Jan 21, 2017

Weekend Links & Updates

First egg from the new flock!
This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.

"The Lord is slow to anger but great in power;
    the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished.
His way is in the whirlwind and the storm,
    and clouds are the dust of his feet."

Nahum 1:3

 
* Our roof blew off. Well, part of one of them, anyway. We'd known for a while that the original building on our homestead needed a new tin roof. We've had buckets catching rain inside the building all fall and winter. (An obstacle course for me, as I carry wet laundry from the washer on one side of the building to the dryer on the opposite end of the building!) When we had a big wind storm last year, my hubby tied down one especially precarious part of the roof, and we just prayed the thing would stay on until it grew dry enough to replace the entire roof.

No such luck. This week during a storm, that piece flew off. And, of course, my husband was sick in bed with a fever. It really could have been much worse, though. As it is, none of the appliances (washer, dryer, etc.) are wet. Mostly just miscellaneous junk the previous owners left behind are affected. This weekend, my hubby hopes to be well enough to temporarily repair the roof in a stronger way. Life on the homestead is certainly never boring!

* In happier news, last week we got our first egg from our new flock! In fact, at least three of our hens are now laying. I'm so thrilled. With my new diet, I eat a lot of eggs, and store bought eggs are really gag-a-maggot to me compared to backyard fresh eggs.

* I finished this book last week, after neglecting a lot of housework because of it. I really can't recommend it highly enough. It's a page turner with an inspiring message about redemption and grace.

* Chocolate candy recall. 

* Tupperware seasoning recalled due to potential salmonella contamination.

* Junket Pudding. Sounds weird, but it's another healthy, yummy fermented food worth trying.

* How I Learned to Stop Giving the Silent Treatment in My Marriage.

* 6 Newbie Homesteading Mistakes to Avoid 

Oldies But Goodies:

* The secret to backyard eggs that are cheaper than store bought!
* DIY Seed Tape
* How to Clean Soap Scum, Easily
* Sex Ed: Recommendations for Christian Kids

 

Jan 20, 2017

Why We Use a Wood Stove on Our Homestead

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!


1. Wood is nearly free. We can heat our entire house all during the cold season without spending much. That's because we live on 15 mostly forested acres, and there is always dead wood that needs removing from our forest. But even when we lived in the suburbs, we used a wood stove and rarely paid directly for our wood; we just asked around and found friends who had fallen trees they wanted removed,or a tree they wanted taken down. (A task you shouldn't attempt unless you've been trained, by the way.)

You might wonder why I didn't say our wood is totally free. Well, because it takes time and hard work to cut it up and stack it - work that involves using a saw, which runs on gas. We figure we spend about $30 per year, tops, on saw gas. Plus there is maintence for the saw, which my husband can do himself, so it might cost a few dollars. Completely worth it, in our estimation. And, if we really needed to, we could use hand tools. So yes, burning wood is a nice act of self-sufficiency.

Even if you have to buy wood, though, you might save money. Here's an interesting news article comparing the cost of wood heat to other forms of heat in different parts of the U.S.

2. Wood is sustainable. We couldn't possibly use all our 15 acres of trees for heating our home. We can't even use up all our dead wood every year. And by removing dead trees from our forest, we are making the way for new trees to grow.

3. No worries about outages. When the electricity goes out, the propane tank is empty, or the gas line is broken, we don't have to worry. We'll still be cozy warm. And even though we don't have a cook stove per se, we can still cook on top of our wood stove - so we eat well during outages, too.

4. Quality of heat. I always feel warmer and more cozy when I'm in a house that uses wood heat. That's because wood stoves use radiant heat - they warm things around them, which heats the house more quickly and keeps the house warmer.

5. Efficiency. Assuming you have a newer stove, wood heat is quite efficient. And you will quickly learn which types of wood burn the hottest and longest in your stove, which makes this form of heating even more efficient.

