Update – Have Been Busy…

coffeecupThings have been crazy and I haven’t had much time to sit and blog.  Funny that even with Thanksgiving coming up things are starting to calm down.

After feeling tired and worn down for so long, I’m finally making adjustments to feel better beginning with eliminating caffeine from my diet.  Yes, that includes chocolate.  Not being able to sleep well, being cranky, feeling fuzzy and forgetful, I had to do something.  Not sure if eliminating caffeine is permanent, but if it leads to my feeling better it might.  Who knows what change is next….

Thanksgiving dinner is interesting.  My sister-in-law has celiac disease and everything needs to be gluten free.  I have casein intolerance and everything needs to be dairy free.  So there will be lots of turkey and veggies.  I’m thankful for that!  And I’m bringing the pumpkin pie from this recipe.  Do you have any dietary considerations for you Thanksgiving menu?

I’m off to get started on my day, tons of laundry (I’m wearing mismatched socks), yogurt to make, a gift basket to put together (gluten free goodies for my sister-in-law and her two daughters), and a shower wouldn’t hurt.  But first, finishing my dandelion tea and getting some breakfast.  Let’s rejoice and honor God!

Psalm 118:24 – This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Raising Your Meat – Frugal or Cheap?

DSCF0326Having a sustainable homestead with animals has always been one of my dreams.  But there is nothing stopping us or anyone else with a dream like that from learning and practicing practical, frugal and sustainable homestead living right now where we are.  Think of all the skills we’ll have when that dream is fulfilled one day.

It seems to me, though, that a lot of people have such a romanticized vision of what farming or homesteading is that they are actually unprepared or disillusioned when they actually try to do it.  It is a long term way of life and the results are not instant.  There is a lot to learn and it is a lot of work. And while you skip a day in the garden, there is no slacking, time off, snow days or sick days when it comes to the well being of your animals who depend on you. The blog Walking In High Cotton has a good post about “Is Raising Your Own Meat Really Frugal?

While it is a good and very needed post, I think I would answer a little differently.  Yes, it can be very frugal. It isn’t cheap.

DSCF0063One thing that I have learned from trial and error is that there is a big difference between cheap and frugal.  Farming, homesteading, or sustainable living is not cheap at all.  But it can be frugal.  Living cheap is all about the short term, squeezing the life out of every penny regardless of who or what it might effect.  Living frugally is thinking long term, being careful with spending, even if it means spending a bit more to get better, lasting quality.  Living cheap expects instant benefits, living frugal plans for the long term rewards.  Living cheap is easy, living frugal (farming or not) is work.

It certainly can be frugal raising your own animals for meat if you are willing to put the work into it. If you are looking to do it because you want cheap, it certainly isn’t for you.

Using Cast Iron

DSCF0275Made peach cobbler for dessert, so yummy and so perfect for these cooler fall evenings.  The oven warms the house a bit, and the cobbler warms our tummies.  And I love using my cast iron for things like this.  Do you use cast iron?

One of my most prize possessions is the large cast iron skillet I found at a thrift store for $4. It was hardly used and just needed a good cleaning and seasoning. It’s one of my favorite pieces to use now. I only wish I had a lid for it. I have four other cast iron skillets: a deeper skillet (pictured with the cobbler) with a lid, a small skillet, a square skillet and the last is a round griddle. The square skillet and round griddle were pieces I got from my grandmother.

Seasoning a skillet is pretty easy. There are several ways to do it, but I do it the way my grandmother did.  Make sure the skillet is clean and dry, wipe the pan with oil (not too much) and put in a 300 degree oven. After about an hour, turn the oven off, wipe it out with a dry paper towel and put it back in the oven until it’s cooled off.

Take care with how you clean your cast iron. I’ve heard and I read a lot about not using soap to clean your cast iron. Most recommend wiping it out, or rinsing it in hot water. Some don’t even recommend using water at all.  For me, it depends on how I’m using it.  If I’m just frying an egg or something simple like that I will usually just wipe them out.  I don’t have a problem rinsing it if needed.  But if I cook something messy or smelly (like fish) I have no problem washing them quickly in hot soapy water. Most soaps today do not contain lye anymore, and that is the ingredient that takes the seasoning off. Don’t soak cast iron. Once in a great while I may have to take a plastic scrubby to one of them, but I’ve never had too much problem getting things off. If you find that something you made in your cast iron is difficult to clean and effects your seasoning, maybe cast iron isn’t a good choice for that recipe. Don’t put cast iron in your dishwasher.

