Thursday, December 31, 2009

home made all purpose cleaners

Many like to start the new year off with a nice clean house and many have goals or resolutions to begin using more earth / people/home friendly cleaners in the household . So, in honor of the resolvers and cleaners....

Here are several all purpose home made cleaners. Try one or all and see which one you like the best. All work as good or better than anything you can buy commercially and are much better for you health wise than the chemical laden, toxic products on the market. If you are an allergy or asthma suffers one of the first things you should do is eliminate the chemical based cleaners from your home.

You can also save money by mixing up your own cleaning solutions, these products can all be made for literally pennies rather than several dollars. for those that like to have a stock pile or prep, it takes much less space to store the ingredients to make hundred of gallon of home made cleaner than it does to store all the pre-made products.

Non-Toxic All Purpose Cleaner
1/2 water or colloidal silver
1/2 vinegar
4 tablespoons lemon juice
10-20 drops tea tree oil
spray bottle
Combine all ingredients in a plastic spray bottle. Has a tea tree/vinegar smell. (If you don't like the smell of tea tree oil, try lavender or citrus.) Shake your to mix. Use this all purpose cleaner anywhere as needed. Non-toxic and organic so it is safe for daily use on door knobs and toilet handles, switch plate covers etc.

Amazing All Purpose Cleaner
1 teaspoon borax
2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon washing soda
1/2 teaspoon vegetable-based detergent (castile soap)
2 cups very hot water
Combine all ingredients in a plastic spray bottle.Shake your new homemade all purpose cleaner to mix. Use anywhere as needed. Strong enough to wipe out germs and viruses. Use daily on door knobs and toilet handles, especially when a family member is sick.

all purpose cleaner
3 tbsp. vinegar
1/2 tsp. washing soda
1/2 tsp. vegetable oil based liquid soap (castile)
2 cups hot water
Mix ingredients in spray bottle or bucket. Apply and wipe clean.

Homemade Spray Cleaner Recipe

1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
Mix in a sprayer bottle

In the kitchen, use vinegar-and-water spray to clean counter tops, lightly soiled range surfaces and back splash areas. Works great on stainless steel surfaces, no streaks.

In the bathroom, use vinegar spray cleaner to clean counter tops, floors, and exterior surfaces of the toilet.For really tough bathroom surfaces such as shower walls, pump up the cleaning power by removing the sprayer element and heating the solution in the microwave until barely hot. Spray shower walls with the warmed generously, allow to stand for 10 to 15 minutes, then scrub and rinse. The heat helps soften stubborn soap scum and loosens hard water deposits.

Baking Soda. Dissolve 4 tablespoons baking soda in 1 quart warm water for a general cleaner. Or use baking soda on a damp sponge. Baking soda will clean and deodorize all kitchen and bathroom surfaces.

all-Purpose Cleaner:
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax)
1/2 gallon water.
mix. Store and keep. Use for removal of water deposit stains on shower stall panels, bathroom chrome fixtures, windows, bathroom mirrors, etc.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

home made laundry soaps

There are a zillion or so versions of home made laundry detergents and soaps. Some recipes are not completely home made but instead are "watered down" versions of a commercially available variety. This method works well for those that have to sneak in frugal ways because folks you live with "need" the store bought versions.

For this method all you do is buy your box of powder and and then “dilute” it with baking soda and borax! use about 1/4 cup per load.

for all the other methods there are keep in mind the following..

Home made soaps will NOT suds like store bought soaps will. The suds are not the cleaners, they just make things look cool and we believe it is the suds doing the cleaning

Fels naptha, zote and other castile soaps are the best choice when mixing bar soaps

Try to use the non scented and non colored bars of soap is you must use something besides the above mentioned soaps

These recipes are generally gentle enough for baby and people with skin trouble.

super washing soda can be made by baking regular food grade baking soda at 400 for 20 minutes.

Borax is often known as borateem or 20 mule and is normally in most large stores.

Those with very hard water may have to adjust the recipes to have these work well for you

for the liquid soaps a five gallon pail with a lid is the best storage container. The powder recipes are generally a bit smaller so any air tight container will suit for storage.

keep in mind there are even more frugal ways of cleaning laundry, just look to mother nature and the world around you Tannin makes a wonderful "soap "on everything but whites. Saponins also make excellent very frugal cleaners.

If you need a smell to your soaps or detergent add a few drops of essential oils or you can find fragrances in craft stores.

Recipe 1
1 quart Water (boiling)
2 cups Bar soap (grated)
2 cups Borax
2 cups Washing Soda
Add finely grated bar soap to the boiling water and stir until soap is melted. You can keep on low heat until soap is melted. Pour the soap water into a large, clean pail and add the Borax and Washing Soda. Stir well until all is dissolved.Add 2 gallons of water, stir until well mixed.Cover pail and use 1/4 cup for each load of laundry. Stir the soap each time you use it (will gel).

Recipe 2
Hot water
1/2 cup Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax
1/3 bar Soap (grated)
In a large pot, heat 3 pints of water. Add the grated bar soap and stir until melted. Then add the washing soda and borax. Stir until powder is dissolved, then remove from heat. In a 2 gallon clean pail, pour 1 quart of hot water and add the heated soap mixture. Top pail with cold water and stir well. * Use 1/2 cup per load, stirring soap before each use (will gel).

Powdered Laundry Detergent – Recipe 3
1 cup Washing Soda
1 cup Borax
Mix well and store in an airtight plastic container. Use 2 tablespoons per full load.

Recipe 4
Hot water
1 bar (4.5 oz) Ivory Soap – grated
1 cup Washing Soda
In a large saucepan add grated soap and enough hot water to cover. Heat over medium-low heat and stir until soap is melted. Fill a large pail with 2.5 gallons of hot water, add hot soap mixture. Stir until well mixed. Then add the washing soda, again stirring until well mixed. Set aside to cool. Use 1/2 cup per full load, stirring well before each use (will gel)

Recipe 5
2.5 gallons Water (hot)
1 Bar soap (grated)
3/4 cup Washing Soda
3/4 cup Borax
2 TBS Glycerin
Melt bar soap over medium-low heat topped with water, stir until soap is melted. In a large pail, pour 2.5 gallons of hot water, add melted soap mixture, washing soda, borax and glycerin. Mix well. Use 1/2 cup per full load.

Recipe 6
2 cups Bar soap (grated)
2 cups Washing Soda
2 – 2.5 gallons hot water
Melt grated soap in saucepan with water to cover. Heat over medium-low heat and stir until soap is dissolved.Pour hot water in large pail, add hot soap and washing soda. Stir very well. Use 1 cup per full load.

Recipe 7
2 gallons Water (hot)
1 bar Soap (grated)
2 cups Baking soda
Melt grated soap in a saucepan with enough hot water to cover. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring frequently until soap is melted. In a large pail, pour 2 gallons hot water. Add melted soap, stir well. Then add the baking soda, stir well again. Use 1/2 cup per full load, 1 cup per very soiled load.

Powdered Laundry Detergent – Recipe 8
8 cups Baking Soda
8 cups Washing Soda
8 cups Bar soap (grated)
Mix all ingredients well and store in a sealed tub. Use 1/8 cup of powder per full load.

