Saturday, April 3, 2010

wild edibles- violets

                                                      (not a good example plant lol)

Spring is a wonderful time for finding wild edibles on the homestead . One of the first available for harvest  here are  violets and they are also one of our favorites. Luckily for us they  grow natural  and are very prolific.

There are over 900 species of violets in the world so exact identification is difficult but most all the varieties have the same edible and medicinal uses. All species  have 5 petals, which may have a yellow fur on the inside of two of the petals.Violets bloom  from March to June. Gather the  flowers when in full bloom, leaves anytime, although the younger leaves are more tender, and rootstock in fall. Roots, leaves and flowers can all  be dried  for later use.Violet leaves are high in vitamin c and several other nutrients.The flowers have a sweet mild aroma

The most common use for violets is using the flowers and leaves in salads and garnishes.  We eat them this way  nearly every day as long as they are in season. They make a pretty garnish in soups and on desserts too.The flowers can also be candied but in my experience although they taste great, getting them to look even half way good is difficult. For food purposes the flowers and leaves can also be jellied. I have not tried this recipe as yet but  since we have such an abundant crop of them this year, I just may as it  certainly looks good.  For a few more  interesting violet recipes check out

The flowers and leaves of violet are made into a syrup used in alternative medicine mainly for respiratory ailments associated with congestion, coughing, and sore throat.There are even a couple brands of this sold on the market. Following is the recipe I have on hand to eventually try out. We rarely get sick so I see no point in having too many herbal remedies in them medicine chest at once. Pour 1 pint of boiling water over 1 cup packed fresh crushed flowers and leaves. Cover and let stand for 12 hours. Strain and squeeze through cloth, add 2 lb. of sugar and boil for 1 hour or until syrupy. Store in glass jar. Give 1 tbs.(1 tsp. for children)  2 or 3 times a day.
Tea made from the entire plant is used to treat digestive disorders and "new research has detected the presence of a glycoside of salicylic acid (natural aspirin) which substantiates its use for centuries as a medicinal remedy for headache, body pains and as a sedative. The plants constituents are being studied and show these uses to be valid. Eugenol, Ferulic-acid, Kaempferol, Quercetin, Scopoletin, also show promise in the treatment of many kinds of cancer, arthritis, AIDS, gum disease and more."  
Teas for digestive issues can be made by taking  ¼ cup dried or fresh herb in 1 cup of water for  and steep for 10 minutes. Strain, flavor to taste. Take in ½ cup doses twice a day.  Used externally the fresh crushed leaves reduce swelling and soothe irritations. As a bath additive the fresh crushed flowers are soothing to the skin and the aroma is very relaxing.

around the homestead-compost bin

After the fun of trying to get compost to the front garden beds a couple weeks back we decided  that we needed to  have us a compost bin  closer to those beds. It would also give us a bin closer to the house  for  the non critter household scraps. After pondering a bit on where to put it  we decided that it would go  down front between the wall of flowers and the largest bed. There were only three viable options  and the other two choices were a further walk  and would have taken some rearranging of the earth to make it a some what level  space and usable.

This compost area is much smaller than the one down by the critters and is very simply put together using some fencing and old tent posts. You would be amazed at just how useful the sections of old tents can be on a homestead. Stakes and fence posts are just a couple examples.This bin measures about 4 foot across is circular and is about 3 foot deep.

This compost area took about 5 minutes to set up, cost absolutely nothing to make and will  save us many sore muscles in the future.

around the homestead-rain barrel

We have used  rain catchment systems here on the homestead for many years. It is in fact our only water source on the property. We have no well and  are not on a municipal supply. Unfortunately the main supply of water, the cistern, is a couple hundred feet away from  most everything else on the homestead. This means either carrying buckets of water huge distances to the critters as well as the greenhouse and a majority of the gardens or running hoses all that way.

The last several years we have used a simple rain barrel placed at the end of the awning of the 5th wheel trailer to catch the rain for critter and garden use. This year however the old trailer is being dismantled which meant that we would be losing this water supply. After a bit of pondering  what we were going to do we came up with  our solution. We would simply move our harvesting station to the back side of the chicken coop and run a gutter along to catch the rain  off the coop roof.

It certainly ain't pretty but it was simple to rig up  and it will completely functional. We had most of the materials laying around the homestead and we manthing simply cut, chopped, bent and modified  the various materials in to what we he needed. If we had had one single long piece of gutter we would have eliminated 95% of the work, but we didn't. Total cost of the project was 4 bucks  for a box of screws  that we probably didn't really need.  It took  about three hours  of time to  take down the old  and put together the  new setup. Time saved  and the convenience factor  by having just a 50 gallon  barrel there  is immeasurable.  If we do happen to run the barrel dry we can still run a hose from the main cistern  to fill the tank. At the number  of critters we are at currently and  so long as we have normal or average rainfall the 50 gallons  serves us perfectly.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

gardens 2010-cabbage and tomato update

Today I kicked all the tomato babies out to the greenhouse. I took 88 babies down, kept 2 in the loft and killed 10. I will take cuttings  from my mother plant next week and bring the total back to 100 plants. I set all the plantlings in the aquariums in case it gets too cold   and I need to  shelter them further. It also helps for watering purposes as I like to bottom water.

