Friday, November 2, 2012

What's in a name?

It was really weird hearing my name (Sandy) so much this past week. Now I know what the Katrinas of the world felt a few years ago. As a resident of Florida, I am well aware of the devastation that can be caused by a hurricane, no matter what "category" it falls under. As a beginning homesteader/prepper, I have lots of facebook friends with similar interests. I have been seeing different reactions to the storm from different people, some affected, some not. Many preppers are saying things like, "We don't seem so crazy now, do we?" I'd just like to point out that it is not the preps that make you look crazy, it's the conspiracy theories. For example, I've seen people claiming that President Obama caused the hurricane using HAARP. There are so many reasons why that would be a stupid and heartless thing to do (if it were even possible), and President Obama is neither. I have also seen prepper types posting not very nice things about people who were not prepared. This storm has me seriously considering revising my facebook friends list.
On the other hand, there are prepared people who are capable of empathy and who are not crazy conspiracy theorists. I have seen friends in New York, who were prepared but not affected, donating things like formula and diapers to those in need. I'd like to point out that these people do not have infants of their own, but they stockpile these things for just this type of situation-to help others in need in a time of disaster. This is the type of prepper I aspire to be.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bad Blogger!

I've been quite busy and have neglected my blog :( I've been working more and preparing for the holidays, which means homemade gifts! I love to make and give jams, candies, cookies, spice mixes, hot cocoa and homemade  marshmallows, vanilla extract, flavored vodkas and cat and dog toys. Some have to be started months in advance, like the vodkas and vanilla, some have to be made last minute, like the candies and cookies, and some can be staggered in between. What do you make for holiday gifts? 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Here's my 14 things!

  1. Laundry Soap-I make my own using Zote soap, Borax and Washing soda
  2. Fabric Softener-a small ball of crumpled foil cuts static cling, and some essential oil on a washcloth adds a bit of fragrance to the dryer...but I want to put up a line to dry
  3. Toilet bowl cleaner-as FlyLady says, soap is soap!
  4. Paper towels-I use microfiber cloths for most cleaning jobs
  5. Deodorant-
  6. Toothpaste-I use a Rotadent, which does not require toothpaste, but I do use baking soda once in a while and rinse with peroxide.
  7. Haircuts-hubby cuts his own (shaves it with clippers, no guard), I cut our son's and my own (with guards). I don't use hair dye anymore, either.
  8. Broccoli-I planted some last fall and we won't eat store bought anymore!
  9. Strawberry Jam-again, I made some and we won't go back!
  10. Peanut butter-see #9
  11. Hot Cocoa Mix &  Marshmallows-see #9
  12. Chocolate Syrup-see #9
  13. Pancake & Waffle Mix-see # 9 
  14. Yellow Rice -see #9

Apparently there are a lot of frugal bloggers blogging about things that they no longer buy.
I figured I'd add mine to the mix!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Of Mice and Men

My husband came home for lunch the other day and heard a noise coming from under the stove. It turns out that the trap that the Orkin man put under there months ago finally caught a rat. We live out in the country, and although I have never seen rodent droppings in my house, the cat has brought dead ones and left them on the porch as offerings (gee, thanks, kitty). It was a big spring trap, which is supposed to break the rat's neck and kill him, but that is not what happened. My husband pulled the trap from under the stove to find the poor rat caught by the testicles. He took him out to a ditch down the road and set him free (after snapping pics of it with his phone and sharing them with the entire family). The poor little guy slid out of the trap and rolled over on his back and just sat there for a few minutes before scurrying off. I don't think he will come back into my house, and hopefully he will spread the word!
No such luck at work (also out in the country). We have a Havahart trap here to catch mice. We have caught 2 in it so far, and there's at least one more that uses the trap as a buffet. The food is gone, but no mouse. Perhaps we should switch to the spring traps :(

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Update: Long Time no Blog!