Powdered Laundry Detergent Recipe 9
1cup Vinegar (white)
1 cup Baking Soda
1 cup Washing Soda
1/4 cup liquid castile soap
pour the liquid soap into the bowl first, stir in the washing soda, then baking soda, then added the vinegar in small batches at a time (the recipe foams up at first). The mixture is a thick paste at first that will break down into a heavy powdered detergent, just keep stirring. There may be some hard lumps, try to break them down when stirring (it really helps to make sure the baking soda isn’t clumpy when first adding). I used 1/2 cup per full load with great results. Mix well and store in sealed container.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

last harvest of 2009

Today I harvested what will most likely be the last of our outdoor 2009 harvests. We have extremely cold for her weather moving in over the next few nights and I successfully made this the longest grow season to date and with no outdoor covering of any plants. Must be the global warming

That said with the low temps expected in the next few nights it is highly likely I will also lose what is in the GH, so I made a good harvest of what i could from in there and will hope for the best and see just how well the row covers and blankets , tarps etc do on what is growing in there.

The carrots were from outside as was the green onions ans several herbs that I also harvested. The greens and turnips were from in the GH.

I have a few beans up in the loft ready for picking and more greens are ready to harvest from there as well but they are a different post altogether.

Monday, December 28, 2009

more fun for the littles--make and play dough

Play dough and clay are other essentials in a home with children. Not only is it fun to play with, it also stimulates their little imaginations and keeps them out of our hair when needed.

Again, I do not see the point in buying this stuff and not having a clue what sorta crap the stuff is made from when we can make it just as well at home, for much cheaper and the enjoyment factor is greater because the kids can help make their toys.

The first recipe is completely edible and safe,,(think peanut butter balls ) for even the littlest of the dough eaters
Edible Play Dough
1 (18 oz.) jar Peanut Butter
6 Tbsps. honey
non fat dry milk powder
Combine Peanut Butter and honey. Add dry milk until desired consistency. You may also add cocoa for a chocolate flavor.

Homemade Play Dough
1 cup flour 2 tsps. cream of tartar
1 Tbsp. cooking oil
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water with
food coloring
Mix all ingredients in a saucepan. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly until a firm ball is formed. Knead a few minutes. Store in an airtight container. This needs no refrigeration and will last a long time. koolaid or food color can be used to tint the dough. It is not edible although it wont kill you either.

No Stick Play Dough
2 1/2 cups plain flour
2 small pkgs. unsweetened
powdered drink mix
1 Tbsp. alum
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 cup salt
2 cups boiling water
Mix dry ingredients. Add oil to boiling water and pour into dry mixture. Stir until soft and pliable. Place in an airtight container. Keep refrigerated when not in use.

Bakers Clay
4 1/2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 ½ cups water
Mix and knead. Shapes may be baked for 1 hour @ 300 degrees and paint when cool.

fun for the wee ones-- make and paint

Since it is the time of year for school closings and too many holidays, I thought it would be fun to dig though some of my fun recipes for kids to make and play with. One of my favorites has always been finger paints.

Every child needs to have some finger paints for arts and crafts activities. Heck, I personally think all adults should have some too . I don't however see the need in going out and buying most of this stuff at an inflated price when we can make the same things at home for pennies, while knowing what the ingredients are.

The first recipe is probably better for kids that are old enough to know they shouldnt eat the paint but it does make the better finger paint of the three recipes. The second two area good recipes for the tiniest of artists and are completely edible

½ cup cornstarch
3 Tbs. Sugar
2 cups cold water
Several drops of food coloring
1 drop dish detergent
Plastic cups
Mix sugar with cornstarch in a saucepan. Add water and mix. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, until the mixture starts to boil and thicken. Take the pan off the heat, cool, and pour into plastic cups. Add a few drops of food coloring and a drop of dish detergent. Mix, then and enjoy!

Jello Finger Paint

any flavor jello
enough boiling water to make it a goo consistency for finger paint.
Use your normal finger painting material or glossy paper. smells good too :)

Kool-Aid Finger Paint

2 cups flour
2 packs unsweetened
1/2 cup salt
3 cups boiling water
3 Tbsps. oil
Combine dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Kids love the color change.

Happy painting!!

country gravy mix

Here is another basic mix that is nice to have on hand for when you need something quick. Not that making country gravy is at all hard to do or time consuming but mixes are nice to have when camping, hiking or when you just don't feel like measuring things out. You will need a large airtight container to store this recipe as it make a fair bit of mix


10 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups powdered milk
1/2 cup garlic powder
10 teaspoons paprika
10 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
5 teaspoons salt
Mix all ingredients well and store in a tightly sealed container. When you want to make gravy: discard all but 2 tablespoons of the grease from either bacon or sausage (or melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter) in a skillet.
Over low heat, mix in 1/4 cup of the Country Gravy Mix. Stirring constantly, cook about 2 minutes. Whisk in 2 cups water, scraping browned bits off bottom of skillet, stirring constantly.reduce heat to low and simmer about 5 minutes. Serve immediately

I like to add a splash of liquid smoke and a splash of tobasco or other hot sauce to my gravy just before serving

Sunday, December 27, 2009

bunny hut updates -poop trays

We got or should I say manthing got the second smaller inside hutch done last week. So now the bunnies all have nice, proper, inedible bunny houses.

We then had a brainstorm and remembered we still had some old incubator trays hanging around and they looked like they would fit near perfectly under the new huts to collect the poops. . These make perfect poop collectors since they also have holes in them allowing the urine to pass through.

When it is time to collect poops I just go down through and either lift the trays and empty into a bucket or I use a dust pan and scoop them in the pail. The Urine falls on through to the leaves and begin the compost process. I just add new leaves as needed to keep any smells at bay .

When the bunnies slop their foods it also falls through and the hens wander about underneath eating the food so their is no more waste of feed either.

When I cleaned the trays today, it had been collecting for four days.The two cages filled an entire five gallon pail with poops for fertilizer.

Our next step in the bunny housing remodel will be adding a large worm bin under the two out door cages of bunnies we have. This will give us a 6 foot long by over 2 foot wide and 2 foot deep worm compost system with virtually no upkeep or care. It will also collect the bunny waste from those two cages, keep odors to a minimum,make useful amendments, provide oodles of worms and maybe at some point give us a small income from marketing a few worms.

the bunny pics

Saturday, December 26, 2009

frugal seed starting pots

Since it is nearing the time to be getting our spring seeds planted in some areas of the country and I have seeds on the brain, I thought I would post up a couple of old but frugal seed starter pots.

We all know about using, egg cartons or egg shells even. We know about using any small container that we can poke holes in but will hold soil. We know about taking soda containers and making ghetto, baby GH's. The problem with each and every one of those methods other than the egg shell is that you must remove the plants from the container when transplanting. With both of these methods you can plant the seed pot and all and the cost is a fraction of what you would pay for a plantable container from a store.

newspaper seed pots
This is one of the first frugal things I ever learned how to do and make. These are really good seed pots to make although you may find you need to use a staple or a piece of tape to keep them together. If you find yourself needing to do this just pull the piece of tape off the bottom when you go to transplant to the garden. There is a method of origami that holds better than these do but it is more complicated and time consuming. You can also buy a doodad to roll your pots around, I find a soup sized can works best.

This is another good project to get the kiddos involved in as it is simple enough that they can make them, plant them and watch their project grow.

This ladies hands are prettier than mine are and she has funky green nail polish on so for the instructions follow this link ... seed-pots/

toilet paper roll seed pots
I started doing this with toilet paper rolls when we had about 13 people staying here on the land. That is an enormous amount of toilet paper rolls to simply throw away even if they are just biodegradable paper. Seemed like a waste of something perfectly good to simply throw it away, burn it or compost it so i began to look around and see what I could use them for.

