superior to the ones you buy in the store. Check out Jessy's recipe and give them a try, you won't be disappointed.

** Adds bagels to the list of baked goods wanting to make**  ;)

The Garden Masterlist

So here's what I have in store so far for my garden:

Mammoth Sunflowers
8 pumpkin plants- at least 5 varieties
Sugar snap peas
Bush cucumbers
Sweet Corn
Pop corn
Bush Beans
Red Peppers
Cayenne Peppers
Lettuce- 5 varieties (Black seeded simpson, Red salad bowl, Red oak Leaf, lolla Rosa, salad Bowl.)
Heirloom tomatoes- Omars Lebanese (red)
                                Dutchman (pink)
                                Djena Lee's Golden Girl (orange)
                                Golden Sunburst (Yellow)
                                Aunt Ruby's German (green)
                                Black Russian (purple)
Hybrid Tomato- san marzano type
Italian Parsley
 Lemongrass (in container)
Summer Squash
Winter Squash
Rainbow Carrots

I know that some in that list are flowers, but my garden includes several sites including flower beds.

I have yet to get the following:


And of course there are many others things I'd love to have, but have to wait on. And of course, I'll keep you posted on my progress!

What the future may hold...

I have my starting point, but exactly where do I want to take my family in all of this? Honestly, I'd like us to be more self reliant when it comes to our own food, and to make better choices that have an enviromental impact. Being sustainable. And making memories and being closer together as a family, seeing what is important along the way.

I'll fully admit it, we're a low income family needing foodstamps and state medical coverage. Do I LIKE it? NO, but at the time being our circumstances dictate that we need these things in order to do what is best for our family. My husband Mark is a good man. He workes hard at a full time job where I doubt he'll ever get any farther ahead. He stays because right now in Ohio, there aren't many jobs to be had that would get us out of this rut.

What can one family do?

I think the answer is simply found in homesteading, or going (in part) back to the land as our forefathers did. What would it accomplish? More self reliance, less reliance on the state. The lot we live on has a spacious backyard, most of which we don't use when out playing. What isn't being used as a playground, using a technique called square foot gardening, can grow a massive amount of produce that can be eaten fresh, canned, or frozen. And if you find yourself with more produce than you can manage, there's always friends, family, and the local food pantry that could put it to good use. All for the cost of seeds and hard work.

I have a vision of a lot where most of the plants around it are a food source. I have plans for a large garden boasting heirloom tomatoes, rainbow colored carrots, beans, pumpkins, corn, and herbs, to name a small few. I'd like to clear space for berry bushes, currants, and gooseberries for jam. Tall sunflowers for Sarah, birdfeeders for her feathered friends.  A clothesline for drying laundry in the warm sunshine. No chickens though, city ordinance states that there are to be no farm animals in the city. But one can daydream.

I see myself learning to can, freeze, and root cellar all this produce come harvest time. I can learn how to do it if I set myself to it, its a LOT of hard work- but my family is worth is. I see Sarah smiling as she bites into a home canned fruit or jam , telling everyone around that "Momma made this for me."

Maybe its too over the top, but our homesteading forefathers did all this not out of luxury, but neccessity. In these poor economic times, when gas is going up- it trickles down to everything else. Everything else is going up too. At this time, it's a neccessity to my family to turn to homesteading and free ourselves of some of our dependence on the world outside our home.

But what about the COST of this endeavor? It can be only as expensive to start as you allow it. In days past homesteaders had to be creative because going to the store most times wasn't an option. If you didn't have it, you had to substitute, jerry rig, or just plain do without.

So far I've been blessed to have friends, family, and strangers help me with gathering a few of the supplies I'll be needing. A fellow Freecycler (http://www.freecycle.org/), graciously gave me 133 canning jars. My Husband's Aunt has agreed to let me use her canning jars and water bath canner, since she no longer uses them. Good friends have given me a pressure canner for my low acid foods, so that I can safely process them for my family.

My only cost has been seeds for the garden, and lids for canning. Well not my only, I did say that it can only be as expensive as YOU let it be. My family opted to buy a chest freezer at Tax time, and I opted to also include a compost bin and mini greenhouse as well. But all in all, my cost has still been very low in starting my homestead. And the rewards will be well worth it.:)

Where I began on the homestead journey.

So you get an awesome idea in your head, so awesome in fact that you write it down and figure out some of the details on paper.  All of you out there in internetland know what I'm talking about, because we've all had brilliant ideas that have captured our imaginations. You just CAN"T wait to get started because you're so excited about YOUR idea coming to life.

That's what it's been like, I've been excited about the prospect of my ideas coming to life....to the point of irritation. I'm not a patient person, when i get an idea, I want it now! But homesteading isn't like that, homesteading takes patience and time. A homestead is a work in progress, and every homestead has to start at the beginning.

So the idea in my head, in theory (and on paper) looks great. It looks easy. But looks can be deceiving. In all the excitement and after the decision to actually DO what it is that I'm visualizing, there lies the BIG question.

Where in the heck am I supposed to start?

The answer came in YOGURT! Yes, Yogurt, my friends. You know that stuff that usually comes in little tubs covered with foil, in all sorts of pretty colors and flavors. Not to mention preservatives and that little cup that may NOT be recyclable...its been so long I can't remember!

I'd been sitting on a yogurt recipe from Michele at Frugal Granola (http://www.frugalgranola.com/), since BEFORE we moved. I had the urge to try, but lacked the will power to try, and a candy thermometer (very important!).

Shortly after we moved in I bought the candy thermometer. I made her recipe, and I've RARELY gone back to store bought yogurt. I have the feeling of satisfaction, AND my wallet has loved me for it. At least in my area  a large tub of yogurt goes for at least $2.50, which is nearly the same as a gallon of milk. Which means I can make a GALLON of yogurt at home for the same price as a large tub at the store.

SCORE! Not only did I fuel my love of saving a few bucks in my budget, but I also had my starting point for my homestead. :)

 I will try my best to post my recipe (and pictures) of making yogurt soon!

Why Mama Homesteader?

We were fortunate to move into a nice little house ( a rental) last August after four years of living with relatives. We'll leave the whole ordeal behind as a footnote to our story. We're free to live as we see fit, and make our own choices without someone else second guessing.

Now that we CAN live as we see fit and finally on our own, I found myself  looking around and asking "This is it?" I started feeling uncomfortable with what I was seeing around my family. The pressures in the economy, the fast food trap that we constantly had found ourselves in, enviromental issues...all leading me to question what is was that I want for my family, and what I was seeing WASN'T it!! Like any mom I want them to be healthy and happy!!!

I read a book a few months ago (right after we moved in!) by Mark Frauenfelder called "Made By Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World." It struck a cord with me and described a LOT of what I was feeling.It also inspired me to try (and to fail) because all great "Makers" do so.

Hence my great experiment- What can one family do to change their lives while living on less than a quarter acre?
Call me Mama Homesteader, cause my journey's about to begin!