6. Ambiance. What is cozier than sitting on the couch with your favorite warm beverage next to a wood stove while a storm is blustering away outside? Nothin'.

P.S. If you're concerned about the environmental impact or sustainability of wood stoves, I recommend this article.


P.P.S. Wondering what that fan is on top of our wood stove? It's an eco-fan that helps direct the heat of the stove toward our living area. It runs completely off the heat of the stove. We love it!



Jan 18, 2017

7 Gardening Hacks that DON'T Work

Winter on the homestead is a pretty quiet time. Other than caring for animals, doing a little winter canning, and the usual household stuff everyone does, there's not a lot of "homesteady" things going on. Except in my mind.

Because January is the perfect month to finalize garden plans, deciding exactly what I'm going to plant and where. So if I seem a little garden-centric lately, that's why.

As usual, I fuel my passion for gardening by browsing Pinterest gardening boards. I love looking at gorgeous gardens - especially food gardens - but this browsing also exposes me to some of Pinterest's...oddities. Namely, bad gardening advice. So you don't waste your time, money, and heart on bad gardening advice, here are the top gardening tips I see that really don't work.

1. Use eggshells (or egg cartons) for seed starting. These tiny containers don't allow seedlings to grow big, strong roots...And if you transplant your seedlings into bigger containers (or directly into the garden) before they have strong roots, your chances of success plummet. That said, starting containers don't have to cost a fortune. I'm partial to the plastic, lidded containers some greens and salads come in. You can also use the similar plastic containers that bakery goods come in, or tubs from store bought potato salad and the like. (More about using such containers here.) You can even make small pots from toilet paper tubes.

2. Plant your tomatoes with eggshells, Epsom salts, etc. It's true we need to feed the soil in order to feed our plants, but by the time all these organic materials have totally broken down and are available to give the plant nutrition, the plant may already be spent. It's far better to prepare the soil with lots of good, finished compost, shortly before planting. (Or, put uncomposted organic matter in the soil at least a season before planting.)

3. Plant everything in pots. Plant everything close together. This is not to say you should never do these things; they just not always the best route to take. A common myth among gardeners is that wide-spaced vegetable garden rows were first used when fuel powered tractors took hold of farming. Um...no. They were used long, long before that because plants that aren't very close to each other require less watering! Wide spacing allows their roots to spread, which gives them more access to water in the ground. So plant close together if you wish, but give plants room to grow and breathe (to avoid disease), and know that you'll have to water closely spaced plants more frequently. And if you plant in pots, understand that your plants will also need more watering than if they are planted in the ground (because the soil in pots dries out quickly). By the way, you know what the worst containers are? Those trendy metal ones. Put those in full sun and the soil in them will dry out very, very quickly. (P.S. One type of plant I do recommend growing in pots are herbs that tend to spread and take over the garden.)


4. Grow tomatoes in upside down containers. Here's the thing: Healthy tomato plants have big, long roots. Those upside down containers don't give them nearly enough root room - which means your plant will not give you a good harvest. Plus, tomatoes are heavy drinkers (so to speak), and as I already mentioned, things grown in pots require additional watering.

5. Use a planting guide. Often these are apparently supposed to be universal. That is to say, they are designed for someone in California, or Montana, or New York, or Missouri to use. But all those places have different climates. (In fact, all those places have multiple gardening climates.) So such planting guides are pretty useless. If you need help knowing when to plant what, your best bet is to look at your local extension garden website. (And if the website doesn't help, call your local extension office. Click here to find your local extension office.)

6. Worry about companion planting. Okay, so some people really do believe that some plants grow better next to certain other plants, or that some plants don't grow well together at all. But in my experience, as long as you pay attention to the plant's soil and light requirements, this is definitely not the case. For example, common companion planting advice is that peas and beans
(Courtesy of
don't grow well next to onions. Well, I've grown them together many times and had a great harvest. So my advice is to not get caught up in this type of advice.