I now save most all of our toilet paper rolls and make biodegradable, earth friendly, free seed pots. Of course with just two of us it is not nearly the amount of empty rolls as we once had..

These work pretty well as pots. They are big enough that a plant can go from seed to transplant stage in one container. The only downfall to them is you must be careful on over watering because they begin to fall apart and then you have a big mess.When you go to plant them in the ground just open the bottom of the paper tube and place the entire pot in the hole.

These are a very simple easy to make project and great to have the kiddos help with.

Here is a site with some pretty easy to follow instructions and pictures ... d-starter/

Friday, December 25, 2009

heirloom seed

One of the keys to becoming sustainable is by saving your seed from year to year. In order to save seed one must use heirlooms seeds. Now i will be the first one to tell you that trading with ppl is the best way to obtain seeds,its cheap and fun but sometimes we must purchase them.

Not all companies are created the same. Some do not do any testing on the seed while others do. I personally try and use companies that do test the seed for adulterations (gmo tainting amongst other things) . That however is ultimately up to you the buyer to check each company out.

Here are a few companies that i like to purchase from .

the best herb seed store i have ever seen

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

A couple of us net folks have recently gotten our heads together and have created a new forum . It is our forum as a group of like minded individuals, a forum based on self reliance and doing what we can for ourselves while reducing our impact on the earth. It is a forum where it doesnt matter if you live in a city apt or run a 1000 acres . It is a place to share and become a community of sorts We hope to make a place where we can share information, resources and tools for surviving and thriving through what may very well be very trying times in the near future.Our goal is to welcome all to a network of information and support for our ideas, goals, success, failures, happiness and even sometimes sorrows. We would also like to be able to offer an exchange system of goods and services among our members. We would truly love for you to join us there. Have a Very Merry Christmas Yall!

come visit us at homestead -hearth


Most of the time when we think of oregano we think of it as a cooking spice rather than a medicinal herb. In fact in the US oregano in cooking didn't catch on until after WW2, until this point its use here was strictly medicinal.

Oregano is an aromatic, herbaceous perennial with erect, hairy, square stems. Leaves are opposite, oval, toothed or toothless, pointed and up to 2 inches long. They feature ¼-inch long, tubular, two-lipped, whitish to pinkish flowers typically seen from late July until September. Oregano reaches a height of 12-24 inches, and a width of 10-20 inches.

Oregano is not recommended for children, pregnant women and lactating women. Those who have other health conditions such as high blood pressure or heart disease should not take oregano without medical supervision

The amount of essential oil present in the oregano plant varies depending upon the species and growing conditions. Dried leaves of oregano are commonly used for the therapeutic purposes as well as for the culinary purpose. Nutritionally oregano also contains iron, vitamins, calcium, magnesium, copper, niacin and thiamine. As a medicinal, oregano contains antioxidant, anti-microbial and anti-parasitic compounds.

Parts used are the leaves.
The volatile oil carvacrol present in oregano inhibits the growth of bacteria and other parasitic microorganisms. Some studies have found it to be more effective in killing Giardia than prescription drugs.

Oregano is used for external and internal fungal infections and yeast infections.

Oregano is used for the treatment of flatulence, bloating and other indigestion problems.
serves in improving digestion.

effective in overcoming menstrual symptoms and promoting menstruation.

Some people use oregano as a natural remedy to treat cold and flu symptoms.(as a tea or using oil on the soles of the feet)

Herbal tea prepared with oregano helps in alleviation of headache, urinary problems, lung disorders, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and jaundice.

Oregano boiled in plain water can be used as a mouthwash. Gargling with this water can help to prevent tooth infection and sore throat.

Oregano oil applied directly to the infected tooth helps in combating toothache.

Ground oregano leaves as a poultice soothe arthritis pain, insect bites and other skin problems.

Its bitter taste and strong aroma help in controlling head lice(use in an oil)

For your pets oil of oregano can be used for a natural remedy for ear mites


yarrow also know as Milfoil, Old Man's Pepper, Soldier's Woundwort, Knight's Milfoil, Thousand Weed, Nose Bleed, Carpenter's Weed, Bloodwort, Staunchweed

Yarrow is one of the most useful herbs to have in a home garden or yard. It does have a tendency to spread like wild fire and can become a nuisance so remember this if you plant it somewhere. It is however quite a pretty plant to have around and it is not picky about where or how it grows. I routinely dig up clumps and fling them on banks and bare spots and a new patch grows.Yarrow will also grow in most any climate and any soil condition so it makes a good plant for those with brown thumbs.

Yarrow grows from 10 to 20 inches high, a single stem, fibrous and rough, the leaves alternate, 3 to 4 inches long and 1 inch broad, larger and rosette at the base, clasping the stem, the segments very finely cut, fern-like, dark-green, giving the leaves a feathery appearance. The flowers are several bunches of flat-topped panicles consisting of numerous small, white flower heads. Each tiny flower resembles a daisy. The whole plant is more or less hairy, with white, silky hairs.The white yarrow is considered to be the best for medicinal purposes.

In china yarrow is used as a divination tool however there are many more conventional uses which make yarrow one of my top choices to have on the homestead . antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, emmenagogue, stimulant, and tonics, vasodilator and vulnerary. Yarrow is used against colds, cramps, fevers, kidney disorders, toothaches, skin irritations, and hemorrhages, and to regulate menses, stimulate the flow of bile, and purify the blood. Medicinal tea is a good remedy for severe colds and flu, for stomach ulcers, amenorrhea, abdominal cramps, abscesses, trauma and bleeding, and to reduce inflammation.

Do not use yarrow during pregnancy, for undiagnosed bleeding, or for more than two weeks

Use flowers, leaves and stems.
A piece of the plant held against a wound will staunch bleeding.
An infusion can help to break a fever.
A tea made from yarrow with peppermint and elderflower can be used to fight colds and flu.
Yarrow can be of benefit in mild cystitis.
Promotes digestion.
Improves circulation by acting as a vasodilator.
Lowers blood pressure.
Dry herb edible as a spice or flavoring, strong sage flavor.
Can be used in dry floral arrangements and as a scent in potpourri
An aromatic tea: To 1 tsp. dried herb add 1 cup boiling water, steep for 10 min. sweeten to taste.

Monday, December 21, 2009

monday's mountain musings

Havent posted in a couple few days as I have been battling a tooth that really wants to get infected. After three days it is beginning to feel much better and I think I shall live.

Manthing got the second bunny hut completed a couple days ago but them damned bunnies are still on the loose. They saw the cages being built , knew who they were for and tunneled deeper . Gottta luvvum, til I eattum..

Been making lots of lovely meals on the wood stove this week. Have made naan, rolls and a loaf of sour dough bread and all have turned out quite nice.

Had a few more flakes of snow the other day and a couple of pretty cold nights but everything is still trucking along in all the gardens. In the loft, my potatoes finally started growing after like two months and giving them up as lost cause.

I must also add that my time writing here has also slowed down the last few days due to a project for the holidays. A gift of sorts. Unfortunately, it is not finished yet so it may be a few more days before it can be unveiled and I return to proper posting..

Friday, December 18, 2009

flour tortillas

One of the easiest , simplest money savers a family can do is to begin making their own tortillas. Once you make your own, you will never buy store bought ones again. I can make us 15-20 large tortillas for about 50 cents and my time and I know just what I am eating.

The biggest problem newbies find when making tortillas the first few times is they are too fat.This is not always the problem of the tortilla roller but the recipe itself. Any tortilla recipe that has baking powder in it is going to make a fat tortilla no matter how thin you roll it.

