Thursday, March 31, 2016

Planning the homestead layout

It won't happen today. It won't happen tomorrow. In fact, the plans in my head will probably take at least a couple of years to complete, if then. But, I've been messing around with pencil and paper, then in Paint, to try to draw out a workable paddock system for the animals.

I'm sure this Grand Plan will go through several iterations before it's nailed down, but we did set out some little yellow surveyor's flags the other day for the first goat paddock and a place for the pigs. The things I have drawn up in Paint are in no way to scale. It's just ideas I'm tossing around. And, the pig enclosure is showing up much larger than the first one will actually be, but I'm hoping eventually it will grow so that they can also be in paddocks and be rotated to fresh grounds as needed.

If I can get some kind of moveable chicken coop done, then the chickens can follow after the goats and clean up the pastures. I'm basing my plans on Joel Salatin's Polyface Farms method, where grazing is moved around before fields are too badly damaged. Livestock is healthier and happier that way and we'd save a lot of feed, especially in the seasons of the year when things are growing. Winter, I think, will mean less moving around unless the fescue I've seen growing does well then.

Anyway, here's a picture of a rough outline of how we'll set things up. Notice paddock "1" is the first we laid out with the flags. Also notice, there are tons of gates coming into play so I may have to rethink some of this. I hope that most of the paddocks will be electric fencing, except for the pigs. They will likely have cattle panels and I may just wind up moving their panels as needed instead of building so many permanent fences for them. Also, this is not the whole 3 acres I've drawn out. It's more like the back half or 2/3 or so.

There will also be garden spots and plenty of things planted for our use and, hopefully, I can also plant things the animals can eat during the winter to cut feed costs. I've got it set up so that we have a couple of gates we can drive through if needed. Plus, of course, I want flowers and ornamental shrubs planted as well. We'll probably put our solar for the well on top of the well house and solar for the cabin behind or on the south side of there. South, for us, is to the left of this picture.

If you can think of anything at all that you'd do differently, feel free to say so!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Busy Tuesday!

I think we drove to every corner of the county on Tuesday, March 29, 2016. I was so tired when we finally got home, and we still had to feed and move a couple of goats.

So, the long day of running errands started around 11 AM. We headed into town, which is about 12 miles away, to go to the post office to mail a letter (needed a stamped envelope) and to the bank to go to the ATM. On the way, we stopped by the new homestead and set out a few storage totes we'd filled the day before so there'd be more room in the back for some fencing we were going to get. While in town, we stopped by the place where we ordered the little cabin and paid that person.

Stopped by Burger King in the next town to get a couple of burgers and fries. Got beverages at Tractor Supply after we picked up some goat wormer, Then, we sat in the truck in the parking lot there and ate our lunch.

Then, we headed to another town to visit with a friend and get some chain link fencing she's giving us. We also took her 4 pots of Jerusalem artichokes that I dug up yesterday in preparation for our move. I had dug 8 altogether and promised her half of them for her generosity. She lives about 25 miles from us. She thought she had one or two rolls of the fencing, but it turned out to be four rolls, plus she had posts, long top rails, and a gate. This fencing is all very tall (probably over 6 feet) and so is the gate. The exception is one roll which is probably about 4 feet tall. Three of the top rails are about 15 feet long, maybe longer, and one is around 10 feet long. Anyway, we'll be able to make good use of all this fencing and plan to use some for our two dogs until the pup gets big enough that she can't go through the field fencing. At that point, both mama and pup will go out to live with the goats. Mama dog (Molly) was raised with the goats and chickens so we want the pup (Lucy) to be raised with them as well.

Here's a picture of Molly. I took it through the fencing we had her in, but you can see how pretty she is. She's a great dog. Part airedale and part who-knows. She loves all the livestock we have and guards them the best she can. I don't yet have a picture of Lucy.

Well, I'm so glad my son came with me to get the fencing because it was crazy heavy. We'll have to go back in a few days to get the top rails, gate, and a couple more posts. I'll get pictures of all of it the next trip over to the new homestead, since that's where we dropped it off on our way home.

Then we went over to Harbor Freight to pick up work gloves they had on sale with a coupon, and a free 25 foot tape measure with any purchase there. Looked around a bit at things like 12 volt water pumps and a few other things. Should have stopped there before we went to get the fencing. Son sure could have used the gloves for handling it!