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I lost my dad to cancer in March, and I have been busy with the garden lately. I will try to start posting regularly again :)

The garden is coming along nicely. I have several potato plants in one end of the sheet-mulched bed I prepared last fall (remember the horse manure?) I started with a few store-bought potatoes that had grown 'eyes.' I also have 2 kinds of pumpkins. The small pumpkins were kind of an accident. You see, last October, my son went to the pumpkin patch with his class and brought home a small pumpkin. It sat on my porch as a decoration until about mid-December, when I finally put the whole thing in the worm farm. In February, I uncovered the worm farm to harvest a few of the bottom trays, and lo and behold, I had a bunch of pumpkin seedlings! The roots were entangled and growing right through the bottom of the tray, so I decided to just put the whole tray on top of the garden bed and see what would happen. I was afraid they would be too crowded to produce anything, but there are about 20 little pumpkins growing! I also planted 8 pumpkin seeds from the larger Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins we bought last October. So far there are 9 green pumpkins growing from those, and they are trying to take over the yard!

I have been harvesting broccoli a little at a time for a while now, I think we have had home-grown broccoli about 9 times. Some of it went to seed while I was out of town, and I plan to plant those seeds in the fall. My son, who has always loved broccoli, will not eat store bought anymore:) I have 4 heads of cabbage that are about ready to harvest, I'm thinking about making some sauerkraut. I also have a few green bean plants (need to start more), a few tomato plants that are just starting to flower, and some lettuce growing in the thyme (cat knocked the lettuce seedling tray into the herb pots lol). I planted cucumbers last week, and I hope to harvest enough to make pickles this year. It still feels like not much, since I read about all these other people who grow 80-90% of their family's produce, but I'm still in the learning phase.

The chickens have been put on hold, I'm trying to decide if I want to repair the fence and have just a few chickens in my own yard, or wait until the in-laws prepare a much larger coop with several dozen chickens. At this point it seems to make more sense to wait, since I plan on helping with the big coop, anyway. Same story with goats (and possibly a cow or two!). I have been thinking about rabbits-they produce a lot of healthy meat, as well as garden-ready fertilizer, but I have never tasted rabbit, and they are so cute and cuddly that I don't know if I could butcher them...

I picked up 3 half-flats of strawberries (local!) at the farmer's market Sunday, and I have since canned 15 pints of strawberry jam. I still have a half flat left. I'm thinking fruit leather and daquiris. My son helped me with the jam, and we did some math while waiting for the jam to boil. I asked him, if we eat a jar of jam a month on average, how many jars do we need to make it until next strawberry season (next March). He complained that the math was too easy, so I told him when we go to buy a cow, he can do the math for that lol. At any rate, since the first jar of jam was half gone within 2 days, I think we may need more than a jar a month! Plus, I've already given away 6 jars to friends and family.

I've been working on this food storage thing, a little at a time as I can afford it. I still don't have enough of everything to last 3 months, that will take a bit longer, but some of my stores are starting to look pretty good! Here is what I have so far (besides my normal pantry):

  • 60 liters of water
  • 15lbs of white rice
  • 10lbs of flour (white and multi-grain)
  • 10lbs of sugar
  • 5lbs dry milk powder
  • 2lbs of salt
  • 1 can pepper
  • 1lb of ground cinnamon
  • 24 cans of tomato sauce
  • 12 cans of diced tomatoes
  • 12 cans of diced tomatoes with garlic, basil, and oregano
  • 12 cans of green beans
  • 12 cans of tuna
  • 6 cans of cream of mushroom soup
  • 12 packs of ramen
  • 2 quarts of mayo
  • 1 bottle of mustard
  • 1 jar of pickles
  • 300 tea bags
  • 8 jars of homemade strawberry jam
  • 2 quarts of homemade vanilla extract
Here are a few things I would like to stock up on next:

  • Rolled oats
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Dry beans, assorted
  • Canned beans, assorted
  • Coffee
  • Peanut butter
  • Yeast
  • Canned chicken
  • Canned salmon and mackerel
  • Clarified butter (aka ghee)
  • Olive oil & other cooking oil
  • Cocoa powder
  • Canned pumpkin
  • Canned fruit
  • Honey
  • Alcohol
  • Pet food
Of course, I want to increase the quantities of what I already have as well. I also want to store non-food items, such as first aid supplies, candles, feminine hygiene products, toilet paper, soap, trash bags, and the ingredients for my homemade laundry soap (I have several bars of Zote, just need Borax and Washing Soda). This is by no means an exhaustive list :) More next week!

