Archive for Frugal Living

Quick Little Update

This year has been a bit of a chaotic one, but in a good way. We started off our growing season with the massive project of re-doing the fencing around both of the gardens. Originally it was a mess of pulp-wood posts and hodge-podged fencing that was constantly falling in due to snow load and getting pushes out of place by the groundhogs. Brand new cedar posts and welded wire fencing fixed that. We now have a fence secure enough that we can use it as a trellis and actually did use it as a make-shift clothesline while ours needed to be replaced.

The garden itself has preformed admirably thus far! We’re up to 7 quarts of snap beans in the freezer, a batch of salsa, sauce, and ketchup from our own tomatoes, enough zucchini for stir-fries and a few loaves of zucchini bread for the freezer, roughly 80lbs of potatoes from the 12lbs that went in, and more than enough fresh produce to have kept our bellies happy over the course of late-summer. I did purchase “ugly seconds” tomatoes from a local farm to make additional pasta sauce and salsa with. I also found a wicked deal on cucumbers (40 lbs for $25) to stock the shelves with pickles and relishes.

On top of what our own garden has been producing and the deals I’ve found via local farms, blueberry and strawberry picking season was also I huge success as this year we weren’t impeded by the hunt for a new vehicle in the midst of it all. Up next is apple picking season, which has just started, and then what I hope will be an annual trip for a trunk full of pumpkins.

Chicken wise, the basement chest freezer is half full of poultry. We have enough for at least one roasted chicken a month, and given that each bird provides a week’s worth of meals for the four of us, I’m more than happy with that!

In another month, however, we’ll have to make a decision as to which of the new six roosters to keep over winter as an assistant to Greenleaf, our head rooster. We have a couple young cocks we’re keeping an eye on, so we might end up with two. As long as the fox doesn’t snag any more birds, we’ll also have five new hens to add into the flock for the winter. We lost seven hens total this year – five to the fox, two to illness – which is higher than most years, but still fit within the 25% margin that we try to work with. (We always try to keep a flock 25% larger than we absolutely need so that when losses do occur, and they will, it’s not such a blow.)

Schemes and dreams are already in the works for next growing season as we’re currently ahead on firewood and has reserved energy from not having to stress about that. I’ll post more in the future about our goals for next spring, but right now I’ll say that we might be working out a farmstand here at the homestead to bring in a little extra and we might be adding a porcine or two for meat raising. While next year remains simmering on the backburner, the fall garden is slowly filling in, a new placement for the blueberry bushes and irrigation for said plants is in the works, and garlic cloves are waiting impatiently to be planted.

Dehydrated Dandelion

Dandelions are one of the many “weeds” that Americans spend a good amount of time trying to rid their yards, driveways, and sidewalks of. For no reason at all these poor little plants have been deemed the more hellish thing to crop up in a suburban piece of land. Few realize the number of wonderful things that can be made out of dandelions.

Their leaves can me sauteed and eaten dressed with butter, vinegar, or anything else the pallet prefers. The heads had be used to make dandelion wine. There is such a thing as dandelion syrup, which I hear is delicious. The entire plant can be fed to numerous critters to supplement their diet. Not to mention the seed heads can keep a toddler entertained for hours on end.

One way that dandelions can be used is as a detoxifying tea which can help shed water weight and flush the kidneys – in turn helping to balance hormones. Now that this wonderful little tea has become a staple in our home, I decided it was time to dry some out myself. I was in for a bit longer of a process than what I expected.

IMG_2353Dandelions run rampant around our home (the toddler helping to sow the seeds is only an added bonus for them). I decided that I would try digging them out of the ditch up by the road that we live on. Our town does not use any form of pesticide, so I felt completely safe doing this. **If you are digging from a common area and do now know if there are pesticides used, PLEASE find out first!**

A note to those trying to dig out dandelion root for the first time: do not try to dig in an area where the plants have been unharrassed.

