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!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Homeschool Preschool here we come!

   After talking with DH, we both decided that the homeschool preschool program I was looking at would benefit Sarah. ABC Home Preschool is very simple nine month curriculum. It is divided into Reading (alphabet), writing (tracing and learning to write letters), arithmetic (learning numbers and eventually writing them), Social Studies (family and community interactions), and science (small projects learning how things work). It also includes ideas for including music, shapes, physical activity, etc.
    Sarah is exceedingly bright, and I have absolutely no doubt that she would be able to handle the subject matter if she entered preschool at age three next November. What I do doubt, and her Daddy and Grandmas agree, is that she would be emotionally ready. We've noticed that in Toddler Lapsit at the Library, in our small (approx. 6) group of kids, she is fairly shy and will only fully participate when the subject matter really excites her. Grandma Pam took us last Wednesday in the morning, where there were 30 children. Poor Sarah barely moved, and when she needed to get things from her teacher, one of us had to accompany her. She was a wallflower, more content to watch than participate. It's heartbreaking to see your child stand back, when you know that she knows the subject matter and can share it with others. I can see this being the norm if she were to go in November.
    So Monday we'll start exploring the Age 2 curriculum (which will take her to February) and seeing where it leads us. DH and I have already discussed that if this works for her, then moving her to the age three curriculum (which would take her to November). If she would be ready when the year starts that fall, then we would finish the course as a supplement to preschool. (Well that's the plan at the moment!)
    Wish us luck on our new journey!

Cheers! ~ Mama Homesteader

Around the Homestead

  The last few weeks brought massive changes with all the rain! I didn't realize just how high the grass really was until Sarah and I were laying in the middle of it today playing "Soccer". (That's my little Dora fan for you!) We picked dandelions and violets, and watched the "buggies"  crawl by, and found dragons in the clouds. It was wonderful! Even better was the fact that our landlord installed two out of three new storm doors. Now Sarah and the cats can look out the door on decent days and watch the world! To top it all off his wife kindly mowed part of the yard, as our mower is still down and she was already mowing her Mom's lawn across the street. That meant one less thing to do at the moment!
   The tomato plants are growing beautifully, albeit a bit leggy. I'm thinking re-potting them in bigger pots may help, along with more light. Peppers are all OK as well. Everything else seem to be having various issues, all dealing with the amount of light I'm able to provide. I can't wait until I can put the greenhouse outside!
   Our faithful car needed some TLC recently as well. Two of the tires needed replaced, and we've been told that one tie rod needs replaced for an alignment to work. After that we need two more tires, then brake pads and rotors. Keeping my fingers crossed that Dear Husband's overtime keeps going!

That's all Folks! Cheers!~ Mama Homesteader

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mama's got a new Pantry!

    I'll admit it, my kitchen is tiny. I can handle that, but there is a serious lack of cabinetry for storage. It was irritating to have "stuff" piled and crammed everywhere, never knowing if I was ever going to find "that" item I needed. My pantry was the worst.

           It worked better than what I had initially, which was two totes crammed with stuff. But this kind of disorder was an eyesore. (My pantry did the job, but it could be much better.) What couldn't fit either sat on the floor, sat in another bookcase next to the stove, or took up valuable space in the cabinets I did have. (The bookcase next to the stove was a pain, because Sarah's play kitchen sat right in front blocking my cookbooks. It would be easier to move the toy, but Sarah likes to help Mama cook!)
          After spotting a hutch on Craigslist, I talked it over with DH. He had been on overtime recently, and I knew that we could afford it if we wanted it. He agreed that it was a nice find for the money. With the help of my longtime friend Paul, we picked it up and installed it in my kitchen.  The result is stunning!