Monday, February 6, 2012


I have been making a lot of things from scratch lately. It kind of goes along with the food-storage, preparedness thing, as well as the don't feed your family crap thing :) So here are a few of my favorite recipes!

Chocolate Syrup
1/2 to 2/3 cup cocoa powder, according to taste
1 cup water
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
Mix the cocoa powder, salt, and water in a saucepan.  Heat and whisk until cocoa is dissolved.  Add sugar and whisk to dissolve.  Bring to a boil over medium heat; reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes.  Add vanilla.  Remove from heat and continue to whisk mixture until it settles down.  Let cool for 1 to 2 hours.  Store in a flip top bottle or canning jar with screw top. 

Taco Seasoning
1 cup dried minced onion
1/3 cup chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin 
4 teaspoons crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon oregano
4 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder

Combine all ingredients and store in a cool, dry place.

When you're using for Mexican dishes, use about 1 tablespoon or so per
1 pound ground beef, or chicken, beans or rice. More if you like the extra
(not sure if this came from Leanne at Saving Dinner or Kathy at Just in Case)

Hot Chocolate!
3 1/4 C Powdered Milk
3/4 C Sugar
1/2 C Cocoa
1/2 t salt
I blended this in the blender for a smoother consistency. I use about 2T per 6oz cup.
(This came from Kathy at Just in Case, I halved it)

Instant Oatmeal
 I whiz 6 1/2 cups rolled oats in the food processor. Add 1 cup dried milk, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon cinnamon and maybe some cloves or nutmeg. I add some extras like chopped walnuts, raisins or dried apples.  To prepare it, put 1 cup oatmeal mix in a pan with 1 cup boiling water. Cook it for about 1 minute over low heat, stirring constantly, then let it sit for another minute. 
(again, Kathy!)

A to Z Bread
A to Z: Use one of the following; or a mixture of the following, to equal 2 cups, except as indicated.
Apples – grated
Apricots – chopped
Bananas – mashed
Carrots – grated
Cherries – pitted & chopped
Coconut – fresh, ground
Dates – pitted & finely chopped
Eggplant – ground up
Figs – finely chopped
Grapes – seedless
Honey – omit sugar above
Lemons – use only 1/2 cup juice
Marmalade – omit 1 cup sugar
Oranges – chopped
Peaches – fresh or canned, chopped
Peppermint – use only 1/2 cup
Pears – chopped
Pineapple – crushed, well drained
Prunes – chopped; use only 1 cup
Pumpkin – canned
Raspberries – fresh or well drained frozen
Rhubarb – finely chopped
Strawberries – fresh or well drained frozen
Sweet Potatoes – grated coarsely
Tapioca – cooked
Tomatoes – use only 1/2 cup sugar
Yams – cooked and mashed
Yogurt – plain or flavored
Zucchini – ground or grated and well drained

  • 3 cups Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • ½ teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 3 teaspoons Cinnamon, Optional
  • 3 whole Eggs
  • 1 cup Oil
  • 1-¾ cup Sugar
  • 2 cups A To Z
  • 3 teaspoons Vanilla
  • 1 cup Chopped Nuts (optional)

Preparation Instructions
Sift dry ingredients; set aside.
Beat eggs in a large bowl; add oil and sugar; cream well.
Add A to Z and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Mix well. Add nuts.
Spoon into 2 well greased loaf pans, or 1 large well greased bundt pan. Bake in preheated oven at 325* for 1 hour.

