Saturday, January 23, 2016

Organizing Seeds and Garden Planning

We've had a garden each year for several years – ever since my youngest was 8 I believe, or was it six? I cannot remember. Until recent years, he's been in charge of gardening, however now that he is older and working out of the home most of the time, someone else (ME!) had to take over and be the brains of the operation. I understand that we all work a little differently, but today I'm going to share with you the system I developed that has helped me the MOST BY FAR.

One of the key factors in having a successful garden is: BE PREPARED! I prefer to begin initial planning in november or december the previous year that way it is relaxing and peaceful, however for most folks january planning is not too late.
Gather all of your seeds and make a list of what you have. Now make a list of what you want/need. Sometimes I write the list by hand, however sometimes I will use a spreadsheet program like Excel (Open Office has a free office program much like Microsoft Word). Using a spreadsheet program allows you to alphabetize in a few simple steps … which is nice if you like things alphabetized! Look through the seed catalog, email a few friends for seed exchanging, etc., and place your order(s).
Next, make a spreadsheet (on the computer or on paper) of what you are going to plant. The produce names go down the left side of the page. On the top are columns, one for each month that requires action with the seeds and plants. I use numbers for each month, 1 is january, 2 is february, etc.
Now fill in the spreadsheet with DATES – a star in front of the date means “start inside”. No star means “start outside”. For this step you will need to know a few basic things … like when is the last expected frost date for your area, what needs to be started inside, what can be directly sown outside, when can your inside starts be transplanted, and so on. (here is a nifty zone map - just click on your state - but ask the local 'old timers' too - the know more than the USDA does!) For example, in my area broccoli can be started inside at the end of january and a little in to february, so in my “#1” column in the “broccoli” row I have “*1/28 – 2/11”. And then a few months later, in the “#3” column I have “3/10-3/30”.

Since I like to also do fall plantings of some vegetables, you'll see in “#6” column in the “broccoli” row “*6/20-7/4” and in “#8” “8/1-8/15”. Now I know when I look at my spreadsheet I'll need to start broccoli seeds inside at the end of jan or the beginning of feb, plant the starts outside some time during the last half of march, start the seeds again inside towards the end of june or beginning of july, and plant those starts outside some time at the beginning of august for a fall crop. Make sense? I hope so!!! See my photo for clarification.

One final thing that I do … I organize my seeds by date in ziplock bags and keep them in order in a plastic shoe box, that way they are ready to go and fool-proof (or should I say, busy-life proof?). Anything that needs to be done the same day is grouped into the same ziplock bag. So, for example, asparagus and celery both need to be started inside on 1/12, so they are in a ziplock bag together with a label that reads: INSIDE 1/12.

Some crops need a spring and fall planting – like broccoli for example as mentioned above. Everything that needs started inside on 1/26 is in a ziplock bag together that is labeled: INSIDE 1/26. HOWEVER, the seeds that need started again in the fall are in ANOTHER ziplock bag inside the 1/26 bag (see photo). This bag is labeled: INSIDE 6/20. Now I know that when I am done starting seeds inside for those vegetables, I put the seeds packs back into the INSIDE 6/20 bag and put the bag in the proper date order in the shoe box. Now the seeds are ready for me when it's time to start them in june. I don't have to remember; it does the remembering for me.
Notice on INSIDE 2/2 I have a note: *Also start sweet potatoes.
This helps me remember that it's time to hide a few sweet potatoes in a paper sack (or box or sand … but I use a sack) so it can sprout me some slips.
Sometimes only a card is used for a date – no bag needed. See “OUTSIDE 3/10 – 3/30” or “OUTSIDE 8/1” for examples.

Everything on these cards are either already started inside and ready to be planted outside, or can be direct sown. (Even though I usually start a few rows of lettuce, kale and spinach each week beginning in the middle of february, I know that they are considered 'safe' to plant outside after 3/10.)
Here's one more just because ...
My go-to book is The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith. My uncle told me about it several years ago and I am so thankful for it!

I hope this was helpful to someone!! If you have video capabilities, here is a quick video I did explaining this whole process. Have a great day!


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Homestead Update :)

Hello cyber world!! Long time no hear. I have been quite here and on my youtube channel, but am really enjoying “modern homesteading” at our place we call Easyville Acres. Here is a little update of the goings-on in our neck of the woods. (click here for a video year in review)

Our new laying flock is almost to peak laying capacity and we have a waiting list for eggs. Maybe more chicks are in the near future?! We had to butcher one of the French Black Copper Marans (FBCM) roosters (Richard) … he was born with crooked toes and we were not sure why (bad incubation or genetics?). The older he got, the worse it got. Sadly, our friendly Buff Orpington rooster (Frederick) was killed by [we think] an opossum. Now we are down to one rooster – a FBCM named Alexander. He's really nice, so hopefully his nice-ness will pass to future generations. We also lost one Welsummer to an owl. I hope the pen is totally secure now?
Our 3 little turkeys did not make it. We assume it was pneumonia and have learned a very good lesson. We tried our absolute best to save them, but it was no use. This coming year we will try again, with better timing and a little experience under our belts. At the very least, I'm thankful there were only 3 of them and not a whole large flock.