Stopped on the way home and got some raw milk, then headed to the new homestead to unload the truck. We still had cinder blocks on it from getting them over the weekend for the cabin foundation, so we set those out approximately where the guys will deliver it and they will put them in place. Got the fencing out and piled near the well house, and set out the rest of the Jerusalem artichokes in the pots over next to the well house, too. Our big tote that we keep in the back of the truck had a lot of ceramic tiles, large ones and little bitty ones, that I got from Sis on Easter Sunday, so we set those out next to the well house.

At home, we fed the livestock and moved two goats. One is a doe who looks thin and is the main reason we picked up the goat wormer. She's also the kind of goat that gets pushed away from the feed at feeding time. So, we put her and her now-grown doeling daughter in the isolation pen together. Gave her some hay, fresh water, and feed with the wormer in it. Neither goat liked being away from the others. They have always been together, but this one doe needs extra attention for now.

I had originally planned to use my phone to video a lot of our activities today, but just never did. Don't even know why! I will take some video at the new homestead, though, of the things we have taken over there so far and any purchases we make for it. I also plan to video the guys delivering the cabin. That will be very exciting!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Making bread without an oven + recipes!

In true "off-grid homestead" fashion, I made bread Saturday without the aid of an oven for baking or even for letting it rise. (I usually set the oven to it's lowest setting and prop the door open for the rise.) I mixed the dough by hand instead of in the bread machine, let it rise, kneaded it, let it rise again, then baked it in my dutch oven.

It's not the camp style dutch oven. It's just a 4 or 5 quart cast iron pot with a handle and a lid. It still worked, though, for baking the bread. I will tweak my baking method a bit for better results, but the bread I made is still very good and can be used for sandwiches or as a side to a meal.

I'll share my basic bread recipe here as well as my dinner roll recipe. I did use the bread machine to make the dough for the dinner rolls while I was working on the off grid bread recipe. And, I used the oven as usual for the rise and the bake of the dinner rolls.

I use instant yeast so I didn't proof it before adding it to the recipes. I also didn't use the parchment paper as indicated in my written recipe down below, but that was probably a mistake. I used a cake pan as a liner for the dutch oven, and it was quite difficult to manage when it came time to flip the bread over.

Off Grid Bread Recipe
1 cup warm water
1 ½ tsp. Salt
3 tbsp. Sugar
3 tbsp. Oil or fat of your choice
3 cups flour
2 ¼ tsp. Yeast
Mix all together well and knead about 10 minutes. Place in oiled bowl, cover with plastic, and let rise till double. Knead again just till cohesive. Form into a round loaf. Place loaf on parchment paper in a skillet. Cover with plastic and let rise until almost doubled. Uncover, remove from skillet using the parchment to lift it out, and place paper and risen dough in preheated dutch oven. I used a medium low setting on the stove. Allow to bake till sides are brown and top is dry. Remove from dutch oven, flip it over in the paper, and let it bake another 10 minutes or so till the top is also browned. Remove, cool, and serve.

Dinner Rolls (bread machine)
1 cup warm water
1 egg
4 tbsp. Sugar
3 tbsp. Butter
1 ½ tsp. Salt
3 cups flour
2 ¼ tsp. Yeast

Put into bread machine pan in the order given. Set for “Dough”. When done, remove from bread machine pan and lightly knead on a floured surface. Cut into desired roll shapes. Place in a greased oblong cake pan and cover with plastic. Let rise one hour. Remove plastic and bake in oven until golden brown, about 25 minutes at 350 F.

Dinner Rolls

Off Grid Bread

Friday, March 25, 2016

The cabin

This is similar to the cabin we're getting. Remember, ours will be a white roof and off-white sides, and longer than the one shown. However, this is the style we're getting.

This portable cabin will be home sweet home for a long time, so we want to be sure we do it right from the get-go. The one pictured is 16 feet long, so using your imagination, you can visualize it being 4 feet longer. Only 200 square feet for the main part but by the time we're done, the loft should bring in another 160 square feet of useful space. Right now, the loft is 80 square feet so we'll be doubling that. We'll wind up with a grand total of 360 square feet! Still tiny and about half the square footage where we are now (yes, this house we're in is only 600 square feet) but doable if we severely purge!