Cream Cheese
1 quart homemade or store-bought plain yogurt (whole milk or low-fat, depending on your preference)
(I like Dannon Natural-the only ingredient is milk and yogurt culture)


Place a clean kitchen towel or clean muslin in a colander.
 Place the colander in a bowl that is large enough to hold it.
 Add the yogurt to the lined colander and wrap the towel over the top to cover (or use a plate).

 Leave this to drain for about 5 hours in the refrigerator.
If you want a thicker consistency, leave it longer, making sure to empty what is draining so it doesn't reach the bottom of the colander and get reabsorbed.

Store your finished cream cheese in a resealable container in the fridge.
Your cream cheese will last as long as your yogurt would, so if you used purchased yogurt (rather than making it yourself), check the expiration date and use that as your guide.

 If you want to get fancy, you can add flavorings to your cream cheese. Try adding homemadestrawberry jam for strawberry-flavored cream cheese. If you spent time dehydrating onions, then adding those (or fresh green onions) and chives from your garden will make a tasty chive-and-onion cream cheese spread.

Wonderful with some homemade strawberry jam stirred in!

Berry Jam

9 cups crushed berries
5 cups sugar

Combine berries and sugar in a large pan.  Bring slowly to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Cook rapidly, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until the boiling jam drips off a cool, metal spoon dipped into it in a single flake or sheet.  (If you prefer perfect measurements, find out the exact boiling point for your elevation and add 8 degrees F to it.  That is the "gelling point".)  Remove from heat.  Ladle jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Put on two-piece caps and process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes.

I will share more recipes with you as I try them. These are all tried and true!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Homestead Update

Last week I built a chicken coop from old pallets. Sort of. I still need to seal the roof, put the door on, and build the nest boxes, and of course, add chickens! I'm thinking about slanting the roof and setting up rain barrels for garden irrigation and watering the chickens. I can probably get a couple of 55 gallon drums and some PVC from my totally awesome in-laws, after all, that's where I got the pallets, horse manure, and most of the soil in my garden.

Speaking of the garden, I transplanted my red potatoes that I started from a store bought potato that had a bunch of eyes growing on it. When I pulled the 8 inch plant from the shallow pot I had it in, there were several marble sized red potatoes growing! So I just had to check the crisper drawer to see if I had any more with eyes all over them, and now I have a potato bed! I'm thinking about using some scrap wood (diagonal cut ends from 2x4's that are about 8 inches long-guess where I'm getting those from!) to put in a border around it. I'm thinking I can just hammer the pointed ends into the ground all around it, and voila, garden bed border!

I also planted more garlic (also sprouting in the fridge), onion seeds, Purple Queen Heirloom beans, tomatoes, a few pumpkins, peppermint and rosemary. I would have kept on going, but I need to get another load of soil from BS Ranch and Farm, another load of horse manure from my niece's yard, and to harvest some worm castings from my worm farm. Technically my last frost date is Feb 15th, but I just can't wait! The weather has been so beautiful I just want to be outside.

My garden is fairly small, with just a few of each plant variety as I learn what works here and what doesn't, and what the plant yields are (did you know it takes 6 plants per person to have a serving of fresh green beans once a week? That would be why I planted 50 Purple Queen seeds over the weekend!) As I plan my garden this year, I am taking into account more what my family eats a lot of (tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, corn, lettuce, carrots, broccoli, squash) and what I want to can for next winter (definitely tomatoes!) I am still planting small amounts of things I want to try or that only I will eat (turnips, beets, Jerusalem artichokes). I have several herb varieties now growing in pots on my porch, and I would love to set up a kitchen garden close to the door. I'm thinking of stacking tires, staggered in the corner by my gate (tires also courtesy of my awesome in-laws!) I hope to get a strawberry bed in soon because I absolutely LOVE my homemade strawberry jam, and so does everyone else, apparently, because it disappeared quickly!

