Saturday, December 5, 2009

happy holidays

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

now go elf yourself !

saturday snow

We had our first snow of the year last night. As you can see it was not much at all , but hey it counts as snow.

Basics of long term food storage

There are many aspects to a storage system including, dehydrated and canned foods,freeze dried foods, MRE's water storage and the list goes on. This is just a brief overview of the most basic of basics on food storage and is intended for those that are just beginning

Food storage is often made out to seem much harder than it actually is. The biggest hurdle is learning to store what you eat and learning to rotate your storage does not need to be expensive nor do you have to be extravagant with how you store your preps. For the real detailed and probably more ideal system for long term storage options I will leave you with our friend lowdown3 to explain.

For those like us on a very limited budget for prepping, i will share what we do and how we do it. Keep in mind everyone has their own system of doing this so depending on where you look, you will see many different variations but all are based on the same principals. Those principals are that the product is stored in an air tight space, that it can remain at a fairly constant temperature year round and that it is bug and insect free. It truly is that simple.

Since we are poor folk our storage containers are either five gallon buckets with screw top lids, five gallon buckets we close with caulk when full or the large totes that are available in any dept. type store that when full we caulk closed. Rice, beans, grains(flour or wheat berries,oats,etc)are left in there original bags and placed in the containers after proper preparation. Many people like to break things down in to smaller packages. Often times people use large mason jars, old mayo containers, 2 or 3 liter soda bottles,zip lock bags or use a vacuum sealer and then pack into whatever larger container.

The system you use to track your food storage is totally up to you, again there are a bazillion ways to do this from simple plans to paying web sites. Since we grow the majority of our food here on the land and plan on continuing to do so we don't follow any food storage plan other than what we have decided we need.Unless you currently garden in large amounts, I would not suggest anyone follow our method of storage. I would recommend anyone that is going to start to find a basic list of quantities of basic staples for your size family for the amount of time you are planning on putting back. Most people have no idea how much flour, corn , rice or sugar they truly would use in x amount of time if there were no stores to purchase from. These lists are not set in stone but do give you a good idea of the basics you should have put back.

food storage trackers and planners

food storage tracker
food storage made easy

We always keep at least a year of basic staple foods stored. For some this may seem extreme, for others this is not near enough. The choice is solely up to you as an individual and is up to you to decide. When people ask me what I suggest, I say start with a month and work toward 6 months with an eventual goal of a year. This would give a family plenty of time to be able to figure out a solution if things were to go to hell in a hand basket. I also recommend that people get a small seed stash set back as well, just in case.

When we make a purchase of grains, oats, flour,beans or rice I always go through a preparation process before we put it away for storage. The reason for this is because of the bugs and insects that these products all have in them naturally. I put them in the freezer for three days. Take them out for a week and then freeze three more days. This will kill any larva as well as anything that was alive. This will keep your stores from growing critters while packed away .Once this task is completed, we choose to store our preps in totes.

freezing grains

In one large tote for the two of us we can put basic staples away for three months at a time. I then throw in a couple oxygen absorbers and when it is full we run a line of caulk around the edge and seal it up. I use a marker and put the date we seal the tote up and a brief list of what we have in the box. Don't forget to toss in some spices. They are fairly cheap and easy to come by and there is no reason to be eating bland, boring foods. I also throw in the box some candles, batteries and a couple boxes of feminine hygiene products. . This way our box is fairly complete for all our needs for a three month period and we have it all in one easy to grab space. Keep in mind that because we do grow and preserve our garden foods the boxes we make are just staple foods. If you dont garden and preserve foods then you will require more totes than what we have for the three month time frame.

Once you have your stores put them in a rotation with your regular foods that you eat on a regular basis. When we first started with food storage we decided that we would begin eating the long term prep items after two years. This way nothing is out of date and risk of product loss is near zero,even doing it on our small budget. As you begin to use the tote begin replacing it and then repack when empty. Go through them in the order they were packed and you now have a rotation to all your preps. By doing this you ensure yourself and your family that you have food on hand all the time.