We will put a small deck on the front, build up some flower beds, and basically try to make it as cute as possible.

It's ours - a new homestead for us

Yesterday I did the scariest thing I've ever done, aside from signing to buy a car. I signed to buy 3 acres of land, then I signed to buy a 10 X 20 foot portable barn to turn into a tiny home/cabin on the same day. I honestly was just about ill from thinking about the commitment, especially on the land. It's a very long 30 year note and, unless I pay it off really early, I will probably never see the deed if I don't.

So, my plan is to pay it off early! The cabin pays off in 3 years which means I can then use that money to put on the land and pay it down much faster.

We've been using quadrille graph paper to work out how we want to deal with the inside of the cabin. Fortunately, this cabin has a 4 foot loft at each end so that gives more storage space at one end and a sleeping loft for my son in the other end. The seller said we can do what we want with the cabin as long as we don't tear out a side or end wall, or the floor.

First thing we need to do is insulate the walls and ceiling so that staying cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter is less of an issue. We are going to extend one of the lofts so there's just a place between them where a ladder or attic stairs can access them both.

We chose a white metal roof and off-white metal siding so help reflect sunlight, since there aren't really any trees around where it will be placed. We also opted for one more window, in the center of the rear wall, so it's across from the two front windows and the double front door. We plan to only actually use one of the barn-style doors and can place furniture in front of the other one.

We'll need to get the water going and the sewer connected to the septic tank. Bought a toilet yesterday for really cheap ($40) so we'll install that. Still working out how to get a shower stall in there that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Thinking of using a small livestock watering tub and fashioning a drain in that to also go into the septic.

Everything will run on solar power or be manually operated to completely eliminate an electric bill. That gives me a few extra bucks each month to get a new battery or expand the solar array. For example, we're thinking we'll put one 85 watt solar panel (which we already have) on top of the well house, add a battery inside the well house along with a small charge controller, and use that mainly for pumping the water. I found a suitable 12v pump on eBay for a reasonable price.

So, as I go along, there'll be lots of updates concerning this new adventure! Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Land change of plans

In order to be able to get on a new piece of land faster and get a cabin put on it, we've decided to buy a smaller spot that already has a well and septic tank on it. Over the long term it will cost a little more but there's really no way I'd have the money to install septic, even though we could figure out the water situation by using rain catchment, food grade barrels, and in-line water filters and pool shock pucks in the filters. (We still might do that.) I'll share a video at the end of where I saw this particular idea, and the shock pucks will treat 10,000 gallons of water!

Where we live, if perc tests show septic to be viable then you must use that. If not, you can use off grid plans ,such as a composting toilet, but it has to be one of a couple of approved brands, and they are very expensive. I have located a house-type toilet for only $40, so we'll go that route. I should be able to use straight rainwater from the roof, via gutters, downspouts, and a 275 gallon IBC tote, to run the toilet. It doesn't have to be potable water. It just has to flush.

 Gray water must be diverted into it, as well, though I might still put the kitchen gray water into a barrel out back to use for watering the garden. I just need to figure out a filtration system for that.

In order to get a potty, shower, and point-of-use hot water unit in, I need the extra money I'll save from the down payment cost. I have 205 watts of solar panels now, and a couple of batteries. I've been shopping online for a whole list of things we'll need in the cabin pretty quickly. And, I normally allow about $100 a month for needs such as these anyway, so there's that money to add to what I have.

  • Insulation
  • Water management (12v 50w solar submersible pump)
  • Propane tank (small ones)
  • Toilet
  • Sewer pipe
  • Water pipe (we may have enough PVC on hand to cover that. Need joints and elbows.)
  • Staples (for the heavy stapler to put insulation in with)
  • Shower (thinking a watering tub from Tractor Supply, with a drain made into one end of the bottom would probably work.)
Everything we need to start with also needs plumbing to operate, so we're really going to be learning a lot with this new adventure. 

I have all these thoughts spinning in my head, and a lot of them written in a notebook. I've been sketching the inside layout of the cabin to get optimal use of space. Already started packing the limited number of dishes we need on a daily basis. Others will be stored in rubbermaid totes.

No pictures or videos to share today. There will be some coming soon as we go about taking on this new task.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Potential homestead land!