I am working a little more now, with my part-time job at the ranch as well as my eBay store and new website construction, so a lot of my gardening is done before work (watering, weeding), after work (harvesting, thinning, weeding, picking off pests) and on the weekends (getting soil, manure, building beds, planting). It seems like a lot, but I love to walk around my garden, looking at all the little things I've planted and nurtured, and it doesn't seem like work at all. I love to cook sans-recipe and designing a meal around a harvest of food I grew myself is a favorite of mine, even if it is just a homemade chicken pot pie (from leftover chicken) with 12 green beans or 5 pods of peas and some herbs from the garden thrown in. And there's nothing like hearing, "Thank you, Mom, for feeding me good food." from your 10 year old son.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Step Closer to Self Sufficiency

Happy New Year, everyone! Finances are tight all over, here included. One of my New Years' resolutions this year is to be more self-sufficient.  Part of that includes growing a larger garden this year, and hopefully harvest enough to eat fresh as well as preserve some things so that we don't have to buy as much next winter. I am also working on a food storage plan for purchased goods, like rice, beans, flours and such, and my goal is to have 6 months worth of stored food by the end of the year. Since my family is by no means vegetarian, I also plan to get some laying hens and goats as well, and perhaps go in on a cow with family.  I really wish I could talk my husband into hunting the feral hogs, but I'm not holding my breath :)

Apparently, I live in what is called a food desert. That means that most of the people in my area do not own a vehicle, and the closest large chain grocery store is more than 3 miles away. However, there are smaller places to get groceries, right here in the "desert," and although there are certain things I do have to go to Publix for (such as yeast, Borax and Washing Soda), I can get most of what I need very close to home. So, I have been shopping more at the small, family owned ethnic food stores in my area. There is an Indian store in particular where I can get bulk spices, lentils, beans, rice, whole grain flours, teas, and many other items at a better quality and much cheaper than the grocery store. The shop owner is very friendly and will gladly answer questions, translate packaging, and even gives out recipes!

I also go to the bread store (old habits are hard to break). I can get $4 bread from their clearance rack for 69 cents a loaf, which immediately goes into my freezer when I get home. I only shop the clearance rack. I always have Texas Toast for garlic bread, an assortment of rolls and buns, both white and wheat bread, and then there's my husband's shelf of "snacky-cakes," although he hasn't been eating them as much lately-he actually prefers cinnamon toast now. I practiced baking bread last winter and I'm getting better at it, but it's difficult to devote that much time to baking bread while working 2 jobs (especially since it is so cheap!) I no longer buy pre-packaged bread crumbs. The heels of loaves of bread go into the freezer, and when I need bread crumbs, I toast them and toss them into the blender. Cut up bread ends also make wonderful croutons, stuffing and bread pudding!

A word about these little stores-once you become a "regular" there, the shop owners are more likely to offer you free items that would otherwise go to waste. I scored 4lbs of turnip greens for free at my local meat market because the bags got wet and they weren't going to make it another night in the cooler (and then I taught myself how to cook turnip greens lol). The meat market also raffles off 125lbs of meat each month, so I always enter. I haven't won yet, but my sister in law won a few months ago and we are still eating off of that! The bread store is always offering me stuff, too. I walked out of there the other day with 5 bags of food for $7. Big grocery stores usually won't give ANYTHING away for free. They'd rather put it in the dumpster and lock it so no one can go freegan-ing.

I'll be the first to admit, it is easier to just go to the one store that has everything, and it's a hard habit to break. But hey, that's what New Years' Resolutions are all about, right? It is helpful to keep a small dry erase board on the fridge, divided by store, to keep a running list on. I also have a list of meals I can make with ingredients I have on hand, perishable ones first-kind of like meal planning, but a bit more flexible.