7. Grow potatoes in towers. There is one persistent myth I see all over the internet: Grow 100 lbs. of potatoes in a 4 square foot potato tower. Long story short: It's not true. Read why - and learn better ways to grow potatoes - here.

Related Posts:
* Newbie Vegetable Gardening Mistakes - and How to Avoid Them 
* The Pros and Cons of Raised Bed and In-the-Ground Vegetable Gardens
* Starting a Vegetable Garden on a Budget 
* 10 Tips for Brand New Vegetable Gardeners
* Getting More From This Year's Garden

Jan 14, 2017

Weekend Links

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.
_____

"Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow."Psalm 51:7
__________


* It's been pretty cold here on the homestead. In fact, there's been a bit of snow! We only get snow maybe once every 15 years or so, so everything pretty much shuts down once the flakes start falling. The kids loved, it though - and so did the puppy! In fact, I had a hard time getting him back inside...and then he kept telling me he needed to go potty, but all he really wanted to do was play in the snow!

* Recall of some Tupperware seasonings due to possible Salmonella contamination. 

* Cat food recall.  

* Chip N Dip bars recalled due to undeclared potential allergen.

* I'm finally getting back into fermenting! My sauerkraut is almost done, and my kombucha SCOBY is growing! Here's how to make small batch sauerkraut (I promise it's easy) or a SCOBY.

* Is 2017 the year you're going to start a food garden? Or start sowing seeds instead of expensive nursery transplants? Then please check out my book on seed starting

* Thinking about getting goats? Here's a free e-course to help prepare you!

* 90,000 Christians killed in 2016 (1 every 6 minutes). 


Oldies But Goodies:

* Starting Veggie Seeds NOW - Even if it's Snowing!
* Free Films for Garden Inspiration
* How Mommies Can Make Prayer Their Ministry
* Popular Pins: Little House on the Prairie Birthday Party


Jan 12, 2017

Parenting for the Future, Not for the Right Now

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

So often in parenting, we parent for the right now. We need them to behave...right now. We need them to obey, be quiet, do their school work, do their chores...right now. But how often does the future come into play as we parent each day?

Recently, I've been reading Strong and Kind by Korie Robertson and Chrys Howard, and one small section really grabbed me:

"[God] created Adam and Eve as grown adults. He saw His creation in its adult form, and then He worked backward. We must be able to see our children as adults if we are to start putting the traits in them today that we deem important for tomorrow...You can apply this method in a couple of different ways. One is visualizing how you would like for them to be as adults and then prioritizing and teaching them those behaviors."

Prioritizing the behaviors you most want to see in your adult children? This is parenting for the future, for sure.

How might that play out in real life?

Well, I have one child who is stubborn and strong willed. This doesn't necessarily have to be a negative thing. How can I teach her to use her strong willed personality in a way that's pleasing to God? I can teach her about Christian martyrs, for sure. (The Torchlighters DVDs are an excellent resource for that, by the way.) I can teach her the difference between being true to God and being worldly. I can teach her to stand up for others. I can teach her to be stubborn for God. In fact, recently I've been telling her, "Be stubborn about doing what's right."

When I visualize the man I hope my youngest child will become, one thing that comes to mind first is that he be willing to work hard - for his family, for God, for what's good and right. Right now, he can honestly be a bit lazy. So if I want him to grow into a hard working man, I need to start training him to embrace work now.

What about your kids? What kind of people would you like them to become? How can you start training them to be those people today?



Jan 9, 2017

Vegetable Garden Inspiration and Ideas

I've been without a real garden for three years. Three! But now we are (somewhat) settled on our homestead, and this is THE YEAR I finally get to garden again! I am both excited and overwhelmed. Although I've been dreaming of a huge garden for decades, I know I have to take it slow. It takes a lot of time, energy, and yes, some money, to establish gardens, and I can't do it all at once. Nevertheless,  I'm slightly obsessed with the garden photos and plans I'm finding on Pinterest and elsewhere this winter, excited to build a new garden from scratch, and I'm trying not to have too many grandiose ideas. But whether we have only a tiny amount of space for growing food, or acres of it, it's fun to look at what others have done and dream. I hope you find these photos as inspiring as I do!
French potager.  Courtesy of Tetue.
Large raised bed vegetable garden.

