Seed Starting 2016

seedlingsEven though my garden is buried under snow, in my mind it’s spring!   It’s time to make garden plans, order and start seeds.  This year I am excited because I am starting more of my own seeds and ordering less.

I had also hoped to make my own seed starting mix, but I wasn’t able to get what I needed.  I used a basic seed starting mix that I already had…non organic, but it was only peat moss, vermiculite and bark fines.  I’m trying to get away from using peat.  I added the last bit of coconut coir that I had on hand.  I can’t find a good source around me so I’m going to have to find a good source online.  Do you make your own seed starting mix or do you buy it?  If you buy it, what kind do you buy?

I had picked up a few trays on clearance from our local big box hardware store.  Well, not really local as most shopping is at least a 30 minute drive.  I love finding these kind of deals.  The plastic trays that I already had were old and starting to crack.  I also picked up some cheap dixie cups.  These are great for starting seeds.

160209plantlights1160209plantlights2I don’t have any specific grow lights or plant lights.  I just use regular bulbs that say full spectrum or daylight that run over 5000 K in cool light appearance.  The ones I have right now are 6500 K and 100 watt.  While I HATE fluorescent bulbs, these are the most cost effective (LED’s are still very expensive) and work work well for me in this tiny green house.  I also have two small fluorescent tube lights that used to be in our kitchen.

So far most of the seeds I have started are all my own seeds from last year.  Roma, Marglobe and Black Krim tomatoes, pablano peppers, white onions, red romaine lettuce, and slobolt lettuce.  I planted some cabbage, spinach and kale from seeds I bought last year, but just to be safe I will be ordering more.  I also planted some celery seeds I got last year but they have yet to germinate.   I have to buy bell and banana pepper seeds yet.  I also have some hot pepper seeds that I have been growing for years now.  I don’t know the name of the pepper but they seem to be Tabasco peppers from what I could find.  They are one of hubby’s favorites for making hot pepper flakes.

That is it for now.  I’d love to hear what your garden plans are for this year and what seeds you’ll be starting or have already started.  Until next time…grace and peace!

Prepper? Homesteader? Survivalist? Other?

Other.  Really.  Well, for me anyway.

13-12-16slippers

Making slippers for Christmas gifts.

I’ve always been on the frugal side.  Sometimes more frugal, sometimes less.  Much of what I’ve done is just what I had learned growing up.  I’ve also always been interested in the outdoors, gardening, camping, hiking, farming etc.  Growing up in the city didn’t give me many opportunities for farming, but I really enjoyed any chance to be outside with nature and camping/hiking became one of my favorite activities.

ggma

Celebrating my birthday with my great-grandmother…a homemade cake and homemade party hats.

I heartily understand the philosophy behind prepping and I agree with most of it.  I don’t feel like I need to live barricaded in militarized zone with 30 years of food and supplies put up in my hidden armored bunker.  If you do, that’s fine.  I do feel that as the manager of my home I need to be as prepared as possible to care for my family in what ever situation comes our way.  We live in crazy, fragile times.  But I firmly believe that the extreme form of prepping goes against what the Bible teaches.  The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, to take care of the orphans and widows, feed the hungry, visit prisoners.  It doesn’t say only do these things when times are good and stop when “stuff” hits the fan.  I will do my best for my family, but together we serve God first.

13-10-14grapejam

Canning grape jam.

I would love to be a homesteader.  Living off the land is hard, hard work, but can be so rewarding.  We live in town on a small lot, and while I do a lot of things that homesteaders do, I wouldn’t classify myself as a real homesteader.  But again, a lot of these things I do I learned growing up.  For example: I learned gardening…organic gardening…from my grandfather.  In the big city.  I learned to make things by hand from my mother and great-grandmother.   I learned to be frugal from my grandmother…like using old clothing (read: underwear) to mop the floors and putting left over bread that is starting to stale in the freezer to use in the future for stuffing.  When I moved out on my own, I appreciated the farmers market that was right across the street, and I found out first hand how practical being frugal was.

20140704_110600

The garden goes all the way to the wood fence.

All these things became very real for our family when my husband lost his job a while back.  This area of Indiana suffered a great blow with many automotive, trailer and RV manufacturers laying people off or closing.  Hubby’s company closed and sent the work elsewhere.  Not being burdened by lots of debt and having a well stocked pantry got us through the hard times when many others were going under.  Not only were we able to keep our heads above water, but we didn’t have to rely on any assistance, food or utility programs.  And even then, we were able to help out others when they needed it.  I’m not saying it didn’t hit us hard because it did.  Only now are we starting to get caught up on things that we had to put off during that time (like getting our roof fixed, buying a stove with a working oven, getting a “new” running vehicle after both of ours broke down.)  But being frugal, prepared and doing as much with our land as we could, we made it through when many others didn’t.