  Not only is everything organized, but it held so much more than just the contents of the original pantry space! One of those drawers holds some of my kitchen utensils. They were overflowing the utensil drawer! With them relocated, I was able to put my dish towels in their place without space issues. My dishtowels are actually now in my kitchen! Yay! (Really it's the small victories that keep me going.) The other drawer holds my coupons and such. My cookbooks are now easily accessible, as are my spices, oils, and other ingredients. Boxed foods, canned goods, my waffle iron, and my Forman grill now reside in the bottom. AND all my small appliances fit on top, much more accessible than the cabinet WAY on top of the refrigerator!
  All in all, I freed up a lot more space than I initially thought I would. There is a whole section of cabinetry empty. With a few rearrangements, it is looking like I will be able to finally bring all my cake decorating supplies in from the garage!  **Faints**
  I have my DH to thank for this first. I left the final decision to him, and he knew it would make me happy. I could just.....well, I'll have to PG 13 that thought, er, cuddle him? LOL I love him and he is the greatest for affording me this pantry. Secondly, I have to thank Paul who helped us pick it up. We definitely couldn't have done this without him!

                                  I'm one happy Mama! Cheers!~ Mama Homesteader


  We now have baby tomato plants in our greenhouse! It's been awesome to see how FAST they've grown. Sarah loves her baby "tatoes"! In the first picture below, those sprouts literally appeared overnight. The night before they had been barely visible! Surprisingly my germination rate has been over 95%, as almost all the seeds I planted have sprouted.



  Last Tuesday evening I got around to starting my pepper and marigold seeds, so it will be exciting to see if they do just as well. I have a few more seeds I'd like to start, but most of what i have can be directly sown outside after danger of frost.

                             'Tomatoes are like toddlers...they just keep growing and growing!"
                                                  Cheers! ~ Mama Homesteader

Soaking Grains and a Soaked Oatmeal Recipe

   On one of my favorite websites, Frugal Granola, the owner Michelle posted a recipe for a soaked oatmeal. I initially had to wonder why on earth anyone would make extra work for themselves on something so simple to make! As I read more on the subject it started to make sense. Whole grains have many vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to our bodies. That is common sense. BUT there is a chemical called phytic acid (as well as other substances that interfere with digestion), that hinder our bodies absorption of those nutrients. By soaking those grains in say water with either lemon juice or yogurt, we break down the all the substances that hinder absorption, making more of those nutrients available. The only better way to access those nutrients would be to dampen the grains and let them actually sprout prior to using.
  I could go one and on about the benefits, but that said there are many more resources on the Internet that can explain it better than I can. But I can give you the basics!

You can soak grains (and all nuts and seeds!) like rice, oatmeal, millet, quinoa, wheat,  12 to 24 hours at room temperature in some water  with 1-2 tablespoons of whey, lemon juice, vinegar, buttermilk, yogurt, or kefir (this gives it an acidic medium which helps neutralize anti-nutrients).  You can then rinse the grains to remove any acidic taste to them, and then cook in fresh water. (This is absolutely great! I've noticed that with rice especially that my cooking time is shorter and results in a much more tender rice.) That's it, its easy to do!
  Likewise you can soak flour in yogurt or buttermilk before adding the rest of your ingredients. (Be sure to research the recipe to see exactly what is called for. As I haven't tried this YET.)

Michelle's Soaked Oatmeal Porridge

1 Cup rolled oats
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice, vinegar, or yogurt
1 cup whole milk (or what you have)
pinch of salt
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup nuts and seeds
1/4 cup raisins

Soak oats, seeds and nuts overnight in enough water to cover. Add lemon juice/vinegar/yogurt. Leave sit overnight. In the morning drain and rinse well. Add milk to a pot and bring to a boil over medium high heat. turn down heat and add remaining ingredients. Stir frequently and continue to simmer until oatmeal has thickened. Serve with sweetener or your choice! I usually make a pot of this up to keep in the fridge for DH to have a homemade breakfast in the morning!


                            Have fun experimenting! cheers!~Mama Homesteader

Friday, April 8, 2011

Prepping for Tomatoes!

Thursday night I finally got around to starting my tomato seeds! (Forty eight peat plugs planted, thirty six heirloom and twelve polish linguisa.) I bought peat plugs this year and was amazed at how much water they absorb and how big they got. It finally feels as though I'm getting started , in spite of the Ohio weather! They've been soaking up sunshine and sitting pretty with my two lone raspberry bushes. Next will be a few other veggies and herbs, but mainly marigolds for Memorial day planting at the cemeteries!