Many people ask why prepare. Our simple answer is its like insurance. Insurance against inflation, job loss, natural disasters, or if all goes to hell and craziness breaks out. It is something to have to fall back on and something that simply makes sense to us.It doesn't have to break you,start small and spend 5 or 10 dollars a week on the basics and work your way up to a month of food to put back. You will be surprised at how quickly on a budget one can set up a safety net. Just remember store what you eat and eat what you store.

getting started in food storage
part one
part two
part three

more food storage basics, shelf life and common misconceptions
very good reference site
simply living smart
food storage FAQ

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

queso blanco - simple white cheese

I make most of our own cheese here. My favorite is simple queso blanco or white cheese. It takes just a few minutes to whip out and is very good on mexican foods which we eat a lot of. We use fresh goat milk when we have it available and at other times of the year I buy milk from the store and make the cheese from it. When milk is cheap I try and stock up on a bit to freeze and then make cheese whenever we want it. Even at 4 bucks a gallon it is cheaper to make our own cheese than it is to buy it already made.

All I use to make the cheese is a gallon of milk and 1/4 cup of white vinegar.Empty the milk into a large pan and heat slowly until just below boiling. Simmer for five minutes then add the vinegar and stir while still simmering slowly. It will look gross as it separates. Once it looks like it has completely separated strain through several layers of cheese cloth and allow to drain for a half hour or so. Remove from cloth and add a little bit of salt and then crumble. Place in an airtight container where it will keep for a few weeks. It is like a mild feta type cheese or queso blanco. It can also be dried and used much like parmesan on pastas or in other recipes

When you are done you will have the left over whey. I generally use this in my breads and other sour dough creations. simply replace the water or milk in any bread recipe and you will gain the benefits vitamins and minerals that are still in the whey.

The whey can also be used in lacto fermentation of cabbage and other veggies. To make cabbage this way take 1 med cabbage + 1 TBsp salt + 4 Tbsp whey + 1 Tbsp caraway seeds. Mix all, crush or pound to release juices from cabbage, place in a jar with liquid covering cabbage by 1", cover tightly - leave for 3 days at room temp.

The idea of using whey is that lactic acid is one of the best organic acids at inhibiting the proliferation of bacteria. Plus your body can directly use the lactic acid unlike other fermentation products like alcohol and acetic acid. Whey freezes well for up to a year and can also be made to make ricotta cheese or be dried into a powder form.Whey can also be used to water acid loving plants

"your choice" casseroles

I found this a few years back and shamelessly stole it.As you will see everything in the recipes are frozen or canned. I simply adjust it for our fresh, dehydrated or frozen veggies we have put back. Other than the cheese toppings , most of the casseroles can also be made entirely of prep foods or from your food storage


Each casserole bakes for 1 hour and 20 minutes, which eliminates the need to precook the pasta or rice. Experiment with different flavors and invent your own casseroles. Using multiple Extras and Toppings, this basic recipe will make over 19,200 different combinations!


Combine 1 cup sour cream,1 cup milk, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper with “your choice” of a Sauce Maker (omit sour cream and milk when using tomatoes). Stir in “your choice” of Frozen Vegetable. Stir in “your choice” of Pasta/Rice. Stir in “your choice” of Meat/Fish/Poultry. Stir in “your choice” of Extras, if desired. Spoon the mixture into a lightly greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with your choice of Toppings. Bake casserole, covered, at 350° for 1 hour and 10 minutes; uncover and bake 10 more minutes.


1 (10-3/4-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 (10-3/4-ounce) can cream of celery soup, undiluted
1 (10-3/4-ounce) can cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 (10-3/4-ounce) can Cheddar cheese soup, undiluted
2 (14-1/2-ounce) cans Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained


1 (l0-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 (l0-ounce) package frozen cut broccoli
1 (l0-ounce) package frozen Italian green beans
1 (10-ounce) package frozen English peas
1 (l6-0unce) package frozen sliced yellow squash


2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1 cup uncooked rice
4 cups uncooked wide egg noodles
3 cups uncooked medium shells


2 (6-ounce) cans solid white tuna, drained and flaked
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
2 cups chopped cooked ham
2 cups chopped cooked turkey
1 pound ground beef, browned and drained


1 (3-ounce) can sliced mushrooms, drained
1/4 cup sliced ripe olives
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chilies
1 (1-1/4-ounce) package taco seasoning mix


1/2 Cup (2 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese
1/2 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs

wilted lettuce

I have found my self getting a bit tired of fresh green salads and other greens most every night and decided it was about time to try and find some new recipes for uses of lettuce and various other greens. Looking through various websites I found one that was common during the depression era, wilted lettuce.

