Saturday, December 31, 2016

How to make blueberry muffin bread

I start all my quick breads with a homemade mix, which I’ll share in another post. To make any bread with fruit, nuts, or even shredded veggies, you just add 2 cups total of add-ins. This time I used a pint of blueberries I’d canned last summer, including the liquid, and it turned out moist and tasty. These were given out as part of the goodies I gave at Christmas.

So, here’s what I did.

Blueberry Muffin Bread
  • 5 cups of muffin mix
  • 1 pint including liquid of canned blueberries. (You could use frozen and add additional liquid to the batter.)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup neutral flavored oil
  • 3 eggs

Mix the water, oil, and eggs together and add to the muffin mix. Fold in blueberries. Mix well but don’t beat. You don’t want to tear up the berries or make the batter tough.

Divide batter into 3 one-pound loaf pans that have been well greased. Bake at 350f in a conventional oven about 55 minutes, although I used my pressure cooker as an oven as I have for other recipes. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in the pan, then turn out on rack or counter to finish cooling. Also makes about 24 muffins.

Delicious served warm with butter.

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Just a little financial update

I'm on a fixed income so just before the beginning of every month, I write out my budget for the upcoming month ahead. Not much really changes from month to month normally. However, my next SS was dropped by $134 for Medicare. (Trying to get out of that since I'm already low enough income to be on my state's expanded medicaid anyway.) Anyhow, I did account for that decrease when I wrote out my budget, which includes regular payments, a small go-phone monthly coverage, Exede internet, gas for our generator/truck, propane for cooking, groceries and incidentals. You know. Regular stuff. (Off grid so I allow extra for the genny gas.) Oh, and I owe my older daughter some money for helping us out last week with gas and propane money. Hope not to have to do that again.
This month I also needed to get the connections and gas line for a propane heater. So, we picked up some things at Lowe’s. That cost more than I expected! Well, we get it all home after our other shopping and some parts don’t fit correctly. So, Saturday (tomorrow as I write this), I’ll send my son back to town to get everything we actually need. Weather predictions for later next week are for some frozen precipitation so we want to get that heater installed before then. Well, by the time he gets things traded around for what we need, we should be getting refunded some money back to my bank account, so that’s always a plus.
We filled up the empty propane tank and got the partially filled one topped up. Got 10 gallons of gas for the genny, filled the truck with gas, and got motor oil and fuel treatment. Had to pick up a couple of things at our local discount store to set us up for the month in that regard. Paper items, mostly, plus dish washing liquid.
As for shopping, I kept it very low. I finished using a Tractor Supply gift card on, what else, deer corn (2 bags) for chicken, goat, and pig feed, and a bag of dog food. I also got a bag of orange slice candy. Didn’t need it but, dangit, sometimes I just want orang slice candy! LOL
We went to Harbor Freight with another gift card to get a couple of items we need on the homestead plus to use a 20% off coupon and also get a couple of free-with-purchase items.
Then we headed back to our home town for groceries, where we found 16 ounce bags of frozen vegetables for just .68 each. Got 10 of those and will be canning them since our freezer is really just used for refrigeration. (Only running it a few hours a week to keep things cool but not frozen.) Also picked up the makings for our New Year’s Day meal (blackeyed peas, canned spinach, hog jowl) and a few other items. Total there was only about $30. With what I have on hand already as far as home canned meats and stuff, it’s all we needed.
I paid what bills I could online, then I’ll write a check for the land payment. That old fellow doesn’t do internet stuff. lol I’ll hold enough in the bank for my internet payment on the 8th, of course. Monday we’ll need to head into town to get feed bread. That place was closed before we could get over there today. The feed bread helps tremendously with reducing our overall feed costs.
The chickens are pretty consistently laying 2 eggs a day. Not a lot, I know, but we let them build up in a basket on the table then have a breakfast-for-supper day or I use them in other recipes.
I’m thinking things will always be tight budget-wise, but I’ve always made it before and I’ll make it again.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Winter woes off grid

We are expecting very bad weather, including frozen precipitation, over the weekend. It’s past time to really “batten down the hatches” and get better prepared. But, you know how it is. Every month I’ve planned to include a better heat source and some insulation, but every month other expenses take the money. December is no exception and I’m pretty well broke till the first of January. Hoping to sell the older three baby pigs to have some money to get gas for the generator and propane for the stove.