20140721_084411

Curing onions in the garage.

So I guess you can classify me under what ever category you would like.  I’m not prepping for any zombie apocalypse, but for real life circumstances for my family and those around me.  I’m not living on an off grid homestead with livestock, but we are trying to live more sustainable where we are.  If you asked me what I would call it…I would call it living Proverbs 31.  Regardless of what circumstances arise, my main responsibility is to God first, then my family and my home, and then helping others as I can.

Matthew 25:34-40 – Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Storing Eggs Long Term

We’ve been talking about getting laying hens for several years. We were told that living right in town we couldn’t have them so we had been working to change that. We recently found out that we can, and so we are starting to plan on getting chicks in the spring.

We have a lot of people around this area (especially Amish) who sell fresh eggs so we already enjoy farm fresh eggs. Now we’re looking forward to having an abundance of our own eggs. I already understand about storing eggs short term, but have never really felt comfortable with long term storage…like prepping storage.

I have seen lots of posts about different ways to store eggs for long periods. Since we haven’t raised our own, my preference was to have dehydrated/powdered eggs on hand. They actually don’t taste too bad as scrambled eggs, and there have been times when I’ve had to use it for baking when I’ve run out of eggs (like now) and it works great. But what about storing whole eggs?  Safely?

I came across this video from Jas. Townsend and Son, Inc. on YouTube and while they are really more into reenactment than prepping, it’s still good information to chew on. I’m not going to run out and start storing my eggs any of these ways, I honestly think I’ll stick with the dehydrated for long term storage, but maybe at some point when I have an abundance of my own eggs, I will decide that it’s practical.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Have yourself a great day!  Grace and peace!

Recipe: Basic Brown Rice

brown riceI have been using brown rice for a long time with much trial and error. It is so much healthier than white rice and isn’t any harder to make. The World’s Healthiest Foods website says “The complete milling and polishing that converts brown rice into white rice destroys 67% of the vitamin B3, 80% of the vitamin B1, 90% of the vitamin B6, half of the manganese, half of the phosphorus, 60% of the iron, and all of the dietary fiber and essential fatty acids. Fully milled and polished white rice is required to be “enriched” with vitamins B1, B3 and iron.” One cup of brown rice has 3 1/2 grams of fiber while the same amount of white rice has less than one gram of fiber. We all need from 25 to 38 grams of fiber in our diet everyday.

I buy my brown rice in bulk 25 lbs. at a time.  We eat a lot of rice and this will typically last us about 6 months.  If you are looking at long term storage of rice, brown rice wouldn’t be a good choice.  Brown rice has healthy, essential oils that cause it to become rancid quickly.  The shelf life is about 6 months.  My favorite place to store brown rice is in the freezer which gives you an additional 6 months.  But we usually finish it off before then.  While it is possible to store it longer in mylar with oxygen absorbers, it may give you up to two years.  Keep in mind, you don’t know how long that brown rice has been in storage before you get it.  Again, white rice would be a much better choice for long term storage.  Oh, and putting it in the freezer for a couple days after you buy it also helps keep those little bugs under control.

I have found for me the perfect recipe is 1 cup of uncooked rice to three cups of water/broth. Others recommend anywhere from 2 1/4 to 1 3/4 water/broth. Trial and error, see what works best for you depending on your stove and your cookware. One cup of uncooked brown rice equals about 3 cups of cooked rice. Be sure to rinse your rice good before cooking.  Recently I have been soaking my rice overnight, I have found that changes the recipe to 1 cup soaked brown rice to two cups of water/broth.  It also changes the flavor some.  Oh, and don’t stir rice while it cooks, it will become mushy.

Another method I found for preparing brown rice came from the Food Network (I really like Alton Brown’s recipes). Instead of boiling the rice, it’s baked. I can’t wait to try this myself:

1 1/2 cups brown rice, medium or short grain
2 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the rice into an 8-inch square glass baking dish.

Bring the water, butter, and salt just to a boil in a kettle or covered saucepan. Once the water boils, pour it over the rice, stir to combine, and cover the dish tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, remove cover and fluff the rice with a fork. Serve immediately.

Bone Broth Stock

stockRight now…bone broth!