 The three  cabbage in the Gh are growing great and heading nicely. I hope they continue being so healthy  and provide us some nice very early cabbage. The cabbage we transplanted last week into the garden are also doing very well. They seem to be recovering nicely from the wind damage they had  as well as transplant shock and so far we have not lost a one.

around the homestead-more spring cleanup

It is absolutely amazing how much stuff a couple people can accumulate over several years. By stuff I don't mean clothes or tools and the like but stuff that is a bi product of other stuff that no longer exists because of one thing or another. Things like old  scraps of lumber, shingles, bricks, hinges, sheet metal, gutters,small pieces of fencing, and that sort of stuff. The sort of stuff that 10 years ago I would have simply thrown into the trash  and not given another thought about but because of my own evolution and the evolution of my world and finances it is now stuff that allows us to build more stuff.

Because we are part lazy hippie, part  hillbilly and one of us is part Polish, more often than not our salvaged stuff just gets set where it is convenient and handy if we need it. It has no real home except up  next to any wall you could prop it up against. With three small out buildings down by the critter area it gives us a lot walls to lean things against, pile against and  get  things some where in the general vicinity of.  I have been down here 8 years and he has been here several more so you can just use your imagination   and create you own vision of what all the stuff was looking like.

The last couple of days I have been working on  general spring cleanup duties of branch n limb picking, weed eating dead grasses, picking up things the dogs have hauled off, giving herbs and  bushes  spring hair cuts and other assorted outdoor spring chores  while manthing has been working on the last of our wood chores for spring. Today he needed a break so we decided to piddle about and cleanup  the stuff. When  we renovated the chicken coop  it opened up a good size area out of the way that  wouldn't serve well for any other  purpose. It was however perfect for  organizing  and  storing everything we have accumulated over the years.

Other than the fence trellises for the tomatoes that we will be using in the next few weeks, we managed to get everything away from all the out buildings, give it all a good raking,  stash things away, organize it all   and even found a couple  small garden spots. It looks better down there than I have seen it since I have been here. We came up with a few new ideas for some of the stuff  that we may  try out soon  and see how they work and  we nixed a couple thoughts  that we had in our heads for other things because  after moving it all around  it became apparent those ideas  weren't  feasible after all.

Our next BIG clean up  will be the tearing apart the old fifth wheel and salvaging  everything we can from it. That is going to be a huge and messy job  that is going to take some time but should give us lots more stuff  to use around the homestead. It  was  set up to be fully self contained and run off a battery bank  and propane so everything  from the system will be  used eventually here on the homestead for a small off grid  set up. All the windows will be used for cold frames , the cushions and mattresses are going to become my arrow targets as I have bad aim and need large  targets. The tin will be kept to roof and side an out building  and who knows what other neat stuff will come of it. I know it will free me up another large area for, oh I dunno maybe another garden.

Now that we are getting things all cleaned up and spiffy I have vowed to put all stuff from this day forward in its proper location. Things really do look so much nicer .

Monday, March 29, 2010

monday's mountain musings

Another craptacular day here in the not so sunny south, it is ok though after yesterdays excitement I needed a day of relative boredom.  Not that yesterday was extremely exciting  by any stretch of the imagination but we lead such a laid back, non stress ridden life that we sometimes forget that  shit happens  and sometimes we ourselves are the cause of the  mess.Thus was the case with life around the homestead yesterday.

Somehow in our chores the night before  last the gate to the goats pasture was not hooked proper. Needless to say  when we went to do chores  yesterday morning I saw one of the goats up behind the pasture fence. I also noticed that Tiny Tom the last of our goat kids that was born and also the frailest had gone missing. When something is out of the ordinary my heart always skips a beat or six.

I saw the doe out so we called her, opened the gate and she came trotting right down to get back in  albeit with a large patch of hair missing from her hind thigh area. It is a large patch too, from her hip  area down to her elbow on her hind leg, she must have  really squeezed to get out the tiny opening  where the gate wasn't  hooked tight. Other than the hair missing she looked and acted just fine and went right to tending Bo her baby.

Tiny Tom on the other hand was still MIA so I set about searching for the sorry little beast.  I wandered up and behind the goat shed and found him huddled, weak and  not in very good shape. Why or how he got up there is beyond me. I scooped him up and took him in  to his mother who wanted nothing to do with  him and he was having trouble standing so off to the shack he came with me. I made him a bottle and he wouldn't drink, within  seconds he could no longer stand and within minutes  he was dead. It was as quick as that. I don't know if he had an underlying condition or not, he was very very small and had been a whiny little cuss since his birth. I thought about doing a necropsy  on him but I  don't have much experience in  baby goat post-mortem examinations  so decided against it. Any who,  he is now buried in the (15 yrs from now) compost pit  and  we have learned  one of those harsh life lessons of remembering if you open it be sure to close it. We were actually very lucky that was all that happened  through our careless oops.