What does your garden grow?

Cheers! ~ Mama Homesteader

Sewing Projects

   Yesterday, I sewed up another batch of handkerchiefs. They've proven so popular that I added sixteen more to the eight we already had. No more Kleenex for this house! Seeing as the handkerchiefs were popular, I followed suit with three monogrammed napkins.


   Although not as neat and tidy as cloth napkins at the store, they do the job wonderfully and didn't cost me a thing to make. Sarah loves that hers is pink and has "her name" on it! If these prove as popular as the handkerchiefs, then I'll be sewing up two dozen to keep on hand. Score another for Mama! One less thing to be bought and thrown away :D

The too small nightgown in my dresser becomes...microfiber dust cloths! Four of them to be exact. Double sided and ready to pick up the mass of cat hair we seem to accumulate from our fine felines. (The sleeves of the same nightgown became a pair of miniature "comfy pants" for Mama's little monkey! Picture to come!)                                                                                                                            

A short double strap purse became a single strap over the shoulder variety. More room for Mama's things! And of course Sarah's things as well. 

Next on my list of sewing projects include tie backs for munchkin's bedroom curtains, and reusable mesh produce bags (no more bringing home unneeded plastic!) 

What's your level of craftiness today? 

Cheers! ~ Mama Homesteader                                                                                                                                      

Shopping for Whole Foods

   Recently, I've decided to start trying to aim my family's diet more toward the arena of "whole foods". The whole foods movement is simply this: getting back to the basics without added preservatives, artificial color, refined flours and sugars, and without the likes of hydrogenated oils. There are those who take this concept to the extreme, Ala the Raw food diet where all things are eaten raw. But mainly there are those who cut out all of the above mentioned offenders opting for back to basics eating.
    Right now I'm neither. When I say "Whole Foods", I'm simply referring to foods with less added to them. I've switched the family to brown basmati rice (which is good for you) and banned white rice (which is eh, but not that great for you in terms of nutrients). Eventually I'd like the majority of the flour I use to be whole wheat flour, where at the moment it a 50/50 mix of whole wheat to white. I've even contemplated grinding our own flour from whole wheat, which can be soaked (which I'll explain in another post) and is the cream of the crop as far as nutrients. I have a whole list of things I could write, but I'll simply say this: It's nice looking at my pantry and actually recognizing what my food is. There are glass jars of oatmeal, millet, barley, raisins, brown rice, and plain old spices. REAL food. Of course there are still some things that most whole food proponents wouldn't touch, but just a few changes has made me feel better about our diet practices. Change can be motivating and invigorating.
   But it can be pricey. I was an avid couponer, but as cool as getting stuff for free or next to free was, the products and food I was getting was pretty much junk. (If I'm not using conventional cleaners, then I don't need coupons for cleaners. I don't need coupons for cookies and chips that I'd rather not indulge in.) I went to the store, barely got anything and spent what seemed to be a whopping amount of money. Now I will admit, most of what I bought will last a few months, but still. Financially the change to better foods is rough. What makes most foods inexpensive are the fillers, oils, and massive amounts of high fructose corn syrup. I was dazed when I tried to find JAM without additives. Something exactly like the jam you would make at home. I did find some, but ended up paying twice the price for a smaller amount. Needless to say, I will definitely be putting up enough homemade jam to last until the summer of 2012. (And who can resist homemade jam?)  This is a true learning experience.
   What do I expect to gain out of it. Honestly I don't know. I don't expect that Dear Husband and I will lose a ton of weight from the switch in foods, but I hope that our health will improve in terms of his cholesterol and high blood pressure. Mostly I just don't want my daughter to end up like me, the victim of utterly poor nutrition choices. I'd rather see her be skipped over by the family curse of Type II Diabetes, and when the time comes being able to chase her kids around without being winded. In the end I guess thats what this project is truly about. Maybe Mark and I won't see the full benefits of changing our lives on less than a quarter acre of land, but I'm certain that Sarah will. To me, that is a beautiful thing.

What do you dream of?

Cheers! ~ Mama Homesteader