Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Homestead Cheapskate: Eggy supper from frozen eggs

I still have eggs in my freezer from late last summer, so I’m trying to use them up before we move. I probably have another 2 dozen to go, but today I made a sort of pizza flavored self-crusting quiche with 6 of them.

If you freeze eggs, you will need to plan a day ahead to use them since they need to thaw in the fridge. Trying to quick-thaw them just means you wind up cooking them!

Last year, I bought some small portion cups with lids. Each cup holds one whole egg. I washed the eggs (remember, they were fresh from the hen house), then cracked each one into a portion cup. Then, I added a pinch of salt and gently stirred them just enough to break the yolk but not enough to incorporate air. Air in them will make them freezer burn faster. I stacked them in the freezer, level, until they froze solid. If I remember right, the cups were 2 ounces each.

Recently, I’ve been working on using them up in as many ways as possible. They aren’t suitable for fried eggs, but they are ok for scrambled eggs or for using in recipes.

My “quiche” recipe is pretty basic and simple:
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 6 eggs, mixed together
  • 1 cup milk
Mix all together well and add other ingredients you like or are trying to use up, such as chopped or shredded cheese, chopped onions, chopped bell pepper, spinach or other greens, bacon/sausage if you want, herbs, seasonings. It’s really up to you. I don’t go over about 2 cups total of extra ingredients.

For today’s supper, I used a bit over a cup of canned diced tomatoes that were in the fridge, some fresh oregano and rosemary I chopped up, about a half cup of cheddar cheese I sliced thin, and some garlic powder. I mixed all that into the basic egg mixture, poured it into a well-greased skillet, and baked it at 350F for about 45 minutes. The top was bubbly and a knife inserted in the center came out clean. It won’t get a real pie crust on it, but the bottom and up the sides a bit will be crusty.
I served this with Parmesan cheese and home canned salsa.

With just Parmesan cheese.

With home canned salsa on top.

It turned out very good with a pizza-like flavor and aroma. Mozzarella cheese over the top of it would have really been awesome, but I forgot to get that out of the freezer.

If you make this, let me know how you did yours!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Late Mother’s Day post

It’s taking some time, but I’m getting caught up on blog posts!

As you know, Mother’s Day was earlier this month, and now the month is almost gone. We were invited over to my daughter and her husband’s house for a nice Mother’s Day dinner. She prepared a wonderful meal which included ham and vegetables, and I contributed home made dinner rolls. Yes, I contributed because, well, I can hardly go visit anywhere without taking some kind of bread!

Attending were also her husband’s mother and grandmothers and aunt. We all had such a good time. They have a beautiful place out in the country with a huge front porch where we could sit and visit. They also have a pretty extensive brick and concrete patio area out front so chairs and tables could be set up out there for everyone to eat.

Their homestead is nestled under huge old pine trees and is almost at the end of a dead end road, so it’s very private. They were actually married in the yard of this property when it was owned by another. The house is laid out well and is two story, with bedrooms and a full bath on the second level, kitchen, large living room, laundry, and half-bath on the main level.

They are on enough land to have a small garden and some livestock, including goats, turkeys, chickens, rabbits, and guinea fowl. While they are probably less than a mile from the nearest grocery or discount store, the property seems like it’s far out in the country due to it’s location off the main highway. So pleasant!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Free Stuff!

Who doesn't like free stuff?! I know I do!

On Mother's Day, after our lovely meal and as we were getting ready to leave from my daughter and son-in-law's house, he commented that he has several items we might get some use from on the new homestead - windows, gates, 4X4 posts, and a sink. He offered to give them to me, so I said, "Sure!"

We drove around to the back side of their property where those things were stored and he and my son started loading them into the back of the truck. We've already used part of the things. He also said he can get 3.5 by 12 foot pallets, some with solid plywood on them, some without, for free if I want them. Of course I do! I can see making barns and sheds from them or even using them as a porch, a railing for the loft, or a wall partition for the storage end of the loft. Hoping to get them this weekend if the weather cooperates.

He can borrow a trailer that will haul those long pallets and said he'd bring them over to the homestead for me. I really should see about fixing an off-grid meal over there to at least feed him and my daughter. Might be time to kill a rooster!

We got a little more done inside the cabin, which I share in the following video, along with sharing my "treasures". Son-in-law said when we're ready, come back and load up some more of the 4X4 posts and other things he has laying around. Ok!

Things are coming along!