I really shouldn't get my hopes up, I know, but I came across a parcel of land on Craigslist and the land isn't far from where I live now. It is 5 acres with pond, some fencing (probably barbed wire - no good for goats), and a seasonal creek. Open areas and some woods.

I heard back by email from the man who's selling it as owner financed. The terms are well within my budget. I'm hoping we can go take an in-person look at it in just a day or two. If it really does seem right, then I'll sign for it and we can get started soon on setting up our new homestead. This time it's all ours!

Please pray I'll have discernment where this is concerned, and that if it's not right, I'll know. If this is "our" place on this earth, then we've really got a lot of work to do to get ready to move, including tearing down fences here and putting them up there, selecting a spot for our tiny house, solar panels, barn, chicken coop, and whatever else we'll be needing before winter comes. I'm sure it will be a summer-long job to get ready for winter!

Here's an edited picture of the Craigslist ad, so no one's info is revealed.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Looking for land

We did go to meet up with a guy that has small parcels of land for sale. I'm thinking they are about the same distance from town as we are now, and supposedly good for going off-grid. He said some even have springs on them. That would be great for an off-grid water source.

So, we went to meet up with him and got there pretty early. Early enough to go by the McDonald's next door and get lunch, and had time to eat it. Since we were early, we knew we'd have to wait. Our appointment with him was at 3:30 pm and we were done eating around 3 pm. So we waited.

It got to be 3:30 and he called, apologizing and saying he'd gotten tied up with another appoinment, and that he'd be 10 or 15 minutes late. Ok. We'd wait.

Then it got to be after 4 pm and no further word from him, so we texted him and headed back to our town. When we got nearly halfway home, he called saying he was at the meet up spot and did we want to come back? Well, no. We had a few other things to do then we needed to come home and feed before dark. He was pretty insistent, but so was I. I told him I'd get back with him later in the week when maybe it would be more convenient for him. I was nice, but firm.

I figure if someone makes an appointment for a meeting, they should either cancel it if they really can't make it, not schedule too many things for the same day, or just wait to make an appointment on a day less busy. I'll talk to him in a few days.

Tomorrow, though, we plan to visit another real estate office, closer to home, to inquire about tracts of land from him. He also does in-house financing which is what I need. I don't have bad credit. I don't have ANY credit, good or bad!

I'm thinking this other guy has maps of various tracts and parcels of land that we can follow and go take a look at them as we want, without him hanging on our every word as we discuss things. It would be nice to have some services - a septic tank and a well. I still plan to be off-grid which means needing a way to pull water out of a well, having enough solar to run a few small things, and keeping the generator in good running order for times when we need to plug in a larger load, like the little washing machine or a very small AC on the worst of days.

We also looked at some yard barns and cabins we can turn into a house. Might get one larger one and one smaller one, which will equal less payment than the rent I've been paying the last few years. In fact, it should be low enough that, by going off-grid and combining no longer having an electric bill plus former rent, I can actually afford payments on both the land and the cabins. And, I should also be able to beef up the solar array and batteries as time goes by.

Just to give you an idea of the kind of land we are looking for, I'll leave you with this picture taken at my current location.

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Homestead Cheapskate - Part 2 Food preservation

In the midst of everything else that's going on (see my previous post), I still need to take care of the everyday things. One of those things is food preservation. And my favorite method of preserving food is canning. Next, is dehydrating, but for this part of The Homestead Cheapskate, I'm dealing with canning, and doing it safely.

Because of the need to get the freezers emptied before we have to move, I am "binge canning" now. Today, I canned ground beef.

Now I'm going to tell you right from the get-go: I only use the safe tested methods from the USDA, Ball, Bernardin, and several university extension services that do the food safety testing. I don't play fast and loose with our health and canned foods can be extremely dangerous if you aren't following tested procedures and methods.

We did get one freezer emptied (and yes, there were some freezer burned things in there. Bad homesteader!), and I found things that could be canned up to further empty the other freezer. One of those things was a 10 pound chub of ground beef. I also have some beef patties that I'll be canning very soon, plus several packages of fruit that I'll can in light syrup in a few days.