We eat a lot of tortillas here and not simply because we eat alot of hispanic foods. I will put anything in a tortilla and call it a wrap. Spaghetti in a tortilla with cheese is surprisingly good as is scalloped potatoes and ham. I always wonder what you call chinese stir fry in a tortilla other than really good?

Keep in mind that when you make your own tortillas there are no preservatives in it so they will not keep anywhere near as long as store bought tortillas. If I keep mine in an airtight bag in the fridge, they will last about a week, however, they dont seem to be as flexible as the store bought ones after a few days, so they tend to be hard to use.

my recipe

3 cups flour
2 tbsp oil or lard
dash of salt
1 1/4 cup water or there about

mix all ingredients until dough forms. Flour hands and knead about 10 times. Let dough rest with moist towel covering for 15 minutes. Heat pan, griddle or stove top til very hot. Break off ping pong ball size ball dip in flour and roll thin.It should roll out to about 7-8 inches. They will not be perfectly round like store bought either, so get over it. Place tortilla in pan or on surface and cook until it begins bubbling and turn.Cook until bubbling again and remove.

all total it should take 2 -3 minutes per tortilla, if it takes longer your surface is not hot enough

cheese balls

One of my favorite christmas time treats are home made cheese balls. Now there are a zillion recipes out there for them and some are very good. Unfortunately often times they also cost crazy money to make. We are poor folk and simply cant afford a $20 ball of cheese to go with our Dollar General crackers.

My favorite is very simple to make and can be made with a number of minced type meats. I normally make it with dried beef that I chop finely however one can use ham, roast beef, corned beef, chicken, shrimp, crab etc.

I generally only use the cream cheese but have added shredded cheddar, mozzarella and bleu cheeses. It just depends on my budget and the flavor I am looking for . I have also taken fresh or dried veggies and processed them down into tiny bits and stirred them into the cheese mixture. Broccoli, sweet gr or red peppers,hot peppers, scallions and carrots make a colorful addition and add some flavor and nutrition. I sometimes add a dash of wine, a splash of liquid smoke or hot pepper sauce as well.

The outside coating can be done with most anything. I like the nut and parsley mixture because it is pretty more than any other reason.Many like to use pecan or almond slivers t coat the outside, I tend to like walnut because they are cheaper. Depending on what I have used on the inside of my cheese ball I change up my coating, sometimes its herbs of various sorts with bread crumbs or crackers and sometimes it is nuts with herbs. It really just depends on what I have and what my taste buds say..

basic recipe

2- 8 oz packages cream cheese
1 pack onion soup mix
4 oz chopped meat of choice
dash hot sauce
nuts or spices

soften cream cheese. Add meat, hot sauce and soup mix and mix completely. Refrigerate about 1 hour then roll in either chopped nuts or parsley nut mixture. Wrap and chill several hours to several days before serving. With just two of us here, I make 2 balls instead of one.

I also quite enjoy dessert or fruited cheese balls. Pineapple and strawberries are my favorite flavor. Some people like to add green or red pepper bits or pieces of jalapenos or even green onions. I prefer to make them simple and with just the fruit and nuts.

Basic recipe

2-8 oz packages cream cheese
8 oz of fruit chopped and drained
1 tbsp powder sugar
1 tsp season salt
1 cup nuts chopped fine

Soften cheese. Mix fruit, cheese, sugar and 1/2 cup nuts. Refrigerate one hour and form in to ball and roll in chopped nuts and wrap

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

maps, guides and charts for planting

Here are several maps that I use and recommend others use to check for first and last frost, hardiness zones and other neat things. Remember these are just a guide and please don't blame me for dead gardens.

plant hardiness zone map

find your zone by zip code

heat zone map with how to use instructions

Canada hardiness zone map

Europe hardiness zone map

Australia hardiness zone map

average fall frost dates US and Canada

last spring frost map for US and Canada

Something else to think about when it comes to planting beside hardiness zones and frost dates is soil temperature. I often go by this rather than the freeze dates. It does require you keep a careful eye on frost dates but over all this method seems to make more sense than the others.

soil temperature chart

another chart

Still another thing to take in to consideration is the lunar phase and some even take zodiac signs in to consideration. I try to use the moon phases here but I have noticed that often times our window to get things in the ground closes or opens during the non optimal moon phase. No matter it is still interesting and is neat to look at.

moon phases

zodiac signs

lunar planting

things to consider when building or buying your homestead

Many of us already homestead or at some point would like to homestead in the future. Often times it seems that we think we need more land than what we have available to us and fore go the thoughts of ever being able to succeed at it because of the availability of useful terrain. I say no matter how small a plot you have to work with , you can do something in the way of raising your own fruits and vegetables and with very small amounts of land you can also raise some of your other foods, particularly meat. With a little bit of planning; gardens, compost and animals can all be combined together to make a circle of life so to speak on even some of the smallest pieces of land.


Being part of the solution and not the problem means there are certain steps that should be taken before acquiring any farm animal. Here is a brief synopsis of each of the steps that must come first and foremost before even thinking about raising animals.

Identify your natural resources. Find out what amount of acreage you have available to you. Look at climate and elevations. Identify the types of soil and the vegetation on the land, look at the erosion of the area in its natural state . What is the availability or both drinking and irrigation water. Identify potential problems now, so that you can make the necessary steps before they arise. By doing this it will help you to decide; what types of animals you can raise without modifications as well as with. It will show you how many animals your piece of land can accommodate as well as many management techniques that you may or may not have to employ in order to keep your animals and property safe and well maintained.

For those of us with less than an acre, anything larger than a guinea hen is most likely out of the question. The animals you are able to have, will need feed, shelter and protection from predators. Small animals means smaller amounts of waste and a compost pile in the back yard would do for your manure management practices.

When we have two or three acres to work with, our animal raising capabilities rise immensely. In addition to the small stock, you can also go into small ruminants ( meaning goats, sheep etc). Again, most feed will have to be provided to the animals and they will require a pasture or fenced in area for them to graze about in. Predator protection is still needed as well as cover from extreme weather conditions. Manure management with small ruminants is still pretty easy since there excrement is in pelleted form and makes great compost material.

Moving on up into the five acre range, our options for livestock also become larger . A single cow or horse is not out of the question . A hog can be raised , as well as a single or pair of burros or llamas, alpacas along with the smaller animals mentioned above. This amount of land is still not enough to maintain animals solely off of the land. All aforementioned steps are still needed and feed costs do become a a factor when we move into the larger animals. manure management practices also have to be amended and taken into consideration. The small back yard compost heap is now a mtn and it becomes a necessary step to actually have a manure heap in its very own place on the land.

With ten acres or more of land, the opportunities for raising most any farm animal is there. Of course the more land you have the more grazing animals can do and the less they have to be supplemented with feed. Guardian animals become a good means of protecting from predators and your manure pile keeps on growing. The larger the animals you choose the less of them you can raise. Cows , if fed only grazed grasses need about 25 - 30 acres of good pasture land per head of animal. keep in mind as well most animals do better in pairs , most are herd animals and do not well on there own .

Elevation levels will dictate what vegetation can and will grow on your property. The higher up you go , the less vegetation there will be . Different animals prefer different types of vegetation. How much work is it going to be to turn the over grown brush into pasture? Think about what your elevation levels are as well as the weather conditions in your area. Some conditions are not suited to some animals.Will yo be able to provide housing or shelter for the animals in these conditions? Have a look see at the slope and overall lay out of the land.Some of our four legged friends do not do well on steep terrain while others thrive, just as all humans don't enjoy mtn climbing, neither do all animals.