In other news, the cabbage  and broccoli  survived our brutal winds, rain and hail that we have been having the last few days. I cringe every time the weather  gets a bit wicked, after last years gardening misfortunes I am weary of what this year brings while trying to remain optimistic about it. The good news is after today the weather is supposed to be nice the remainder of the week and be in the mid 70s  so we better rest up today while we can  as the rest of the week will be busy.

 I have started a face book "frugal homesteads" group. There is a lot that I do not post on here yet find important  or interesting and like to share them but don't want the blog to become a bunch of links. I also made it so we can have  discussions on  various topics  yet not in a typical forum format.   If anyone is interested come and join  us there.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I am so cheap-garden for a buck

 A few months back I read an article, that I now can not seem to find,  about a woman that planted her garden in nothing but seed that was under a dollar. I don't remember all the bits n pieces of the story other than her cheap seed and the  wonderful harvest that she reaped. What the article did do is remind me that the majority of my fall/ winter garden plants as well as many of my early spring  crops are from really cheap seed stock.

A few years ago I discovered that our local Dollar General store had a small rack of seeds and that the seed packs were four for a dollar. Due to inflation, they are currently three for a buck but  are still a good deal. Upon further inspection of the packs of seed I found that it was not just uber cheap but  it was also heirloom  seed stock. The seed variety does not tend to be all that great, at least at our local store.They seem  to o have many flower seeds and few veggies but I have found, collards,  green onions, lettuces, radishes, beans, peas, peppers, spinach kale, carrots, mustard and turnips. Because we only go to town once a month I may very well miss  out on some of the other veggie seeds that they may  sell, I don't really know.for all I know all I ever see are the ones no one else wants.

What I do know is that  these seeds do grow well, produce well and  that the seed can be saved. I know that my turnips have provided me with several meals and the mustard greens  survived the winter this year and provide us at least two meals a week and I only planted half of each packet. I just finished my dried green onions from  last season  and I still have kale. My sweet peppers that grew so well last year were from DG as is nearly all my lettuce seed.

I can't really say how much my cheap seeds produce for us in a given year as I never thought about it until I read the article and  we do not have a scale to weigh our produce. If I had to make a wild guess it would be near 200 or so pounds a year of mostly greens, not bad for  25-35 cent packs of seed that I just pick up   to have on hand and to  experiment with.

One of the reasons I started buying the cheap seed packs was because I was not a veggie eater in my former life, I was a meat n taters girl and you couldn't get me  to touch any other vegetable except iceberg lettuce. As we expanded what we grew and ate hereon the homestead,  it was a good way to sample the veggies without having too many and spending  loads of money  on  ordered seed. It also gave me an opportunity to see how a certain variety of a plant grew here on the land and if it didn't grow, woopty, it was a quarter thrown away.

For those that are new to gardening or just wanting to try it out to see how you do  this is a really  good way to  test your green thumb out. It's a nice small pack of seed, that is  heirloom  and is cheap.Heck, in our local DG one can get everything they need for a small  non fancy, maybe a bit cheesy gardening project. For kids this is  a wonderful , cheap, practical  birthday or other holiday gift that could inspire a life long love of gardening. For those  that think  they can't afford to garden, I tell you  that you are wrong. For under 25 dollars  and a bit of ingenuity  and gumption, you can grow one heck of a little garden chock full of nutritious, delicious  vegetables that will put a large dent in that grocery bill. For many that are on food stamps, seed and garden supplies can now be purchased in many states with the FS. What better way to  stretch  your money further.

Other stores do carry cheap seeds as well. I know Walmart carries 10 and 20 cents seed packs or they  did. I am sure some of the other dollar type stores carry them as well. Don't forget your local feed and seed  or even hardware stores as they often carry bulk seed at  literally pennies on  the dollar compared to ordering them and you decide how much or little seed you want. Seed companies are great for purchasing a certain variety of heirloom or a certain type seed that you are looking for but don't be a seed snob and overlook the bargains that are out there in seed land. More importantly, learn to save your own seed, become sustainable in that aspect of your life   and then swap with others that grow their own food. Trading is by far my favorite way  of acquiring new seed stocks. Not only do you get seed but  often times you get a story to go along with  the seed.

Here are just a few of the pictures of our cheap seed packs over the last year.What is shown is less than 2 dollars of seed.

          4 plants= 10 gallons of sweet peppers
     8 plants giant curled mustard= greens since November and still eating them

Turnips and turnip greens=  fresh greens all winter  and currently eating turnips and will be for at least another months
                                      green onions = year round  either fresh or dried at all times
   carrots, this was one pack of seed in a 32 sf bed.

Added: A friend knew the article I originally saw  so here is the  link to those interested

signs of spring-echinacea purpurea