The meats I'm canning were bought when a local store was having crazy low meat prices. I don't buy meat until they have those kinds of prices. I'm not a "weekly shopper" kind of person. I ONLY shop for groceries that are deeply discounted, on sale, or in season at very low prices. We are likely to bring home 30 pounds of chicken because it was on sale, but we might not get any other meat. I don't necessarily have a plan for the on-sale meat, but I know we'll use it. The 30 pounds of chicken? I got it for $1.99 for 10 pounds! I canned most of it. We ate a meal or two out of it. And I left out some chicken legs to put in the freezer for frying. 30 pounds of chicken will probably give us 40 meals. I build my meal plans around the things I have.

The 10 pounds of ground beef I canned today produced 13 pints, which translates into 13 meals for us. How will I use it? I'll use it in any recipe that calls for a pound of ground beef, I'll put it in soups or casseroles, I'll make tacos or burritos with it...lots of ways.

How did I can it? I followed the USDA recommendations for Canning Chopped or Ground Meat. It turns out perfectly, as you'll see in the video I made while canning it.

Big changes coming soon!

We got some news the other day. I don't know whether I consider it good news or bad news. I'm still reeling.

We have to move.

After 7 or 8 years of living here, settling in, establishing raised beds, fences, paddocks, chicken we have to start over again someplace else. We plan to take down all the fencing we can, dismantle the raised beds, pull up fence posts, empty the 275 gallon water totes (one has minnows and a 600 lb rock grow bed), gather all hoses and pipes, dig up and repot whatever herbs, berries, grapes, and asparagus we can, Then, we will get the inside of the house purged as much as possible.

Purging is probably long overdue, to be honest. It's been on my mind for awhile, but I didn't figure on being forced into it. Clothes, dishes, pots, pans...all kinds of things will need to go. Some will be donated. Some will simply be trashed. (Unless somebody out there really wants my old, stained, garden T-shirts!) I'll be getting lots of those tubs and totes to start packing things in that we will be moving with us.

We purged the freezers already, tossing some things and deciding to can up whatever I'm able to can up. Yes, it means heavy jars to take with us...


It looks like we'll be going off grid so I need as few things as possible left refrigerated or frozen.

In a day or so we'll be talking to a local real estate company that offers in-house financing of land. We are hoping it at least has septic on it, and we can deal with off-grid water supplies for now. We'll also be talking to a rent-to-own yard barn place that offers pretty nice deals that will pay off in 3 or 4 years. Combining the money I currently pay for rent plus the money I currently pay for electricity, I should be able to cover the payment for both land and cabin.

I currently have a small solar array, a couple of batteries, and 2 inverters. I will need more solar panels and more batteries, but these will come in time. I'll also update information about all this in a future post.

So, soon we will be saying a tearful "goodbye" to our little house in the country and moving to an even smaller house, the location of which we do not know yet. I'll video and photograph things along the way and share it here and on YouTube.

Goodbye little house.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Storms at the homestead!

We've gone through over a week of rain, and then on Sunday, March 13, 2016, we got sunshine. All well and good, you think? No, not really. See, in our part of the country when there is suddenly sunshine like that, it heats up the already unstable atmosphere and causes storms.

We were lucky in our particular location. It did blow in and it did thunder, lightning, and rain very hard. Some of the surrounding locations weren't so lucky. They got large hail, tornadoes, and damaging straight line winds. The news is full of damage reports now. So far, I haven't seen where anyone was injured, so that's a blessing.

We should have sunny, warm days until around Thursday night, when it's supposed to rain again for a few days. This means we need to get out this week and really work on accomplishing outdoor tasks. Things like planting more in the raised beds, cleaning up from the winter, and making repairs to coops. Maybe even finally dispatching 2 turkeys and 6 roosters!

I went out with my phone and took some video of the approaching storm, after I'd fed all the animals and given water to those who needed it. When I was through feeding/watering, I was actually sweating, it was that warm and humid. By the time I went back out about an hour later, it was downright chilly out! That's how it goes with storms, especially ones that will produce hail.

So, without further ado, here's the short video of the approaching storm clouds.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Homestead Cheapskate - Part 1 The Electric Bill

Probably nobody is more of a cheapskate, skinflint than me. Not in areas where quality far outweighs a cheap price. But in areas where "making do or do without" really counts.