I need to make a list

I figure that if I put a list here, where I can reference it often, I will be able to know what I still need to get the off grid cabin livable. So, here goes!

  • About a dozen 2X4s
  • Enough insulation to cover all outside walls and the underside of the roof
  • Brad and staple gun
  • Get generator fixed
Following is my need-to-haves but these can wait a bit.
  • Rain guttering and downspouts for rainwater catchment
  • At least 4 more deep cycle batteries
  • Another 200 watts of solar panels
  • A 60 amp charge controller
  • Field fencing and T-posts
  • More pallets!!
Some of these things will set me back a bit of money. Some won’t. The problem is working them into my already stretched-thin budget. I did watch a video on YouTube recently where the person suggested dumpster diving at carpet installation businesses (with permission, of course) to get clean carpet and carpet pad remnants to use in the cabin or even as insulation for the walls. We may be trying that soon, too, as there’s a carpet place in the town near us.

Soon, (as in next week) we’ll be heading to a friend’s house to pick up some pallets and lumber he has that he’s donated to us. We also need to finish getting the poles, posts, and gates from another friend that go with the chain link fencing she gave us. As of right now, I’m pretty much broke…again…and less than 1/4 tank of gas in the truck, so we’re staying close to home till about next week at this time.

Home grown potatoes!

I barely planted anything this year, after learning that we would have to move. But, I had already planted sugar snap peas and potatoes early on. That means, I’m getting tiny harvests of peas now, and I’ve already dug all the potatoes.

Why did I dig them so early? Because we wanted to go ahead and eat them as “new potatoes” with a few meals. The potatoes I planted were just some that were given to me. They had chitted on their own, so I dug up a bed, added well rotted hay, and planted the potatoes in it. They grew very well, even though they did suffer a freeze two nights in a row after they had sprouted.

And, oh my goodness! Did they ever taste good! I probably only planted about 3 pounds but we got five good meals out of what grew, and it was basically all free, so you can’t beat that! I’m hoping next year, at the new homestead, I can plant a lot of potatoes to store and can for the year.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Why I chose goats for my homestead

Years ago, I had a family cow. She was a lovely milking shorthorn who produced lots of rich, creamy milk, enough for her calf and for us to drink. We even had surplus milk we could feed to pigs and chickens! Her calves came out very beefy looking and were good candidates for butchering.

We usually had her bred to a friend's Santa Gertrudis bull or another friend's Hereford bull, since we were very interested in a butcher calf. Her calves were beautiful and nearly always solid red or mostly solid red.

Well, that was then and this is now. Feed back then only cost about $3.50 for a hundred pounds of sweet feed. Today, it's almost $14 for 50 pounds of sweet feed. That's a huge price increase and it makes it not economical to keep a cow now. At least, not for us. Even with good pasture, the cow needs a bit of grain so she'll stand while being milked, and that can be up to 5 pounds at a time!

So, now, I've opted for goats for the homestead. They are small enough to handle if they get rowdy. They eat grasses, shrubs, bushes, and vines that a cow will turn her nose up at, and today's dairy goats produce quite a lot of milk. Sometimes a few gallons a day.

A dairy or dairy cross doe will eat perhaps 1 pound or less of feed while she's being milked. That's the only time she receives any kind of grain. Her mainstay is what she forages in the field, and that's the way nature designed goats. I like to have a more meaty type buck for breeding just so that we can choose to butcher the bucklings when it's time, or have the option of raising does that will be dual purpose on our homestead. Good looking bucklings and doelings fetch a pretty good price around here, too.

I'm not pointing to specific goat breeds here because choosing a breed is up to the individual. You need to look around in your area to see which breeds thrive the best and which ones will be the type you really want on your own homestead.

It's important, of course, to have a good look at the field where you will be keeping goats. Some plants are toxic to them, such as cherry trees, poke weed, buckeye, and ferns. But, they will happily mow down all the poison ivy, saw brier, wild blackberry, and Virginia creeper you have that is growing wild and in an invasive manner. Because we don't know exactly what minerals are in all the plants in our field, we also mix goat specific supplements into their feed. We also give our goats black oil sunflower seeds to boost their fat and protein intake. We also like to keep, in a sheltered place, a goat specific feed block. They can lick or munch on this as it suits them throughout the day. We buy our feed and supplements at Tractor Supply.