I had heard of it before and heard plenty of "lettuce ruination" and "its awful" stories so I finally had to try it and see just how horrible it really was. To my surprise it wasn't all that bad, in fact it was quite good. It is not something I would want to eat every night of the week nor several times a week but on occasion it does make for a nice, different, dish and makes for good use of extra greens.

When I went digging around the net I found a recipe that sounded almost good and made a few alterations to it and made it something that we all actually ate, even the pickier eaters enjoyed it.

my recipe

1/2 gallon of either lettuce, spinach or other green of your choosing
3 tbsp sugar or honey
2 tbsp vinegar, (i used apple cider)
one diced onion
3 strips bacon
one egg
one cup light cream or milk

Toss sugar and vinegar with lettuce mix. Fry bacon and onion til bacon is crisp and crumble the bacon into the bacon drippings. Mix egg and milk and add to bacon dripping mixture and cook.Remove from heat. Either add sauce mixture immediately to lettuce or let cool a bit before mixing with lettuce mix (if you let it sit a bit first, the lettuce doesnt get so limp).Top with fresh green onions n salt n pepper to taste

cucumber sorbet

In my quest for new cuke recipes, I ran across this sorbet recipe. At first I crinkled my nose over it but decided to try it anyway. The recipe I found was for a very small portion so I fixed it up to serve 4-6. This turned out to be a very good mid summer treat and a great way to use up some of those extra cukes we are all bound to have in the summer months.


4 large cukes (peeled and seeded)
1/3 cup vinegar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp dry dill or two tsp fresh

heat vinegar water and sugar til sugar dissolves then mix all ingredients in a food processor and puree. Place in freezer.

When wanting to serve, puree again
serve with a mint sprig if your into fancy stuff.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

universal muffin mix

Since we are on the subject of food and using storage or "prep foods" here is another good batch of recipes. I feel there is nothing better than being able to make a whole slew of recipes from one base mix so when I find recipes such as this it is like finding treasure.

This is for those of us that are either lazy or enjoy making large batches of mixes and then storing away for future use. Keep in mind this is a huge batch of muffin mix but if you have some half gallon mason jars or a few leftover coffee containers this could make great use of them. Again we make a base mix and then add to it later on when we go to make them into what flavor we want at the time.

Base mix

18 cups flour
5 cups sugar (or equivalent substitute)
2 1/4 cups dry buttermilk or nonfat dry milk powder
6 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons baking soda
2 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons ground nutmeg

Combine ingredients and break up any lumps.
Store in a large airtight container labeled with the date and contents. Store in a cool, dry place. Shelf life: 6 to 8 months. Makes enough for about 5 batches of 24 muffins each.

To make 24 regular-sized muffins:.

Preheat oven to 400°. Coat muffin tins with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, beat:.

3 to 4 eggs.
3 teaspoons vanilla.
2 cups water.
UP TO 1 cup oil or butter.
Stir in 5-1/2 cups muffin mix and any additional ingredients (listed below) just until moistened. The batter should be lumpy.
Fill muffin tins full. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until muffins are golden brown.

So you want some flavor in those muffins do you?

Applesauce muffins: 1 cup applesauce omit oil.

Apple muffins: 3 cups raw grated apple 1 teaspoons gr. cloves 1 cup nuts or raisins, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture before baking.

Apricot muffins: 1 cup chopped dried apricots.

Banana muffins: 2 mashed bananas 1 cup walnuts (optional).

Blueberry muffins: 2 cups fresh or frozen rinsed blueberries.

Bran-molasses muffins: Use only 3 cups of muffin mix. Stir in: 4 cups bran cereal 1/2 cup molasses 1 cup raisins.

Butterscotch muffins: 2 (12 oz.) bags butterscotch chips 1 cup chopped nuts.

Carrot muffins: 2 cups grated carrots 1 cup raisins 1-1/2 teaspoons allspice.

Cashew muffins: 2 cups unsalted coarsely chopped cashews.

Cherry muffins: 2 cups fresh or dried pitted cherries.