I’m on my last propane tank now, which is a 30 pound one. Not sure how long that will last since I’ve resorted to using the RV stove for some heat. I do have the kitchen window raised about 2 or 3 inches, but I’m pretty sure there are probably enough air leaks in the cabin to actually not need that!

The next two days will be spend trying to at least add plastic moisture/vapor barrier to the inside of the cabin walls. And it looks like we’ll be stapling nothing more than cardboard over that. It’s really getting cold inside and there’s a lot of condensation forming on the inside of the metal walls.

Also, my oldest son has given me a gas heater. One of those infrared kind. Anyway, turns out it’s for natural gas only and I have propane, so I’ve contacted a person who is very knowledgeable about such things to see what he thinks about converting it. We might not be able to do so, and if no, then I’ll just give the heater back to my son. Maybe he can sell it to someone.

I do have a large kerosene heater, but I’m now out of kerosene. Around here, the cheapest I can find is $4.80 a gallon from the bulk plant about 25 miles away. Next is $7 a gallon at a much closer place, so we need to figure if the gas used in driving actually makes the bulk plant price economical, or if just buying it by the jug at $7 per will actually be cheaper on us.

Last night our solar power also ran down really fast. Probably due to being so heavily overcast all day. It’s somewhat brighter today so I hope it builds up some power. Same for the well pump solar. It stopped pumping not long after sundown but in all honesty, I had used the water a lot yesterday which I’m sure ran it’s battery down pretty low. We will probably charge the battery off the truck battery with jumper cables to bring it up high enough to absorb some power as the day goes by and be useful later.

Yeah, I like being off grid but there are also downfalls to it. You learn new skills all the time for how to repair things, how to make do, how to protect livestock, inexpensive feed solutions, and more!

So, here’s the video I made in the dark last night while cooking supper!

How to make large batch hot chocolate mix!

I’m getting ready to make some more of this delicious hot chocolate mix, but I thought I’d sit and share how I do it with you. It’s really easy and it tastes so good. I put small bags or containers of this mix in my Christmas gift baskets and it’s always well received. Also, more economical than buying all those tiny packets!

Feel free to use and share!

Hot Chocolate Mix
  • 8 cups nonfat dry milk
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup vanilla powder (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups cook-type clear jel (optional)

Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl. If you wish, you can run it through a blender to make a finer powder. Store in an airtight container. To use, put 3 heaping tablespoons of the mix into a mug and add boiling water. Toss in some *marshmallows or a piece of peppermint candy, or top it with whipped cream.

*If you mix mini marshmallows into the dry mix and store them in there, they will eventually dry out a bit and store very well in there, then get plumped back up when you add the boiling water!

Here’s a short slide show I made for YouTube showing what I did.

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Pigs update! New Arrivals!

Yesterday morning, December 13, 2016, I went out to feed all the animals and found that our mama pig had her babies! Pretty exciting!

Five little wiggly babies in a nest she had made from cedar branches and limbs that we had provided her about a week ago. We could see the time was drawing near by how low her belly was hanging and how large her teats were getting. This is her first litter, and I hope she has many more in time to come.

These pigs are half American Guinea Hog and half Potbelly. They are slow growers. It took about 9-10 months to raise them to sexual maturity for breeding, and it will take about that long to raise any for meat. The boar probably weighs about 200 pounds now, while the sow probably weighs about 125 to 150 pounds. Not large at all, which is very good for a small homestead hog where only a couple of people will be handling the butchering instead of taking them to the processor. This size also give me a manageable amount of meat to can.

Anyway, today, December 14, 2015, I go to feed and check on them and sadly find one little piggie dead. Another is in distress. We wound up putting her down. No hope. So, two girls out of the litter didn't make it and my son says he thinks the other 3 are boys. Bummer. I’m pretty sure she laid on them.

The other 3 are up on their feet and fairly active, though, so they should be ok. I still need to take a close look at them to see if there are any girls. If there are any boys, we need to castrate them in a few days to make them ready for butchering later or to sell. We will probably keep one girl. I admit, though, I’ve never castrated a pig so I’m going to be really studying this to keep it as quick as possible. I know I’ll need an extremely sharp blade for it.

Pig gestation is 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days. But we didn’t notice her being bred so it was just a guess whether she was or not. Once the babies can be weaned, she’ll go back into heat about 3 days after the weaning is completed. But, they’ll stay with her about 12 weeks, so it won’t be anytime soon.

Here’s a picture of the 5 just hours after they were born.

Here’s a video I uploaded to YouTube to give you a better idea.

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