Dry the skillets completely immediately after they are washed. This is important to keep them from rusting. After, I’ll put them in the oven if it’s still warm from baking or I’ll heat it up on a burner to make sure they are dry. Once I know they’re warm and dry I’ll spray them lightly with my spray oil, wipe them out (even the outside), let them cool and put them away. Reseason them as needed.  I store mine in my oven since I have a storage shortage in my kitchen.

What if your cast iron is already rusted?  Or what if you find a rusty cast iron piece at a yard sale or thrift store?  Sometimes the very best (and cheapest) yard sale/thrift store cast iron finds are the ones that are rusted because nobody else wants them.

Scrubbing with some steel wool (or even some fine sand paper) and a very little bit of vegetable oil, you can get that cast iron back to usable condition. If it is very rusty, you may need to enlist hubby’s help and use a grinder to get the heavy rust off.  But I’ve even used steel wool then, it just took a lot of elbow grease. It may take some work, but your work will pay off. Once the rust is removed, wash the cast iron and make sure it is good and dry (otherwise it will rust again). I’ll put them in a warm oven or heat it up briefly on a burner to make sure they are dry. Then you would season it, and you are good to go.

I really love cooking with my cast iron. The more they are used, seasoned and properly taken care of…the more favored they will be.  Do you have some favorite cast iron?

It’s Officially Cold…and…

…I officially have a cold.  I’ve been down for a few days, I felt awful but I’m starting to feel better.  One of the worst parts for me about getting sick is that the chores tend to get backed up.  Laundry, dishes, all sorts of things that I’m behind on.  So today is a catch up day for me now that I am feeling somewhat better.

winter2The weather hasn’t been bad, but for me it is an adjustment to get used to the colder weather.  The heater is now going all the time and to keep the bills from going off the charts I keep the thermostat set at 66°F or about 19ºC (much lower at night).  It isn’t cold, but it isn’t warm either.  Yes, I’m a whimp.  It takes a little time to get back into the routine of socks, slippers and layers of clothes.  I have a feeling that our winter here in Indiana is going to be very similar to the cold, snowy winter we had last year.

Today’s agenda is mainly catching up on all the chores that have back up for the last several days.  Pretty bad when it seems every dish is dirty.  If I can manage to make progress, I may even try to make some homemade yogurt.  I love yogurt so having to be dairy free is a bummer.  But hubby and son love yogurt so I still make it for them.  Once in a while I’ll splurge and get a container of non-dairy yogurt.  But is really isn’t the same.  *sigh*  I also still have quite a few apples left.  I’m hoping to make a pie, and then maybe make more applesauce with the rest.  I used the Sauce Master to make the applesauce this year and my son gave the applesauce a big thumbs down.  He says the consistency is way too smooth and he won’t eat it.  This coming from the least picky eating child ever.  So I may make a small batch of chunky applesauce just for him.  Not sure if I will try it again next year with a larger screen or not.  We’ll see.  My last big projects that have yet to be done are getting our air conditioners out and cleaning out the garage so hubby can start parking the car in there.  I had hoped to get them done over the weekend, but with me not feeling well and hubby up to his ears in home projects (like the gutter in the front of the house that fell after a really hard rain) they weren’t a priority.  The garage has been his work space so I’ll have to wait until his other projects are done before we can reclaim the garage for the car.

Dinner tonight is going to be chicken, rice and broccoli.  My menu got a little rearranged since we opted for easy, non-menu meals while I was sick.  So the nice Sunday chicken dinner from yesterday is replacing the chicken leftovers that were scheduled for tonight.  If you plan a menu of meals for your family, how do you handle unexpected circumstances that upend your plans?  Do you have spare or alternate meals planned just in case?  Do you just rearrange your menu as you go?  I’d love to hear how you do it.

Time to reboot the dryer with load number three.  Hope your day is blessed.  Grace and peace….