Chocolate chip-fudge muffins: 1-1/2 cups cocoa 1/2 cup sugar 3 cups mini chocolate chips.

Coconut muffins: 3 cups toasted flaked coconut (reserve some to sprinkle on the top).

Cranberry-orange muffins: 2 cups chopped fresh or frozen cranberries 1 cup nuts 1/2 cup orange juice 2 Tb. orange peel.

Currant muffins: 1-1/2 cups currants 1 cup chopped nuts.

Date nut muffins: 1 cup chopped dates 1 cup chopped nuts.

Eggnog muffins: 4 teaspoons rum extract 2 cups eggnog (omit water from recipe) before baking, top with mixture of: 2 Tb. sugar 1 teaspoons nutmeg 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon.

Fig muffins: 2 cups dried chopped figs 1 cup chopped walnuts.

Fruit muffins: 2 cups dried diced fruit.

Garden fresh muffins: 1 cup grated carrots 1 cup grated zucchini 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves.

Gingerbread muffins: 2 Tb. ground ginger 1/2 cup molasses 2 cups raisins.

Granola muffins: reduce muffin mix to 4 cups and add: 1-1/2 cups granola. Top with additional granola before baking.

Grape nuts muffins: reduce muffin mix to 4 cups and add: 2-1/2 cups grape nuts and 1 teaspoons allspice.

Hazelnut muffins: 2 teaspoons ground cardamom 2 cups chopped hazelnuts.

Incredible Cream Cheese muffins: combine: 2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese 1/2 cup sugar 2 eggs. Drop this mix by Tb. onto top of muffins before baking.

Jam muffins: 1-1/2 cups jam or preserves (strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, cherry) 1 cup chopped nuts (optional).

Kisses and hugs muffins: 1-1/2 cups cocoa 1/2 cup sugar after filling muffin tins 3/4 full, drop one Hershey’s kiss into the center of each muffin, pushing down slightly until kiss is covered. Ice cooled muffins with confectioners sugar and water glaze.

Lemon muffins: omit 1 cup water and replace with 1 cup lemon juice use 4 eggs, 1/2 cup chopped nuts.

Lemon-poppy seed: 2 packages (3.4 oz each) instant lemon pudding mix 2 T poppy seeds, use 4 eggs, omit 1 cup water and replace with 1 cup lemon juice.

Mandarin muffins: 2 (8-1.4 oz) cans crushed mandarin oranges (undrained) reduce water to 1 cup 1-1/2 cups shredded carrots.

Maple muffins: 6 Tb. maple syrup, reduce water to 1-1/2 cups

Marmalade muffins: 1-1/2 cups orange marmalade, 1 cup chopped nuts (opt), 1 cup orange juice (omit 1 cup of the water).

Mincemeat muffins: 1-1/2 cups mincemeat.

Nutty muffins: 3 cups peanut butter chips 1/2 cup chopped peanuts.

Oatmeal muffins: reduce muffin mix to 4 cups and add 1 cup oats; use 4 eggs and up to 2 cups raisins or grated apples

Orange muffins: 2 cups sour cream,1 cup nuts or coconut (opt), 2 cans (11 oz. each) mandarin oranges, drain; use 4 eggs.

Peach muffins: 2 cups fresh or one large can (drained) chopped peaches.

Pear muffins: 2 cups fresh or one large can (drained) chopped pears.

Peanut-butter banana muffins: 1 cup peanut butter 1/2 cup chopped peanuts 3 mashed bananas.

Peanut-butter & jelly muffins: 1 cup peanut butter, 1/2 cup chopped peanuts; drop 1 Tb. jam into each muffin before baking.

Pecan muffins: 2 cups chopped toasted pecans, 1 teaspoons maple extract.

Pineapple muffins: 1 teaspoons ground cloves, 1 large can crushed pineapple, drained 1 jar (7 oz. or about 1 cup) macadamia nuts, chopped.

Pineapple carrot raisin muffins: 1 cup each: grated carrots, crushed pineapple, drained and raisins 1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional).

Prune muffins: 1 to 2 cups chopped prunes 1/3 cup poppy seeds.

Pumpkin muffins: 2 cups or 1 can solid pack pumpkin 1 Tb. pumpkin pie spice 1/2 cup each chopped nuts and raisins.