Dreamy potager.

Small veggie bed. Courtesy of Carol Norquist.
Beautiful countryside vegetable garden

Circle of raised beds

Lovely walkway of bean teepees

Another neat bean tunnel

Tomato tunnel
Front yard veggies. Courtesy of D Huw Richardson.

Meandering stone garden path

Old screen door as a gate to the garden

Kitchen garden plans

Discover more inspiration - plus gardening how-tos - on my Gardening Pinterest board.
Backyard Delight. Courtesy of Gillyan9.


Jan 4, 2017

How & Why to Get Started with an Electric Pressure Cooker or Instant Pot - with 31 Pressure Cooker Recipes!

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!

There are three main reasons pressure cooking is fantastic:

1. Pressure cooked food retains 80-95% of its nutrients - the most of any cooking method.
2. pressure cooking reduces energy use by 70% or better (depending on what type of pressure cooker you use).
3. Using a pressure cooker, you save a lot of time!

What I love most about using my Instant Pot (which is an electric pressure cooker) is that sometimes I save on total cooking time...but always, I save personal time because I can throw the food in the Pot and walk away. There is literally NO need to stir, adjust settings, or check on the food until it's ready to eat. This means extra time with the kids, to write, to read...to do whatever I want. I love that!

Some people are scared to pressure cook because they've heard horror stories about pressure cookers exploding. This used to happen back in Grandma's day, but as long as you follow some very basic guidelines (found in your pressure cooker's owner manual), it doesn't happen with today's electric pressure cookers.

Others wonder what on earth they'd cook in a pressure cooker. A simple answer is that if you'd normally slow cook it,  boil it, braise it, or steam it, you can pressure cook it. And today's pressure cookers even off more variety. For example, the Instant Pot (IP) allows you to saute, make yogurt, proof bread, and even bake some things. Another thing I love about my IP is that usually I only have to dirty one dish to make a meal - the pot or "bowl" of the pressure cooker. (Fewer dishes and more free time? How can you beat that!)

So far, I've cooked perfect, easy peel hard boiled eggs; super quick (unsoaked) dry beans; yogurt; meat; stock; and (oh yeah) meals in my IP. (Oh, and whole, fall-off-the-bones, chicken that's so much better than anything I've roasted before!) It's so easy! And the food is really delicious. In fact, I've made several of my slow cooker recipes in my IP and my family strongly believes they taste much better when pressure cooked. I'm at the point now where I don't want to cook...unless it's with my IP. I love it that much.
Cheesecake can be tricky to bake...but not in an Instant Pot!
Why an Electric Pressure Cooker?

For years, I've used my wonderful Presto pressure canner for occasional pressure cooking. (Read this to clarify the difference between pressure cookers and pressure canners.) But it was a bit of a pain. Not only is my Presto hard to clean (because the pot is so large it doesn't fit in the sink), but I had to keep checking on the pot, making sure the pressure was where it was supposed to be.

But with an electric pressure cooker, there is a removable pot (Instant Pot is the only pressure cooker I'm aware of that has a stainless steel pot (remember that non-stick coatings are unhealthy). This pot can go right into the dishwasher. In addition, there is no need to regulate the heat of the stove top and adjust as necessary. In other words, an IP is about as hands-free as cooking gets!

Why An Instant Pot?

Instant Pots cook at a lower psi, which makes them a bit safer than other pressure cookers. In addition, they are highly versatile, with yogurt, saute, and slow cook features. (Though I understand the slow cook feature isn't perfect. I personally haven't tried it yet.)
An antique pressure cooker. Thank goodness for modern tech!