When I first moved out on my own and discovered a crockpot…I really loved how easy it was to make meals.  It was so convenient and I use it all the time.  When I realized I could cook a whole chicken in the crockpot for dinner, then put the carcass back in with water and seasonings overnight to make broth for soup…it quickly became my favorite kitchen tool.  I have several now.  It is still my favorite way to make meals and soup stocks. But while I love the ease of crockpots, I love the efficiency of the pressure cooker…my current favorite kitchen tool.  In just a few hours I have a beautiful rich, yummy bone broth start to finish.  I think it make much better broth than the crockpot. There is still a lot of fear out there regarding pressure cookers.  They aren’t as unpredictable as they once were.  Modern features make they much safer and easier to use.  I have two, one stainless just for cooking and one aluminum just for canning.

If you’re like me, you probably didn’t know there is a difference between stock and broth.  If you’re not like me, you’re probably laughing.  I’m all right with that.  Anyway, I’ve been making homemade stock/broth for soups for a long time and when someone pointed out that there was a difference, I decided to find out for myself.  One place said that the difference was broth is made from meat and stock is made from bones.   Another said that stock is clear while broth is cloudy.   Still another said that stock is unseasoned and broth is seasoned.  So I just shook my head and called what I make stock or broth depending on my mood.  Recently I found a post from one of my favorite chefs…Alton Brown…on the difference between stock and broth, and I figured if anyone would know, it would be him.  He basically says that stock is made from bones and such and broth is a liquid in which meat has been cooked.  I trust him.  So technically bone broth is really bone stock.  That name change will never catch on.  I digress…

I won’t bore you with the details of how to make bone broth or stock.  A quick internet search will give you plenty of instructions and recipes but if you’d like to know how I do it, let me know!  Basically you take the best bones you can find, put them into your water filled stockpot, crockpot or pressure cooker  with a tablespoon or two of good apple cider vinegar (to draw the minerals out) and any other seasonings/aromatics that you like (if you like).   I keep a bag of left over veggies and veggie scraps in the freezer for this.  In the past I made mine in the crockpot, but now I find that it is easier and tastes even better using my pressure cooker.

There has been a bit of discussion as to whether using a pressure cooker to make healthy bone broth was good or not.  Some say it destroys vitamins, some say it doesn’t.  I read a lot of both arguments and with adding the convenience and the taste, I’m fine with using the pressure cooker.   I don’t just make it for it’s health properties, but I can it to have on hand for soups, stews and gravies.  I love knowing what is in my broth when I go to use it.

So, do you make your own bone broth or stock?

 

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….

Prepping For Winter

winterWe don’t consider ourselves extreme preppers who are preparing for a zombie apocalypse or some other doomsday scenario.  We also aren’t interested in shunning all technology and living as one with the land.  We do consider ourselves practical people, being prepared for general everyday and sometimes unexpected emergencies.  We don’t have a hidden bunker somewhere, but we do want to make sure that in the event of situations beyond our control, we can easily take care of most of our needs.  For example, I was very thankful for a well stocked pantry when we suddenly found ourselves on unemployment.  Another example was an unexpected and prolonged power outage in the middle of winter.  We had everything we needed for lighting and heat. And lastly, when they forecasted big snow storms, we didn’t have to worry about fighting crowds that were emptying the grocery store shelves for last minute shopping.

winter2Our main concern this year is the ability for Hubby to get back and forth to work.  He has a long commute on windy rural roads, and since our truck died we only have a small car to rely on.  If we have a winter this year that is anything close to last winter, this could be problematic.  All we can do at this point is to make sure that he has everything he needs in case something happens, such as getting stuck in the snow, sliding off the road, having roads closed, etc.  Our biggest concern was if he has to wait in the car for help, or walk out in the cold to get help.

Another concern of ours is making sure I have foods that can be fixed even in the event of a power outage. We do not have a fireplace or a wood stove.  While the gas stove generally works during a power outage, our oven will not so I need to prepare accordingly. And should the stove stop working, having our propane camp stove handy as well as a supply of propane serves as a back up.  And we have used our outdoor grill in the winter, when our oven stopped working.  I think Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys are better on the grill!

winter3Our last major concern is water.  Last winter saw many, many people here with frozen pipes. Even pipes that are insulated can freeze.  Yes, snow can be used for non-potable water, and even drinking water if it is boiled, but it was so cold last year that the snow turned to ice which makes it more of a challenge to use.  Better to make sure you have a sufficient supply of water on hand.

In the end, we want first and foremost to fully rely on God.  We cannot prepare for everything, but with our trust in Him we can get through anything.

Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

Romans 8:- And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.