Raspberry muffins: 2 cups fresh or frozen whole, unsweetened raspberries.

Rum raisin muffins: 3 teaspoons rum extract or 3 tablespoons rum before baking, top with mix of: 2 teaspoons sugar 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg.

Sesame seed muffins: 1 cup toasted sesame seeds before baking, top with mix of: 1/2 cup nuts 4 Tb. brown sugar 4 Tb. sesame seeds 2 Tb. flour 1/2 teaspoons each cinnamon/nutmeg.

Sour cream muffins: omit one cup of the water and add: 1 cup sour cream 2 cups nuts 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel (opt.).

Strawberry muffins: 2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries, chopped.

Sweet potato muffins: 1 Tb. allspice 4 Tb. dry orange peel 2 cans (10 oz each) sweet potatoes, mashed, well drained (about 2-1/2 cups).

Tropical treat muffins: 1 cup dried mango or papaya, chopped 1 cup chopped banana chips or 2 fresh mashed, 1 cup macadamia nuts, chopped 1/2 cup coconut 1/2 cup sour cream 2 teaspoons lemon peel, grated.

Vanilla muffins: 2 packages vanilla chips.

Walnut muffins 1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts.

Wheat germ muffins: 2-2/3 cup wheat germ use 4 eggs 1/2 cup extra water before baking, top muffins with mix of: 1/2 cup wheat germ 2 Tb. sugar.

Yogurt muffins: reduce water to 1-1/2 cups and add: 2 cartons (8 oz each) yogurt -- plain or flavored.

Zucchini muffins: 2 cups grated zucchini 2 Tb. cinnamon 1 cup chopped nuts (optional).

Plum muffins: 2 cups fresh or canned plums; chopped.

"hamburger help yourself" meals

I am a fan of one dish meals. One dish meals that are cheap and easy are even better. One dish meals where you can fool the eaters into thinking they are having a meat loaded meal is better and meals made from food storage or "preps" is bestest. Keep in mind all these are made with ground beef but one could substitute ground chicken, turkey, venison , pork or bunny and they would still be good.

This base mix of seasons can be made ahead and kept in a sealed container and then measured out for each recipe.

base mix Ingredients:
2 cups nonfat dry milk
1 cup corn starch
1/4 cup beef bouillon powder
2 tablespoons onion flakes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon garlic powder

Chili Mac
1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
1 cup water
1/2 cup macaroni noodles (uncooked)
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 Tb chili powder
1/2 cup mix

1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
2 cups water
1/2 cup mix
2 cups uncooked egg noodles
1/2 cup sour cream

Potato Beef Casserole
1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
3/4 cup water
6 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup frozen mixed veggies
1/2 cup mix

Quick Lasagna

1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
1/2 cup mix
1 onion, chopped
2 cups water
16 ounces tomato sauce
3 cups lasagna noodles, uncooked, broken in bits
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded


Chili Mac: Combine all and simmer 20 minutes or until macaroni is cooked

Stroganoff: Combine all except sour cream. Simmer 20 minutes or until noodles are tender. Stir in sour cream and serve.

Potato Beef Casserole Combine all and simmer, covered, until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove cover and cook until excess water is evaporated.

Quick Lasagna: Combine all except mozzarella in large skillet. Bring to a boil, let simmer for 15 minutes or until noodles are cooked. Top with mozzarella. Turn off heat and let cheese melt.

window farming

Since we are on the subject of gardens..

Here is a another sweet idea for those that think they have no where to garden.Though this one uses 20 ounce bottles for the reservoirs, I am sure there are other things that could be used instead.
Be creative and come up with something that will work for you.

It is said that an average size window farm can provide a salad a week. Not much in the grand scheme of things but if one had a few windows to farm, it could make a good dent in food bills and again you know what you are eating because you grew it yourself.

Here is another version of a simpler window farm..I think these are awesome It is said this version should take less than an hour to set up and have planted out. As soon as the new camera arrives, we will be building our own version of this and I will post updates

Monday, November 30, 2009

plant modules

Here is a really cool concept (or at least I think it's cool) that I am positive could be adapted in many various ways. For those with very limited space, horrible soil that is non tillable , for those where raised beds cant be built to garden and for folks with limited abilities , I could see this as a very viable option. They do look a bit odd until they begin growing and then they are quite cute .