IMG_2357I quickly found myself using a spade, trowel, and a kitchen fork to try and dig this bugger out. Diamond (who’s leash you see in the photo), just looked at me like I was a crazy woman. I moved down to our back lawn and near the stream and had much better luck. There seem to be two key things to look for to have success with this: 1. sandy soil and 2. young plants. The younger the plant, the smaller the tap root. While that means more that need to be collected, that also means an easier time pulling them out of the soil.

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If you look at the photo above, you can easily tell the younger plants (fairly straight, thinner tap roots) from the older ones that are wrapped around one another, forming an alien looking tuber.

After getting a decent size haul of plants, I double washed them in the stream and then lobbed the tops off. (Both the rabbit and chickens were delighted to have fresh veggies delivered right to them.) I then brought in the roots for a good scrubbing in fresh, cold water, and let them work on air drying while I diced them into roughly uniform sized slices, leaving the really thing ones in lengths of roughly one inch.

IMG_2360The key to drying is to wait until the roots are crumbly and can be broken down by hand with no sponginess left. For my slightly older dehydrator it took about 12 hours. Supposedly this can be done via air drying, but living in a humid climate, I wasn’t about to try it.

 

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Connected up on the Homestead Blog hop!
Rooster sitting in a barn on a rural farm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(Originally published on: Jun 12, 2014.)

Early Fiddleheads

IMG_2362Fiddlehead season normally doesn’t hit until around Mother’s Day. That’s when the rush starts to get to the woods and pick what you can before there delicious little ostrich ferns are grown. It’s also the rush to beat people that foolishly pick and sell them instead of stocking their own larder with these delicacies.

Last week my friend in Vermont posted that she snagged five pounds on her hunting trip. It was the only game to be had that day, but five pounds of fiddleheads is nothing to balk at. I started getting itchy. If they were up in Vermont they were certainly up here in Maine.

Sure enough, when Hubster and I got out into the woods this past Saturday, the fiddleheads were up and mostly gone by. Come this Wednesday they will all be 1 to 3 foot tall ferns looking beautiful and nothing like the 9 meals worth of small, rolled up bites of heaven in my freezer. (That doesn’t include the two meals worth we cooked up last night.)

Calcium Supplement

All laying birds need calcium to make sure that their egg shells are hard enough to withstand being delivered. Calcium supplements are cheap enough, but there’s an even easier way to do it!

At first the idea of saving egg shells to feed back to the very chickens that laid them made my stomach a little queasey. Then one day, while reading about placenta encapsulation, it hit me: animals eat their placentas when they give birth, feeding the shells to my chickens is the exact same thing. For some off reason, this made everything click for me.

It’s an easy enough process to do. After using the eggs, I rinse the shells in cold water to clean off any left over.
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I then toss them on a sheet pan. (Don’t judge me on the condition of my pan – this baby has been through a lot!) I turn the oven on to 250F and those the shells in while the oven is heating up. I leave them in there for half an hour or until I remember that they’re toasting away.

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After the shells cool, I use my mortar and pestle to work them into as fine of a flake as I can. I know that some people feed the shells to their chickens without breaking them up, but to me, that’s just asking to convert these ladies into egg-eaters.

There you have it – free calcium supplements for your girls!

A Well Needed Break

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The past few days have given us a well needed break from the sub 30F temperatures that gobble up the wood, but today is the last of that. Tomorrow the temps dip back down below 20F during the day and below zero at night. While the last stretch wasn’t too horrible to endure, thanks to the backup heat of an oil furnace and an abundance of maple and birch for a wood source, I’m a bit concerned this next one might be a tad more difficult. We’re now into a cord of willow. Many people refuse to burn willow. It burns hot and fast. It means more reloads and less of a chance that there will be coals in the morning. Given that it was split in early December – after being cut for the appropriate amount of time – and that it was from a tree larger than 24″ at breast height, some of the wood is fighting to dry out still. That means stacking it in the house before using it.

Prepping for this next snap also meant busting out more kindling as we’ve used up much of what I prepped in the fall. While Little Mister played in his room, I was able to move to the front wood bin the wood for the next day or so and work out a wheelbarrow full of kindling. Even though it will be cold out tomorrow, here’s hoping I get the chance to get another load in.

It might be willow, but it will burn.