Walk outside in the rain sometime and look at the run off of the land. Where water runs , manure will run. Look at where the water runs too, where is it going? Find out where run off is naturally,where does it end up, polluting our water sources can be a huge issue,not only health wise but monetarily as well. Keep in mind that animals also cause new run off areas in the land, they tend to blaze trails (soil compaction) where they make the same loops in pastures daily...thereby causing new runoffs and sedimentation .Buffer zones between waterways and animals are wonderful in keeping the pollution problems down as well as giving natural wildlife new habitat areas.

Find out what sources of water are available on the piece of land.Animals need fresh clean water and plenty of it. Is there a well that you will be using? If so , can it handle the animals needs as well as your own? Is there natural water on the property? Does this water go to supply anyone else water ? Is that water safe for an animal to drink or does it contain pathogens in it not suited for consumption. If there is not enough water available naturally , how will you come up with enough water to supply your livestock? Will you have to carry water to the animals or is there a means to get it for them near where they are housed? Again, keep in mind the bigger you go, the more water they drink . It is pretty typical for a cow to drink upwards of 35 gallons of water on an 85 degree day, where a chicken or rabbit may drink a quart . Carrying 35 gallons of water 500 foot every day is not fun.

Assuming that most of us have less than 20 acres of land to work with. Many of us have much less to work with.Start to plot out your homestead on a large piece of paper. If you have a yard, plot it out , no matter how small you think it is. If you don't, have a yard at all , come up with an idea of what it is you would like.( Keep in mind almost no property has everything wonderful and perfectly set up to just move you n your barnyard friends in without some sort of modifications. I know we all dream of finding a perfect plot with flat open spaces, well groomed fences and barns with rolling hills and plenty of water sources etc...they are out there but few and far between. If there is a house or outbuildings sketch them and any fencing in. If you have outside water sources, be sure to mark them. Pay attention to run off areas, show where they are... This is just for a general idea of what you have to work with, so that over the course of making your plans you can decide what beast is best for you and your homestead . If you don't already have a compost heap or bin started, think about where you could strategically locate one. (a good rule of thumb on compost is, between animal and garden areas, but out of the way). Begin to get an idea of possible locations for animal housing and fencing. (It is nice to be able to see your animals from a window or door in the house if possible, just for keeping an eye on them.) When done , keep your map handy so that you made add to it as you plo , plan and scheme your homestead no matter what the size.

A snippet from a friend who had this to say when we were talking of this the other day..
Water is a huge consideration in any livestock enterprise.
Wells are expensive to bore, and water line must be installed below frostline ... digging the trench is also expensive.
Some animals need more than others
... an adult horse or a milk cow consumes many gallons per day, and this is something you cannot skimp on.
A dehydrated animal is a sick and dying animal.

Ponds can dry up and springs can stop running during dry summers.
Also, in the summer, you will get scum growing on the water and on the bottom and along the sides of the stock tank. You will need to empty and dry out tanks and waterers (sun will kill lots of what's growing there) and occasionally scrub with a bleach solution to keep the water fresh.

Remember that water will freeze in the winter, and when it freezes it will ruin whatever it is in. If you leave a hose out overnight, it will be useless in the morning ... at best you will have to bring it in to thaw, and at the worst it will split and be ruined. A stock tank full of ice is just another thing to deal with ... it is of no use to the stock.

In short ... I think the first thing to do when planning a livestock enterprise is to secure the supply of fresh water.

Bottom line, if someone is going to get livestock they should REALLY learn as much as they can about the animals they are interested in first, and be as prepared for them as possible first. Know something about the animals you want to keep!They all have different "ways" and different personalities. Some are a lot easier than others. Some require tons of work, special fencing or housing. Some can just live nicely with a tarp for shelter.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

the greenhouse

We built our greenhouse here several years back. While most of it was made with new materials we did use the squirrel fan and a box fan from an old broken down gh. The wood was new as was all the plastic and pvc. When we built it the new materials cost us about 300 dollars although the price included enough plastic to completely recover the gh with two layers two more times. This project took us one day from start to finish.

Here is a basic photo tour of the gh. Please excuse the clutter. We could really use one about 2x the size. These pics were all taken today rather than as we built it..

If you notice in the pictures, there is a place for a squirrel cage fan. It is used to inflate the layers of plastic, giving it more insulation etc. Ours broke, they are about 75 dollars to replace. We dont have the money to replace it and heck I have been without it so long now, I know it isnt necessary. We also used simple box frame fan for ventilation. With the fan , the door open and the shade cloth we can grow all summer long. You may also see the wood stove in our gh. It worked well but through the year we have figured out that buy using crop cover cloths and mini hoop or frame houses with in the gh it is near as effective and saves a lot of hassle. We no longer use the stove and will be pulling it out soon to make room for a raised bed area.

My advice for a greenhouse is make it operate how you want it to. What works for one may not work for you. Experiment and see just what you can grow in there without having to have all the fancy stuff. If you want to try something new and see if it works go for it. More often then not you can find a way to make it do what you want. You are gaining experience in the process even if you fail, all you have lost is some time and a few seeds. The knowledge you gain will be priceless.

We use the gh pretty much year round. During the winter months, I grow early spring or fall crops. Right now I have turnips, greens,lettuce, mint, thyme, oregano, peas, gr onions, carrots and other salad fixins that we are harvesting from. During the spring and fall months I grow much of our lettuce in there because it has less bug issues than outside. Early spring I use it to harden of plantlings before transfer into gardens. Summer time I tend to throw experimental crops in there just to see if they will grow in the extreme heat(I shut off the fan ). More often than not whatever I plant in there thrives during the summer. The only time I have to worry about any death in the greenhouse is from the end of December til the end of January. By that time I am ready for a break before the spring rush begins and I dont care if it all dies off.

The gh measures 12x16 feet. The ends are framed with 2x4's, the base of the sides are made from 1x4's and the main beam down the center is 4x4.As you can see in the attached pictures, the rest of the frame is made with pvc. (I think the pvc is 1 1/2 in.) At the base of the frame we have u shaped clamps screwed in to hold the pvc to the 1x4's. Where the pvc crosses we used duct tape and then used insulated pipe wrap so make a cushion for the plastic layers. We attached the end layer of plastic separately from the sides and top. To attach the side layers of plastic we used the fabric, duct strap or sewer strap they use these days. we laid the two layers of plastic placed the strap over and stapled.

When you build a green house one of the important things to think about is placement.
If possible, locate the greenhouse where it will be exposed to at least 6 hours of direct sunlight during the winter months. The best orientation is to position the greenhouse with its length running east and west. This will provide more heat gain from the sun during the winter, when the sun is lower in the sky.

Another thing to keep in mind is wind exposure. If you live in an area that is prone to high winds, think about placing it so that an end wall can be built of solid panels on the windward side. Remember too that often times it isn't so much the wind causing the damage but your materials for building the gh were too light for the job. A bit of over kill on the frame is going to prevent a lot of damage. If the frame doesn't hold up nothing will.