The basic concept is making soil noodles or pods (modules) from a thin fabric which is readily available at greenhouse or agricultural supply stores. Then run a drip line through the center(or not ) and poke small holes in fabric to plant. Next, plant in the holes you have made and there she grows. Its as simple as that.Once these are up and running they are almost no maintenance especially if you run the drip line through them.

We will be trying our version of this here shortly. We will not go out and buy the material because I think we can rig up some old clothing to make the modules, rather than purchasing the fabric. I am thinking that old pillow cases, sheets, blue jeans, even the plastic burlap sacks would make nice modules. When we make our version of this I will be sure and do an update post on it

For the proper instructions go here.

monday's mountain musings

Monday's mountain musings is going to be a regular posting from here on out. It will be my thoughts on what we have or haven't been doing and a sort of running journal of homestead life. Sometimes it will be serious and sometimes it will be just my thoughts on things happening in the world. It may also includes books that I have enjoyed or videos we have run across and want to pass along . It will basically give folks a bit of a peak inside our heads and into our lives and hopefully make things a bit more personable as a whole here.

We have been having some beautiful weather this past week and have been able to get some of the many needed out door chores done. Still have many to go but seems the weather is done cooperating for a few days and we are now looking at 4 days of rain .

The bad bunnies are still hopping around the chicken coop run. I do so wish we had the money to concrete the entire area for the buns. They love the freedom they are having on the lam with the hens. Unfortunately it would take near a truckload of cement to pour a floor in the chicken n bunny enclosure and we simply do not have that sort of money. I must admit I enjoy watching the hens and bunnies interact n mingle and have begun to call them all bunnikens. Unfortunately all good things come to an end and as soon as I can catch the lil buggers they shall be butchered.

We are fighting with wildlife wanting into any place warm they can find. Whether it's the shack walls, up into the baffles, in the GH, the feed shed, tool shed or any other little nook and cranny, they are bound n determined to get in and make a home. Some have made it in to each place and we are having an all out battle with them. We are not just talkin tiny mice. These are pack rats and boy howdy can they pack a place they invade full in a hurry. They have gotten sneaky with the traps and figured them out so we no longer catch many vermin. Next step will be to mix up some concrete with mash tater flakes or oatmeal and see if that does the trick. We try to not use any poisons around because of the other animals and I just dont like poisons. I cant imagine what sort of winter we have ahead of us with the wildlife so determined to get in out of the elements as we have never seen this before.

I Love trash is a documentary about dumpster diving. Two friends decide to do an experiment in trash. They rent an unfurnished apartment and arrive with only the clothes they are wearing and a flashlight. They decide not to buy any things for 3 months and instead to find all their needs in the trash. They furnish their apartment lavishly. They eat decadently. They dress sharp, and create beautiful art, all from the trash.

This was a pretty good film and would recommend for all to watch, even children. It has some weird hippie type folks with some kick butt drumming throughout and the amount of trash will amaze you.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


by George Cooper

"Come, little leaves," said the wind one day,
"Come over the meadows with me, and play;
Put on your dresses of red and gold;
Summer is gone, and the days grow cold."

Soon as the leaves heard the wind's loud call,
Down they came fluttering, one and all;
Over the brown fields they danced and flew,
Singing the soft little songs they knew.

"Cricket, good-bye, we've been friends so long;
Little brook, sing us your farewell song-
Say you're sorry to see us go;
Ah! you are sorry, right well we know.

"Dear little lambs, in your fleecy fold,
Mother will keep you from harm and cold;
Fondly we've watched you in vale and glade;
Say, will you dream of our loving shade?"

Dancing and whirling the little leaves went;
Winter had called them and they were content-
Soon fast asleep in their earthy beds,
The snow laid a soft mantle over their heads.

AHHHHH leaves, one of my favorite discussions. Not only do they provide beauty and shade and then more beauty at the end of their short lives, but they also sustain life from then on until they return to the earth as soil. How do they sustain life even through their death you ask?