Housing for goats is pretty simple. They hate being rained on, so build or buy a shelter where they can stay dry. We put our shelters facing south or southwest. If the shelter will block the wind on three or three and a half sides, and you have good, warm bedding inside for them, they can stay warm during the winter and dry during the summer. The shelter doesn't have to be much taller than the goats, unless it's one you'll be going into from time to time. In that case, make it tall enough for a person to walk in without bending over. You can build several small goat shelters out of pallets and put tin roofs on them. During the summer, the pallets will help them stay cooler. During the winter, you can put siding on them to block the cold wind.

I've even seen goat shelters made from the ever-popular IBC tanks. Make sure if you use them, that they didn't contain any dangerous chemicals. Find ones that had food ingredients in them. They may cost you $75 to $100 each, but that's really not a bad price for a water-tight, wind-proof goat shelter. All you'll have to do is use a jigsaw or reciprocating saw to cut away the galvanized bars and plastic to create an entrance. They are also pretty lightweight, which means when it comes time to clean them out, you really only have to tip them over and rake the muck out the door, then spread it on your garden or add it to your compost. A quick spray with a water hose finishes the job. I'd suggest also cutting or drilling holes into the floor of the tank so that liquids can pass on through and out to the ground.

We made a cage type carrier that we can put our goats in when we need to haul them somewhere. We used the cage from an IBC tank, cut out a doorway, wrapped 2”X4”X5' welded wire all around it, including the top, and built a gate for it from the welded wire and 1”X4” scrap lumber.

For now, we are just using baling wire to hold the door on. We will put hinges on it a bit later. We're using a short piece of chain and a carabineer to fasten the gate shut on it.

This cage will also hold our pigs, once we get the gate on more securely, but our primary interest is being able to haul goats to the new homestead, or fetch other goats if we buy them. We'll need to build a loading ramp/chute to load pigs in there. Goats will just jump in. If they seem to have any problems getting up to it in the back of the truck, then we'll proceed even sooner on a ramp/chute for all the livestock.

I hope some of this helped you. Please, feel free to add your comments, suggestions, and questions in the comment section! I love feedback!

Cabin floor

We actually finished the cabin floor a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t very hard to do, but I will say I’m disappointed with the black linoleum tiles for the bathroom area. They just don’t want to stay stuck down! Looks like we’ll have to go back and glue them with something soon.

These are all peel-n-stick tiles we got from a local discount store. The price was about the same as similar ones at a big box hardware store, but they didn’t have any patterns or colors we liked. Selection was surprisingly limited there! So, we shopped the discount store and found some we liked a lot.

It took us about a half a day to lay the first tiles, then we went back the next day and spent a couple of hours placing the ones that go around the edges. Those had to be cut to fit, except for the bathroom tiles, which were exactly the square footage needed for that area.

We have a few tiles left which might work for under the kitchen counter on those shelves, when we get that part built. Desperately needing more lumber and 3 inch deck screws!

We’ve been taking a goat or two with us every time we go work on the cabin so they can get in some extra grazing and become familiar with the place. After all, they’ll be living there, too!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Straining goat milk

After milking either a goat or your family cow, the milk needs to be strained. No matter how careful you are when milking, small particles of dirt or hair from the animal are bound to get into the milk.
I use paper coffee filters to strain the milk into a clean jar. Coffee filters don't let the milk run through very fast but you should just be patient and let it drip anyway. If you're impatient, you may wind up either collapsing the filter and having to start the straining all over again or you may cause the milk to spill out over the edge of the jar, thus wasting it and making a mess.

In the video, I show how I strain my goat's milk and, as you can see, I also made a mess! This just shows how easy it is to spill the milk and then need to do some cleaning up. Thankfully, this doesn't happen every time, and as long as I don't get in a hurry, it doesn't happen at all.

Our goat is not a high producer, as you can see. She really just produces enough milk to feed her baby, which we are bottle feeding. My hope is to acquire one more doe for milking. One that's specially bred to be a dairy goat and will provide us with all the milk we need for drinking and cooking. Two more does would be even better since I could plan their breeding dates so that when one is going dry, getting ready to freshen, the other is in peak milk production. (Freshen is the term used for an animal has a new baby and begins producing fresh milk again.

Straining Goat Milk Video

Having an excess of goat's milk means I can also make goat's milk cheese, which we love so much, and also mozzarella, which is an easy cheese for the homesteader to make. I will share recipes for these in future posts.