If you must have something sweet to drink, make iced tea. You can control the amount of sugar or honey in it (and gradually reduce it) and it is way cheaper than sodas or juice drinks. I have access to some sour orange trees, so I can make orange-aide on occasion, and I have heard that home-canned watermelon syrup or mint syrup makes a delicious drink when added to water, but my dentist recommends sipping water throughout the day and only drinking other beverages with meals, so I have been drinking more water lately, which will also help with that other resolution, to lose 15lbs!

I also started making my own laundry soap a few months ago, and stopped using fabric softener. That may not sound like much, but it has really saved me quite a bit. Borax, washing soda and castile soap is so much less expensive, and for what I used to spend on one bottle of heavily perfumed, dyed liquid laundry detergent, I have refilled the bottle 7 times (So easy! 1 cup each Borax and washing soda, 1/2 bar of Zote or equivalent soap, grated, and 2 gallons of very hot water, mixed with a stick blender until smooth-pour into old laundry soap containers-it thickens as it cools-adapted from the Just in Case blog). My husband says his clothes aren't itchy anymore :) I am thinking about putting up a clothesline to dry some clothes outside, but since we live in an industrial area, dust can be a problem, and I'm terrible about getting things in before it rains. I do have a screened porch, so maybe I will run a small line out there. I'm also working on weeding out too small or unflattering stuff and organizing what's left to avoid washing clothes that haven't been worn but were not put away, or were only worn for a few hours and can be worn again.

In addition, I have stopped buying expensive cleaning products that give me a sinus headache, and instead I have been cleaning with white vinegar (kills mold & mildew, removes limescale, replaces glass and surface cleaners, if you soak an orange peel in it for a week first it deodorizes and cuts grease better), essential oils (many are antibacterial), baking soda (replaces metal polishes and comet), and soap bar ends (I toss some in the crock I keep my toilet bowl brush in-as long as you swish the brush in the bowl every other day, you don't need harsh chemicals-safer for pets and kids, too-thank you FlyLady!). Your hands and sinuses will thank you.

About the soap bar ends-I heard a comedian the other day on TV talking about bar soap like it was a thing of the past, or something only poor people use.  I did the body wash thing for years, slathering on chemicals I couldn't pronounce, constantly buying new bath puffs, basically wasting money. I found a fairly local glycerin soap brand that works quite well (and only $1.19 a bar!)and I prefer it to the body washes now. I also occasionally splurge on some local soaps from the farmer's market ($5 a bar) I've also learned that if you unwrap the soap when you first get it home and keep it on a shelf in the bathroom, it makes the bathroom smell good and it cures it so it doesn't melt as fast.  I've also found that the little mesh bags garlic comes in work great to keep the soap in, in the shower. It keeps it from falling off the soap dish to melt down the drain, and it helps it to lather better.

Wear sweaters and fuzzy socks inside during the winter, and cook dinners that use the oven in winter, as well as doing more baking. After dinner is done, leave the oven open until it cools. Hang decorative quilts or tapestries on poorly insulated walls, and heavy drapes over windows. In summertime, eat more salads, sandwiches, and quick-cooking foods, or barbecue or use a solar oven to cook your food. On mild days, open the windows! It will improve the air quality in your home immensely.

Use dishcloths instead of disposable sponges and use microfiber towels and cut up old clothes instead of paper towels. Buy a reusable coffee filter (added bonus-they don’t fall in the basket and get grounds in your coffee!) Use plastic grocery bags to line your small trash cans (we all forget our reusable bags sometimes!) Turn off lights that are not in use, and replace every light bulb in your home with more efficient ones (CFL's or LED's), even if you have to do it one at a time. It makes a huge difference on the electric bill, and you rarely have to replace the newer bulbs.

Keep reading the blogs of like-minded women. I have learned a lot from Sharon Astyk (Casaubon's Book blog, as well as her 3 published books), Kathy (Just In Case Book blog), Deanna(Crunchy Chicken blog), Kris (Adventures of a Thrifty Momma on a Trailer Park Homestead blog), Green Phone Booth, Punk Domestics and all of the ladies over at Not Dabbling in Normal.