For this installment of The Homestead Cheapskate, I'll address saving on the electric bill. I'm sure many of my tips will be just a rehash of things you've already read or learned in the past. I'm hoping some of them, though, will be a little newer to you. My goal is to so reduce my electric bill and electricity usage that a moderate solar array will actually supply all my power needs. It's a work in progress. At the end of this post, I'll show you our solar setup so far and my goals for extending its use.

  1. Unplug those chargers! The "phantom" load on phone chargers, and other chargers, is pretty small. But it still exists. Every hour of every day, even when not in use, those little chargers are pulling power. The more you have, the more power they pull. Unplug them when you're not actually using them. Better yet, seek out a way to charge your devices without having anything plugged into a socket. I use my laptop and a USB cord to charge my cell phone and other devices that need it. I also have a "vape" MVP (I think that's what it's called) that holds a charge for a long time and can plug into my phone to charge it up. It's the mini-USB end and it works for other devices as well. Once the MVP is fully charged, I can use it for my phone 2 or 3 times without needing grid electricity.
  2. Monitor your hot water usage! I do laundry in cold water unless something is really needing warm water, like extra dirty towels. Most of the time, though, cold water will work just fine. I also don't own a dishwasher, though they are pretty energy efficient, so I wash dishes by hand. I make sure my dishes are well scraped of any garbage. I fill up my dishpan with hot, sudsy water (it holds less than the actual sink), then I half fill the other sink with plain hot water with about 1/2 cup of white vinegar in it for rinse water. Even plastic items come out squeaky clean from the rinse. I've only used about 1 1/2 to 2 gallons of hot water for rinsing and about the same for washing. Rinsing under hot running water can use many times more than that!
  3. Switch the kind of light bulbs you use! Right now, I'm using CFL bulbs but the next bulb purchase I make will be LED. I get the brightness I want and only use a tiny fraction of the power. They also don't generate heat, which is a real blessing in the summer time since it reduces the need for so much running of the AC, which is a window unit.
  4. Monitor your electric stove usage! I do have an electric stove, and really wish I could have propane here. I can't, so I do the best I can with what I have. In this case, I actually turn the breaker off to the stove unless I really, really need to use it. After all, it's a 240 watt appliance. If I'm doing oven dishes, I do several of them at one time. Maybe a casserole, potatoes, and bread all together so that I'm only running the oven once for the whole meal. Even side dishes, like green beans, will go in the oven with the rest of the food in oven safe dishes or small skillets. I also make good use of my crock pot or my roasters. I have a large turkey roaster that can do double duty as a table top oven. In the summer, you'll often find it out on the table on the back deck where I'm baking bread in it. Yes! You can bake bread in a roaster and it does get brown! It bakes in exactly the same amount of time, doesn't use as much electricity to bake, and doesn't counteract the AC since it's baking outside!
  5. Turn off or unplug anything you're not using! I know, this should go without saying. But how many times have I left the bread machine plugged in, the coffee maker plugged in, or a light on in an unoccupied room. Yes, I'm guilty of all that. I bet you are, too. But part of reducing electric consumption is becoming more aware of what's going on in your home. The best method of making sure nothing is sucking those phantom loads is to have things plugged into an outlet strip. Just flip the switch on it, and you will have turned off everything that's plugged into it. Use these for your TV, stereo, DVD player, printer, computer...I'm sure you can look around and see lots of items that would be just fine if you switch off their power!
  6. Find and use non-electric appliances and kitchen tools! A short run-down of things I use in my home are a manual egg beater, hand crank grain mill, hand crank Victorio food mill, hand crank meat/veggie grinder, wire whisks, mandoline...I'm sure there are more I've forgotten until I am actually cooking. You get the picture, though. I can use my manual egg beater and whip up fluffy whipped topping for cobbler in the same amount of time (maybe less!) than it would take to get out an electric mixer, plug it in, put in the beaters, and do the project. I still have to wash the beaters and I have to wash the manual beater, so that time is the same. The major difference is that I can get the manual beater out, use it, and be done, and not use electricity for it! Same for all the other things I mentioned. They are easy to set up, easy to use, and easy to clean in minutes.
And, here's my solar setup. It's pretty small -- only 205 watts -- and 2 batteries. But, it is very useful when the power goes out. I can plug my modem into the inverter (10 watts) and my laptop (65 watts) and still remain connected to the outside world.