Instant Pot Recipes

* Hard boiled eggs. So easy and they peel easily every single time! Place 1 cup of water in the IP stainless steel pot. Add the trivet. Place eggs on the trivet. (You can stack eggs on top of each other, if needed.) Put the bowl in the IP and shut the lid. Turn the vent to "Seal." Press "Steam." Press the "Adjust" button until it reads 5 minutes. When the 5 minutes are over, let the IP do a natural release for 5 minutes. Remove the stainless steel pot from the IP (using hot pads), remove the eggs, and dunk in cold water for 5 minutes.

* Dry Beans 

* Yogurt 

* Risotto

* Brown Rice 

* Frozen Ground Beef 

* Taco Meat

* Sloppy Joe Meat 

* Stock or Bone Broth

* "Rotisserie" Chicken 
 
Yogurt made in my Instant Pot.

* Chicken Breasts

* Chicken & Dumplings 

* Salmon 

* Beef Stew

* Kalua Pig

* Baked Potatoes 

* Mashed Potatoes 

* Potato Salad 

* Crispy Potatoes 

* Loaded Mac & Cheese 

* Lasagna 

* French Onion Soup 

* Split Pea & Ham Soup 

"Roasted" chicken is fall apart tender in an IP.*
* Baked Beans

* Steamed Broccoli

* Breakfast Hash 

* Ham, Egg, and Cheese Casserole 

* Cheesecake 

* Chocolate Pudding 

* Applesauce 

* Popcorn



Other Helpful Links:

* Pressure Cooker Recipe Converter
* How to Convert a Recipe to a Pressure Cooker Recipe 
* How to Convert Old Pressure Cooker Recipes
* 10 Things You Need to Know About Instant Pot
* 8 Instant Pot Basic Techniques
* My Pinterest Pressure Cooking Board


* Photo courtesy of Joe Randazzo.

Dec 31, 2016

Weekend Links & Updates

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information. Thank you for supporting this site!
Ball Heritage jars will soon be discontinued.


 In which I share my favorite posts from this blog's Facebook page.   
"
I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.  But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.  And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven"

Luke 12:8-10

 
* Three weeks ago, my doctor told me I had diabetes. My blood sugar was high: 260. And my AC1 test, which indicates where the blood sugar has been in recent months, was 9.5%. At 9%, the medical guidelines are to put the patient on insulin. But after talking to my doctor, he gave me three months to get my blood sugar down. He gave me Metformin, which decreases liver glucose production, and suggested I go on a Keto diet. I did, and a few days ago, I had my first normal blood sugar test! I am doing a very strict and very low carb, high fat version of the diet: Nothing made from any type of flour, no rice, no fruit, no veggies that are higher on the glycemic index, and no sugar or any type of sweetener. My hope is to eventually get off the medication, since it does have side effects (like sleepiness) and can be hard on the kidneys and liver. Keeping it up is going to be the hardest part :)  Fortunately, I rarely feel deprived. Even at Christmas, I ate turkey, green beans, and broccoli salad. The food was good, and I was satisfied. I do miss popcorn, though...

* Recall on Herr's potato chips.

* Recall of Treehouse Foods mac and cheese.
 
* Cuisinart recall.

* Ball, the maker of a popular type of canning jar, just announced that come January 2017, they are retiring their colored canning jars. If you want some, now's the time to buy them! 

* If you've had a hard frost, and if there's not snow on the ground, now is an excellent time to gather dandelion leaves for eating because the cold weather takes away much of their bitterness. Try picking some, then saute them up for dinner!  Or preserve some by freezing, dehydrating, or canning for later use. You can also put the leaves in smoothies.

* Can Probiotic Foods Really Lower Blood Sugar?

* This is so spot on. We're Killing Our Kids and Calling it Love.

Oldies But Goodies:

* Why Every Housewife Needs Safety Goggles
* How to Use a Whole Ham
* 15 Bean Stew Recipe