Goat milking

One of my daily chores is milking my goat twice a day. If she had been a proper mama, the buckling would be doing that for me. It's not that I mind milking so much, but she just doesn't have any sense when it comes to raising her own babies, and this would be one less chore I'd need to do while we are preparing to move. I am bottle feeding the buckling, too.

Anyway, I don't know how many of you have ever milked a goat or a cow, or even saw it being done, so I created a video where I'm milking the mama goat to help folks understand how it goes. It's not difficult. You just pinch the teat at the top with your thumb and forefinger, next to the udder, then squeeze the milk out with the rest of your fingers. It is very important to use a clean jar or bucket, and to strain and chill the milk quickly to prevent bacteria growth. Even though all this milk is going to bottle feeding the buckling, I take the same precautions.

Goats are creatures of routine. They love to do the same things at the same times every day. My mama goat wasn't raised with a lot of hands-on contact (I bought her when she was about 6 months old), but she is good about getting on the stanchion and standing still while I milk her, just because it's now a routine for her. She's still not a pet and it's hard for us to get our hands on her unless we put feed in the tray on the stanchion.

So, enjoy this video and let me know here or on YouTube what you think!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tiny cabin arrived and set up

Wow! It's been almost three weeks since I posted to this blog! A lot has happened so I'll try to break down the events into several posts.

Let me take you back to around May 5, 2016 when we finally got our tiny cabin brought to us and set up. I took videos and pictures just so I could share them with you folks and with my YouTube subscribers.

The cabin is very small, but we knew it would be. About 200 square feet on the main level and about 168 square feet of lofted area. We had been planning and planning, drawing floor plans and trying to figure everything out to make it a livable cabin, for several weeks. And, we've pretty well stuck with our plans to get the most use from the small space. I'll be updating you on all that in the coming posts, too.

Mainly, though, I want to share with you what the cabin looks like. I posted the cabin install in 3 parts, and below is part 1. I'll also link you to the other two parts.

Tiny cabin install part 2

Tiny cabin install part 3

As I go along with my updates I'll be including some side paths, such as goat milking and cooking, so check back often for new posts!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Lowe's lumber haul!

On Tuesday, we headed to town to do a couple of things that we could only do in the bigger town, which is also our county seat.

One thing was to take the smaller 12 volt solar water pump back and trade it for another one, at Harbor Freight. Not sure what happened but even though we tested it first at our current location, and it worked, it didn't work for pulling water up out of the well and actually started smoking! They swapped it out with not really any questions asked, but I did tell them what happened to it. Got another one exactly the same, so we'll probably use it just to help push water into the cabin across level ground.

I went on Ebay and ordered a larger, submersible 12 volt pump that we can run off solar/batteries. Still need at least 2 of the blue, food safe 55 gallon drums for water storage. All things come in time, so we may be using plastic storage totes for water storage to begin with. A very sweet friend sent me some money through paypal which helped me get the bigger well pump. Thank you! You know who you are!

Went to Lowe's to see about the price of various lumber that we need to build walls inside the cabin and extend the sleeping loft. We talked about seeing if they had any "remnant" lumber, so my son went to ask one of the associates. Well, that guy is actually a friend of ours and we didn't realize he works there! He took us around the side of the building, outside, where there were 3 bundles of lumber. Two of the bundles included MDF panels, plywood, 2x's of various widths and lengths, 1x's of various widths and lengths (some were a bit curled at one end), scrap pieces of paneling, short pieces of trim molding, a full sheet of very heavy lattice, and more that I can't recall at the moment. There was a price attached to each bundle as well as a plastic envelope showing the original value if they were full price. We offered $40 for each bundle and he accepted it! If we had paid the asking price, it would have been around $130, and the original value was a little over $300. So, we got an astounding deal to get them both for $80 + tax.

The third bundle looked like all wood fence boards for $100 and I might have been able to get that, too for probably $50 or $60, but cash is king and I'm not! lol So, I had to pass that one by. I sure could have used all that other lumber, though! Maybe next month there'll be more good deals on bundles! Besides, what we did get completely filled the truck bed and we had to put some of the longer boards through the sliding back window and into the cab!

That truck bed was completely filled! There's lots more under there that you can't see.

The worst thing to happen, though, was that when I put one of the boards into the truck bed, it bounced a bit and hit my wrist right on that bone that's under my thumb. Ouch!! 14 hours later and it's still hurting, so I wonder if the bone might be cracked or something. I'm having to be very careful how I move my hand so it doesn't hurt.