Make sure you use gh UV rated plastic. It is expensive but it is well worth it. We have not yet replaced any layers on the gh here. This will be our fifth season with it and barring anything unforeseen it should last at least through this season.

my thoughts on square foot gardening

Square Foot Gardening is a technique of intensive planting developed by a retired civil engineer, Mel Bartholomew, in the 1970's. Mel describes the technique in his book, Square Foot Gardening, as "a system of laying out, planting, and maintaining a productive, attractive garden in any amount of space. The garden is based on a grid of 1-foot by 1-foot squares, with single seeds or plants placed in carefully determined spacings." Mel goes on to say, "The square foot system lets you make the most of your garden space to conserve the amount of water, soil conditioners, and labor needed to produce a maximum amount of food in that space. A square foot garden takes only one-fifth the space and work of a conventional single-row garden to produce the same harvest."

Intro to square foot gardening

The idea behind square foot gardening is that you can plant fruits, vegetables and flowers in raised beds, above infertile soil and even out of the reach of pets. Seeds are planted in 1x1 square foot plots, and when harvested a new plant is installed in the square. Plants are watered a specific amount each day in measured quantities so it is great for areas where water issues abound. Raised beds can sit directly on the ground or include a bottom layer and be placed on patios, decks or porches. These beds can also be made on raised tables to accommodate bad, backs, wheel chairs and old people that are falling a part. It makes for easy weeding (ain't many weeds), easy watering and and easy picking of produce. I dont care for this method for big n bushy plants. For small gardens I think it is great, when producing all your food stocks for the year it is in my opinion not optimal. Although watering seems simple , it can also become quite the chore, especially in dry climates. The beds leech water so well that the plants can and will dry up and die quicker than you can blink.

I really enjoy using this method for the smaller plants. Beans are great, radishes, lettuces, spinach, peppers, onions, broccoli ,cauliflower, beets, turnips etc are great in them. Tomatoes , squash,,okra, corn, tomatoes n sweet taters are examples of plants that I dont care for growing in the sfg beds.

While I enjoy the methods of SFG's, I don't enjoy the prices of making the soil mix that Mel specifies in his books or on his site. After all, just as in a forum, movie or book he is out to sell something to his readers. In this case it is all the components that go in to his "mix" for planting. For me, it makes for a too expensive garden. I instead mix what I can afford and what we can make from here on the land. I then make my own mix. It is not the mix he suggests but is something similar and I can still use the basic principles in growing.

I do not like the fact that he pushes such specific ingredients for the soil and gives people the notion that unless they do and build and buy buy buy all he suggests that you are not sq foot gardening. I agree that it is a specific method but I don't feel that because you built your sfg bed out of scrap or made your own soil it isn't sf gardening . What makes it "special " is the intense planting and harvesting.

I dare say, that intensive gardening is more the key word in all of this. One doesnt need a special soil mixture. Soil mixtures can be made at home from sustainable sources rather than buying soil mixes. We dont need to buy little plastic grids to be able to plot a bed in to 1x1 squares. String and a tape measure work very well for such things. We do not need to go out and spend hard earned money on materials to make a special bed. A garden can be made out of anything. If it can hold soil and has drainage of some sort, in my world it is a gardening vessel.

The bottom line in all this is that we don't have to follow any one way of gardening, nor should we. Gardens should be as individual as we all are while taking bits n pieces of what we see, read and learn every day and incorporate it into,something that works for us. Don't fall into the trap that things must be done a certain way, it just aint so. I have seen many people lose the gardening bug after trying to follow one specific method of growing, it not working the way they thought it should and giving up. The goal here is to get everyone a garden that works for them not making money off the teaching of it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

sourdough breads n such

A couple years back I decided I was done paying for crappy bread from the supermarket and done paying the ever rising prices. This meant I needed to start baking our own breads. I chose to go with the sour dough bread starters for a couple reasons. The first of which is not ever needing yeast. I like the thought of always having the base mix to anything on hand in a pinch and I like that the starter can also be froze for later use if needed, and it doesnt have to be refrigerated if used often enough. I also like that i can use the starter mix for more than simply bread, ( pancakes , rolls , bagels, crackers, pretzels etc).

Now I must say it took me a few months to get the basics of the dough down. The first few attempts were awful. Just remember if it's a flop and you wind up with a frisbee, hockey puck or a nice door stop they can be ground up and used as bread crumbs so it isnt a complete waste and it doesnt make the failures seem anywhere near as bad either.

To make the basic starter

Blend a cup of warm water and a cup of flour(not self rising), and pour it into a jar.

* Every 24 Hours, Feed the Starter. You should keep the starter in a warm place; 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect. This allows the yeast already present in the flour (and in the air) to grow rapidly. Temperatures hotter than 100 degrees or so will kill it. .

The way you feed the starter is to throw away half of it and then add a half-cup of flour and a half-cup of water. (Don't actually throw the starter away, save it and make pancakes with the throw away starter.) Do this every 24 hours. Within three or four days (it can take longer, a week or more, and it can happen more quickly) you should start getting lots of bubbles throughout, and a pleasant sour or beery smell. The starter may start to puff up, too. This is good. Here's the gist: When your starter develops a bubbly froth, it is done. You have succeeded. If this sounds brain-dead simple, that's because it is. People who didn't believe the Earth was round did this for millenia.

* Refrigerate the Starter. Keep the starter in your fridge, with a lid on it. Allow a little breathing space in the lid. If you're using a mayo or pickle jar, punch a hole in the lit with a nail, that kind of thing. Once the starter is chilled, it needs to be fed only once a week. Realistically, you can get away with lessevery 3-4 weeks; it's important to remember that your starter is a colony of life-forms that are almost impossible to kill (except with extreme heat). Even starving them is difficult.

Care and Feeding: Hooch

Aside from weekly feeding, the only other thing you need to worry about is hooch. Hooch is a layer of watery liquid (often dark) that contains alchohol. It smells a bit like beer, because it is a bit like beer - but don't drink it! Hooch builds up in your starter, especially in the fridge. Just pour it off or stir it back in. It doesn't hurt anything. If your starter is looking dry, stir it back in. If your starter is plenty wet, pour it off. Just remember that hooch is nothing to worry about

Sourdough Baking Step One: Proofing the Sponge

Several hours before you plan to make your dough (recipe below), you need to make a sponge. A "sponge" is just another word for a bowl of warm, fermented batter. This is how you make your sponge.

* Take your starter out of the fridge. Pour it into a large glass or plastic bowl. Meanwhile, wash the jar and dry it. You may also wish to pour boiling water over it, since you don't want other things growing in there with your pet!

* Add a cup of warm water and a cup of flour to the bowl. Stir well, and set it in a warm place for several hours. This is called "proofing," another word for fermenting. Sourdough bakers have their own language; use it to impress your friends

* Watch for Froth and and Sniff. When your sponge is bubbly and has a white froth, and it smells a little sour, it is ready. The longer you let the sponge sit, the more sour flavor you will get.

The proofing-time varies. Some starters can proof up to frothiness in an hour or two. Some take 6-8 hours, or even longer. Just experiment and see how long yours takes. If you're going to bake in the morning, set your sponge out to proof overnight.

Sourdough Baking Step Two: The Actual basic Recipe

* 2 Cups of sponge (proofed starter)
* 3 Cups of unbleached flour
* 2 tablespoons of olive oil or softened margarine
* 4 teaspoons of sugar
* 2 teaspoons of salt

First, let's talk about leftover sponge. You should have some. The leftover sponge is your starter for next time: Put it into the jar, and give it a fresh feed of a half-cup each of flour and warm water. Keep it in the fridge as above; you'll have starter again next time.