The answer is simple. Once the leaves fall from the tree I run around the woods with my handy dandy rake in hand scooping them up like there will be no more . I then stuff them in feed sacks and haul them in old sheets or tarps to where they need to go and either be stored until needed or used immediately. None of our leaves are burnt in a heap or thrown to the curb side for garbage pick up. Like everything else around a homestead they have perfectly viable, cheap, alternative uses that make them an integral part of the place. Without our wonderful leaves we would have to spend money that we don't have and even if we did have it why waste it on something that nature provides? Our only task is actually going out and collecting them up and placing them where we need or want them to be and then they the work or the animals help them to do the work .

leaf uses

garden beds- We have so many garden beds around the property we simply are unable to produce the amendments needed for all of them each year. Last year we added about 12 new beds in total after downsizing in the number of animals on the land. To help combat this and help in making better soil we began covering all of the beds in thick layers of chopped leaves. After we pull any weeds and what is left from the plantings we till or work the ground up and then put a 6-8 inch layer on top. Once they have been rained on a bit we then cover the beds with black plastic or a tarp. This is done to kill off weed seed for the coming year and to keep the ground and leaves warm under there which brings in lots of worms to do their thing and further
help the soil.

We also use leaves to make our lasagna beds. For those that dont know what a lasagna bed is, it is a no til method of building garden beds. As the name implies it is built in layers much like lasagna is made. Leaves are a major component of the process and without using them there is no way we could build decent gardening beds using this method.

During the spring and summer months we also use leaves in the garden beds as a weed barrier and as a mulch for the plants to keep moisture in. This makes for a neat and tidy appearance to the garden beds at no cost other than your time and some energy.

compost pile-To add to the amount of compost we can make over the course of a year, we use loads of leaves. We layer them in with manure, scraps from the house , garden and grass trimming and can produce much more compost over the course of a year because of it. Similarly we have a couple worm bins and we use the leaves in there rather than papers. It works out great for us since we don't have much paper waste that is suitable for use in the worm bins.

Critters- This is where the frugality and money saving bits come into play and why I keep a rake in my hand for so much of fall and winter. For all of the animals bedding needs we use a system called deep bedding. The whole concept of deep bedding is that you don't clean out the old bedding but just keep adding more bedding on top.

For an example I will use the chicken coop. I clean it once a year in the spring. From this point forward I simply add more bedding through the summer. When fall comes I "stir" the coop floor around with a fork and let the chickens scavenge a bit for treats. I then add as many leaves as I can to bring the level of leaves to 3-4 foot deep. Don't worry it packs down over time and we haven't lost a chicken in the leaves yet. The chickens then kick through it,keep it scratched up and it decomposes. As it decomposes, it creates heat. The heat relieves me of any duties of heating the coop through the winter. I continue this through til spring.

By spring , the pack of leaves is pretty well broken down and in a usable state. We spread it on the garden beds , till or work it in and leave it for a few weeks. This prevents any damage to crops while eliminating the needs for a larger compost heap. If one so chooses you could then move this to the compost pile and finish it off and use either later in the year or for the next seasons starter batch for compost.

I use this method for all the animals including the bunnies that are housed out doors. This is the natural bedding for bunnies. This is what they would be living in if they were free roaming rabbits. They also like to nibble at the grasses inevitably rake in and they love to hide and play in them.

The goats love their bedding too. The biggest issue with bedding their shelter this way is they eat the bedding nearly as quick as you can throw it in there. My goats prefer dried leaves over just about anything, so we pack some away for the girls to nibble on through the winter. By using this method of bedding we are able to easily save $300.00 a year if not more.Money we can find a better use for on other things.

As a reminder, if you decide to use this method, please be sure that the leaves you bag up to store away are nice and dry. You do not want molds, mildews and fungi growing in your bedding or leafy treats.

As an end note, I was reading some articles the other day on the subject of deep bedding and I came across this gem of a quote. It was pertaining to using a "pigerator" or a system where pigs are used to dig up deep pack beds on large farming operations but is very fitting to using the leaves and animals in symbiotic relationships no matter what size operation you have.

"Animals don’t need an oil change,spare parts,or fuel. They don’t require minimum wage and my goodness what a retirement program! When you’re done with them, you eat them. It works with any size operation because you don’t have to recapitalize an infrastructure that rots, rusts, and depreciates."
for info on the pigerator and source of quote