Canning sweet potatoes

I actually canned a lot of sweet potatoes late last summer, when local growers had them right out of the field. They aren't beautiful sweet potatoes. In fact, a lot of people buy them for animal feed, and at the price, they'd be really good for that. However, in my little world, a sweet potato is a sweet potato and they all taste good.

I originally bought 120 lb. of sweet potatoes. You read that right -- 120 pounds! I canned up 40 lb. of them, shared at least 40 lb. with family members, then kept the last 40 lb. to use for baked and dehydrated sweet potatoes. Or for other fresh cooked recipes.

There's qute a process to canning them safely, but it's so worth the effort. You have sweet potatoes in jars, then, that are easy to just heat n eat for side dishes for meal, or you can make candied sweet potatoes really quickly with them. And now, I have enough sweet potatoes left to sprout slips and grow some in my own garden beds!

Here is how I canned them:

I hope this helps you in your canning adventures. If you ever can sweet potatoes at home, you'll wonder why you ever bought them canned from the store! Home canned ones taste so clean!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Homestead bread!

It's Friday, and it's been damp and rainy since Tuesday night. We aren't expected to have a break from the rain until this coming Monday. The ground is soaked. The animal pens are soaked and muddy. It's just been miserable, wet, and, yes, chilly for several days now.

I'm grateful for the rain since it will recharge the aquifer that feeds our well. And, it seems like the raised garden bed plants are loving it. The plants are taking off really nicely! I'm hoping I can get out Saturday and take some video and still shots of how things are looking, since there's been a big change from just a few days ago.

Anyway, because it was so chilly and dreary, I made a loaf of bread today. I need to make more because this one didn't turn out exactly how I'd hoped. Could be the high humidity and rainy weather. Could be I did something wrong. With bread, you just never really know, it seems.

I did a tutorial type of video about my bread making that some of you might like to see. The bread isn't perfect and neither is the camera operator! But, you'll get a good idea of what I do when I make bread (I make it at least a couple times a week) and I'm sharing my recipe for Bread Machine Basic White Bread. It's not a big secret and it's not rocket science. :-)

Here ya go!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Craft and yard sale news

Being a homesteader, even a mini homesteader, doesn't mean livestock and gardening are all there is to deal with. I also do some crocheting and loom knitting. I especially enjoy these activities when it's cold weather or wet weather that will keep me out of the garden.

Last weekend was my mother's 94th birthday, so I went to visit there for a few days. On the same weekend was a local craft and yard sale, sponsored by the local Extension Homemakers group. I've met quite a few of these folks over the years so I saw a lot of familiar faces while there. My sister brought Mom over to the indoor sale where I had my booth set up so she could visit with me and with others she's known for many years.

I took mostly kitchen items I'd crocheted and loom knitted. I sold a few, though not enough at the sale to actually pay my $15 booth fee. Lots of folks admired them, but few were actually buying. Many other vendors had the same complaint -- lots of lookers but very few buyers.

Anyway, I thought I'd share a couple of videos I made of the setup the day before and the table on the day of the sale. Enjoy!

Setup the day before the sale.

Table on the day of the sale. Sis also put a number of gardening books in so we shared the table.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Canning Onion Soup

One of the things we do here on our mini-homestead is engage in food preservation. We can, freeze, and dehydrate just about anything we can get our hands on.

Last summer, I canned some Onion Soup, and videoed most of the process. I somehow neglected to video the last stage: Removing the jars from the canner. It's possible I did video that, too, but apparently I've forgotten where I filed it since it isn't filed with the rest of the clips!

I followed the USDA guidelines for canning soup, which can be found by following the link to Soups. There you will find a safe, tested method for canning soup. Of course, you can also explore the site for hundreds more recipes as well as help for canning and other food preservation, equipment, and safety concerns.

I've been canning many years, so I also use the Ball Blue Book. Some of us who can call it the "Canning Bible"! Loaded with great, safe information, clear instructions, and even planning charts for canning and gardening.

Since I thought some of you might like to follow along with me as I canned my onion soup, I made the videos into two parts.

Canning Onion Soup Part 1

Canning Onion Soup Part 2 & an Announcement.