Now, for the recipe: To the sponge, add the sugar, salt, and oil (the oil is optional - you can use softened butter instead, or no oil at all). Mix well, then knead in the flour a half-cup at a time. Knead in enough flour to make a good, flexible bread dough. You can do this with an electric mixer, a bread machine on "dough cycle," or a food processor. You can also do it with a big bowl and your bare hands.

Keep in mind that flour amounts are approximate; flour varies in absorbency, and your sponge can vary in wetness. Use your judgement; treat it like ordinary white or french bread dough.

Let the dough rise in a warm place, in a bowl covered loosely with a towel (if you're using a bread machine's dough cycle, let it rise in the machine). Note that sourdough rises more slowly than yeast bread; my starter takes about an hour or so, but some starters take much longer. Let the dough double in bulk, just like yeast-bread dough. When a finger poked into the top of the dough creates a pit that doesn't "heal" (spring back), you've got a risen dough.

Punch the dough down and knead it a little more. Make a loaf and place it on a baking sheet (lightly greased or sprinkled with cornmeal). Slit the top if you like, and cover the loaf with a paper towel and place it in a warm place to rise again, until doubled in bulk.

Place the pan with the loaf in your oven, and then turn your oven to 350 Fahrenheit and bake the bread for 30-45 minutes. Do not preheat the oven. The loaf is done when the crust is brown and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped with a wooden spoon. Turn the loaf out onto a cooling rack or a towel and let it cool for an hour before slicing.

For those that learn better visually there is Follow the sour dough , a series of videos on you tube

Here is the link to the site that has a printable booklet on sd... I have made all the recipes in it and I come up with my own recipes using the basic mixes as my starters for whatever it is i am making. I have never been unhappy with a recipe from here.

Here are a couple recipes of sour dough pancakes I have used before . I could give you the one I follow normally but i dont measure anything so it would be very difficult. Just play with the basic recipes and you will come up with one you like.

bunny hotel

One thing we failed to realize when we first began breeding rabbits for meat was how many cages the little darlings would need while growing to the kill stage. Why no book ever mentions this is beyond me as it was one of the first things I figured out and I am pretty slow. Another thing I learned quickly was that having more than a few bunnies in a typical 2 foot cage, even as babies is just not right and borders upon inhumane, at least in my eyes.

Another thing we learned was bunnies chew things and they can chew their way out of things quite quickly. In fact they chew so quickly that one bored day of the dears gnawing away and they can indeed spring them selves from a wood based cage. I have no clue why when you google rabbit hutches they show beautiful wooden structures. They surely will not keep the cute fur balls contained for very long.

As I have previously written, we have a herd of 9 bunnies running rogue in with the hens. Much as I enjoy watching them living warren style in the coop roaming freely, the darlings also dig. They dig every bit as well as they can chew. I know this because the very first day we had released our breeder bunnies in their new home to run free, they escaped in 20 minutes flat. Out and under the fencing with 12 inch rods going in the ground every few inches. Lucky for us the breeders had never known freedom in any way so they simply stood there waiting for us to rescue them. Having the babies out running is cute and all but it is a matter of time before they figure out that freedom or death is just under that fence.

We decided when the babies ate their way out of their home, that we indeed were going to have to build new hutches for the bunnies and this time do it proper.

Manthing was able to go out and build the new bunny hotel today. This will be where we can put an entire litter of bunnies in one area. The cage is 6 foot long so will be plenty large to house them all. The bad bunnies out running with the hens will be the first to try it out, but only until i have them captured so we can have a butcher day.

We are going to build another cage next to this one that is only half the size. We just ran out of time today to get it done too.

The cage was built in the chicken coop. we only have a few hens so we are not worried about sickness by having the two together. The top of the bunny cage is solid so that if the hens do climb up above it and poop it will not be landing on the bunnies. Under the cage for the moment we will allow the bunny poop to land and I will clean it out when we clean the chicken coop come spring. This spring we will be setting up a large worm bin under the cages to collect the droppings and for smell control. The door is across the entire top rather than in the front for room purposes. We will put a hook and eye for the top rather than propping it with a stick. This way we can herd the bunnies to one end of the cage come butcher day and make the cage smaller with a divider as we go . It is also built tall enough that they cant jump out.

Here is the photo journal of the bunnies and their new home.

monday's mountain musings

More drizzly drooly weather here in the mtns but still no real cold for any length of time. We had 2 nights in low 20s and everything has seemed to pull thru it with no trouble. Next week is when I normally pull the plug on any gardening outside for a month or so for our coldest part of the winter. It will be interesting to see how long the gh plants hold out with the row covers and mini hot houses in there. Day time temps are still generally going up in to the 50's so other than all the wet weather we really can't complain too much .

We have had two official nights of quiet, WOOT! No gnawing, no chewing, nothing walking on the roof in the night, it has been wonderful. No smell of rotting bodies either so that' s a bonus thus far. Will pick up another round of poison when we go to town in a couple days as we have a meeting. Town twice in one week, how unusual, how horrible.

I have started a photo journal of my wood stove cooking. Have a look through them and enjoy.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Pierogi are one of my favorite frugal recipes that I make. Not only are they delicious but they are very versatile. They can be boiled , deep fried or sauteed and can be filled with everything from sauerkraut , to meat or potatoes.They can be served as a main dish or side dish and in a myriad of ways from plain to extravagant. I have served pierogi with butter and cheese, tomatoes sauces, salsas and gravies. The worst part about making them is it is a bit time consuming to roll, fill and close allof them up. It makes a good afternoon family project and they freeze very well

Tonight I made mashed potato pierogi's with garlic and cheese as a one dish meal. I took a few pieces of bacon browned them up and crumbled. I then sauteed 2 large onions and two cups of chopped cabbage.When onions and cabbage were near tender I sliced two apples up and added that to the cabbage mixture and crumbled the bacon in. Heat through and serve over the pierogis.

2½ cups of flour
1 tsp salt
1 egg
2 tbs. sour cream
½ cup lukewarm water
Mix all ingredients together, and knead a bit. The dough should not be very smooth, and it should be quite sticky. Let stand covered for 1/2 hour before using. Take either all, or a portion of the dough, and roll it out until it is 1/16" thick. You will have to use plenty of flour to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin and rolling surface . Cut in to circles or squares and fill . Seal pocket completely and cook as desired.

Here is the site I get my dough recipe from. They have several recipes on different fillers for the pierogi and goes into much more detailed instruction.

bad bunnies

Here are a few pictures of the bunnies. They have been living warren style in with the hen's since soon after I pulled them off of mama. Don't ask why they are living warren style, that is another post entirely . They should also be butchered by now but because they are rogue rabbits they are not the easiest to catch. They have finally learned that I am the food provider and can now pet them. Too bad the only time I will handle them again is to scoop them up to be butchered off. Yes, yes, rabbits shouldn't be in with chickens according to some schools of thought. My thought is there are five hens in a very well kept 600 sf area so am not worried with contamination . This is not a permanent solution but one of getting new hutches built and the weather cooperating.

basics of gardening

The next step in the process of building your first garden is the actual design of what sort of beds and methods that you will be using. Depending on your location and soil type as well as the ultimate goals you have for your garden one type or another may be better suited to your needs. Perhaps a blend of a couple styles is more suited for you. Investigate a little bit more into styles that pique your interest and go from there in making your decisions.

traditional single row planting
Planting in neat, tidy rows allows for good air circulation, easy weeding and easy harvesting, but single rows of plants take up more space than wide rows thus somewhat limits how much one can grow in a small area.

wide row planting
Wide rows are when you plant long blocks of vegetables Width of rows varies but is normally 2-4 foots wide. Rows shouldn’t be so wide that you can’t comfortable reach into the center of them, from either side. Wide rows let you cram more plants into less space. Without the spacing and paths in between, you can get up to 6 times more vegetables in a wide row than in a conventional single row.Wide rows act as their own mulch. They shade out weeds, keep the soil most and require less watering. . In areas with high humidity crowding of plants in dense plantings can exacerbate any too much moisture problems that you have. A very popular variation of this is called square foot gardening. I personally prefer using the same principals of SFG but in the wide bed configuration.

english style gardens
A very informal setup of a garden based upon english tea gardens. Flowers, herbs and veggies are all planted amongst one another in hopes of balancing out the insects both good and bad thus relieving the gardener of most tasks in the garden. On a bigger scale this style of garden would be going along the lines of permaculture.

four-Square gardens
The Pennsylvania Germans are credited with coming up with this garden layout . Four-square refers to the garden being divided into four equal parts with narrow paths in between. The beds themselves were usually raised slightly. Although we know them best as four-square, they can be divided into any number, to make the garden easier to maintain. The raised beds mean that you never walk on the planting soil, so it never gets compacted.Splitting the garden into sections is handy when it comes time to rotate your crops. If you choose to grow perennial crops, like asparagus and rhubarb, you can devote a bed to them, where they won’t be disturbed when you cultivate.The soil in raised beds drains better than level soil and it warms faster in the spring. Four-square gardens are semi-permanent structures, so if you plan to move or enlarge your garden, they’ll be more work.

lowered bed gardens
A lowered bed is much the same as a raised bed and intensive gardening, but, rather than building the soil up into a bed, you build the bed into the ground and make the entire bed slightly lower than the surrounding area. This method of gardening is highly recommended in areas of extreme dryness and drought because you can water directly into the lowered beds and then mulch to keep the moisture in.

Here are a few other methods of gardening that are not a system so much as a way of making the most out of your gardens.

vertical gardening
Vertical gardens are not so much a style of garden but more of a method of gardening within the garden itself. They tend to be associated with intensive garden systems but it doesn't mean they are limited to them. It will work in any garden system. Vertical gardening simply means using, trellises, ti-pi's, string , nets, cages or poles and growing upward rather than having the plants sprawling on the ground. This system will work with any vining or sprawling plants, but, it also means that the plants dry out quicker than they would if run along the ground.

Growing two or more types of vegetables, her bs or flowers in the same place at the same time is known as inter-planting. Proper planning is essential to obtain high production and increased quality of the crops planted.To successfully plan an inter-planted garden the following factors must be taken into account for each plant. The length of the plant's growth period, its growth pattern , possible negative effects on other plants, preferred season, and light, nutrient and moisture requirements. Inter-planting can be accomplished by alternating rows within a bed by mixing plants within a row, or by distributing various species throughout the bed. Often times people inter-plant herbs and flowers amongst the crops because of the benefits. Again this method sort of goes back to the English tea gardens and perma-culture but will work in any type system of gardening.

succession and relay planting
Succession planting is an excellent way to make the most of an intensive garden. To obtain a succession of crops, plant something new in spots vacated by spent plants. Corn after peas is a type of succession. Planting a spring, summer, and fall garden is another form of succession planting. Cool season crops (broccoli, lettuce, peas) are followed by warm season crops (beans, tomatoes, peppers), and where possible, these may be followed by more cool season plants, or a winter cover crop. Relaying is another common practice, consisting of overlapping plantings of one type of crop. The new planting is made before the old one is removed. For instance, sweet corn may be planted at 2-week intervals for a continuous harvest.

Friday, December 11, 2009

"cathead" biscuits

I love me some good biscuits on cold wintry mornings, unfortunately most recipes I have ever come across are horrible for one reason or another. More often than not, they would have been better suited as hockey pucks than food and I am a pretty darn good cook. Because all of our winter cooking is on the wood stove it also presents another challenge of being able to cook proper.Not too done on the bottom while not being goo on the tops can be an issue with many recipes . When I find a recipe that suits what I need I tend to modify it, keep it and use it. So here is my modified recipe for cathead biscuits.

  • 2 1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 Cup milk or there about
  • 5 Tablespoons salted Butter
Mix all dry ingredients ,chop in the butter, make a well in center of bowl and add milk. Mix just until most of the mixture is moist. Flour hands and kneed the dough a few times. Make into ball and break off 2-3 inch balls of dough. Squish them out a bit to make 4-5 inch circle. Place in lightly greased hot cast iron skillet or dutch oven and place a dome lid over the pan, one that fits tightly is best. Cook until done. Takes mine about 20 -25 minutes on the stove top. In an oven i would say 15 minutes at 425 would do. Serve hot with your favorite biscuit toppers. Recipe makes about 6 large biscuits

Thursday, December 10, 2009

indoor garden update

Been harvesting collards and mustard greens a couple times of week in the loft and a time or two a week from the greenhouse and what is outside. Yes we eat a lot of green stuff this time of year.

Have lost a few more plants to the vermin up in the loft but that problem should be solved now in a timely fashion. We finally broke down and bought poison and whatever is up there took the tray and all last night.

The remaining tomato is starting to flower now and we have eaten the first few beans off one of the plants. The okra is starting to come up as are the next round of peas I planted the other day. I also am starting a few cabbage plants to see what I can or can't make them do.

Tonight in the gh I had to have both the hoop houses and additional covers for the first time. It is very likely to get down into the single digits, so it will be interesting to see how things work out. Last week it got down in the low 20's and I hadn't covered the turnips,they were looking pretty rough for a few days afterward.
photojournal of the indoor garden

good grub

Here are some of our latest eats off the wood stove. veggie cheeseburgers with store bought gmo goodness rolls and cheese slices along side some sweet potato chips.We had this on shopping day and I knew I had forgotten to take rolls out of the freezer.Kitchen sink soup, was very good with the appalachian cat head biscuits I made. The left over biscuits from tonite will be used for bacon gravy and bicuits in the morning.The beef stew and dumplings from the other night and the almost fried apple pies.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

basic aquaponics systems

Aquaponics is the integration of hydroponics and aquaculture, a sort of symbiotic relationship between the plants and the fish. The fish provide food for the plants, and the plants clean the water for the fish...Many folks raise cat fish or tilapia in the fish tanks thus providing yet another source of food for the table. Aquaponics is basically a closed system, meaning nothing really needs to be done other than the basics of it in order for it to sustain itself. It provides itself with everything...

This is something i have been fairly interested in for a few years and each year it makes it to my goals list but never seems to actually get done. There is a good side to this though because the longer it takes for us to accomplish, the more I get to research and find a solution that we could work with.

Our needs are not much here therefore any system of anything we put in must also be very basic. It must be able to be made with either recycled or very, very cheap materials.. It needs to be able to run on minimal power sources and should also be able to run on a cheap, simple and very small solar set up if need be..

After much research and net searching I have finally found what (don't tell manthing) sort of system I would like to build, barrelponics . Basically a small aquaponic system done with plastic drums, which we happen to have a few of.

Here are free down loadable e-books on the subject of aquaponics and an e book on barrelponics that goes into detail on how to build your own system. Here is a video on this same system.

Here is a system set up by an internet acquaintance that is quite simple but very doable for a beginner It is an excellent size set up for patios and urban setting set setting
patio aqua garden

There are many different systems out there. Some more basic than this set up and some that are very large and are actual working farms. Here is a neat video on urban aquaponics, part of a series (which are all good to watch).