The old laying flock is in the freezer. We were sad to say goodbye, but the sadness wore off in a few minutes.

2 Nigerian Dwarf goats are on the way (Lord willing) soon - the end of february or some time in march. One in milk and one baby girl … or two in milk, we'll see. I'm looking forward to having my own fresh, raw goat milk!!! I got some from a friend for a few months recently and had goat milk kefir every day. [Blend 1/2c blueberries, 1c raw, fresh goat milk kefir, 1T raw honey and 1/2t cinnamon. It blends easier if you only use half the milk at first. YUM!! Makes a perfect afternoon snack.] I also made mozzarella cheese a few times and it was the real deal. Oh yes, and goat milk soap, which we all like very much.
I've HEARD Nigerian Dwarf goat milk is the BEST, though I've never tried it. I have read that it is the highest in fat and very sweet.
We plan to breed in the future. Maybe save a girl or two for more milk (MAYBE) and either sell the boys or butcher them for meat. Yes, I know there's not a lot of meat on a Nigerian Dwarf, however we do not need a lot of meat, so it all works out.

Garden plans have begun and some inside planting starts this month. I'm almost done with my monthly to-do list. I must stay ahead of the game – this helps me enjoy gardening instead of stress out about it. We also got a lot done at the 'new site' [our new meeting place and maybe my future home] last fall, so maybe we'll have some fresh berries and more fruit this year??? We'll see.

The house is still not as organized as I'd like it to be, but that's ok. Almost every morning I try to focus on one area to deep clean. Mice are thriving and it shows. We moved kind of quickly and then got right in to gardening, raising meat chickens, and raising a new laying flock. The house suffered neglect but we're trying to remedy that.

My health has been generally good for the last whole year. Yes, I've had bad days, but not as many (or so it seems to me?). I was able to keep up with the garden beds in town all spring, summer, and fall. I did a lot of dehydrating this [past] year, a little canning, and some freezing. Here lately I've noticed my walking and balance have greatly improved. Though I rarely used a cane, I should have. Now I hardly ever feel the need for a cane, or any support for that matter. I am so thankful and I pray it lasts, but if not, oh well! Other MS symptoms seem to be tame right now as well; basically the only thing I feel daily is right-side weakness, and as I've said before, I think that's here to stay though it's better than usual here lately. I also must be diligent in getting to bed on time and taking a nap each day.

The mealworms are multiplying and soon I'll have enough to feed to our chickens and sell or feed to wild bluebirds (there are a lot of them at Easyville Acres!). I started that experiment at the beginning of last september and it has been going well. It seemed to take 'forever' before I could see the tiny baby larva!! Some of the babies are about 2 months old and are still quite small. I'm not sure if that's normal or if they are slower growing because it's colder where they are kept? Raising mealworms would have been a fun thing to do with my children when they were younger – makes for excellent hands-on homeschool science. Anyway, I have a video journal going and soon think it will be complete enough to publish.

The European Nightcrawler experiment has just begun but I guess it's nearly been a month already. We're hoping for high quality compost and extra worms to sell for fishing bait. So far I'm not doing the best job – they are all balled up in one corner of their bin and I'm trying to figure out why. My best guess is their bedding is too dry, so I am being more careful to check it each day. I hope it all works out … and quickly … I'd like to use some vermicompost for starting seeds!! Quick update on that - yesterday I added 1 1/2 cups of lime and they seem to be happier.

Our Border Collie, Sadie, is pregnant and, if all goes well, she will have puppies any day now. Yes, it was a planned pregnancy. She's getting fat and wobbly! The whelping box is set up, but it doubles as a brooder, so we'll have to figure something else out if we get more chicks! Once the puppies are a little bigger, she'll go in the laundry room next to the fodder. Speaking of …

The fodder has been kind-of put on hold but is just now starting back up again. I did not have the right set-up, but it took some trial and error to figure out what will work best for our situation. We hope to grow enough fodder to cut our chicken feed bill in half (which we did with the old hens, so I know it's possible), and also grow some for the goats. I have heard goats prefer more 'weedy-type-stuff' over nice, pretty grass, so we'll see. I know I have a lot to learn.

Some goals for this Gregorian calendar year are as follows:

Have a reasonably-sized garden – but one that I can basically maintain by myself. Minimal waste … so if we have more than we can use, maybe I should put a “You Pick” sign in the yard?! I dehydrated and made powder out of so many greens last season, however I ran out of my homemade green powder about a month ago!! That's pathetic! I'll really have to stay on top of dehydrating my greens this coming season because organic greens are super expensive when purchased at the store and we can easily spend $20 a week of I use what I want. They are so easy to grow and maintain, so there should not be very many excuses! The tomato powder is holding up well and tastes so fresh and yummy. I'm thankful for it and will definitely be doing that again this year. The dehydrated peppers are good too – might as well be fresh because the flavor is so strong in our food. Well worth the effort, easy enough to do, and takes up less space (no freezer, no canning, etc.).

Along with gardening, I'd like to get better at growing my own herbs (specifically, thyme, rosemary, sage, and a few others that slip my mind right now; the leafy green ones were easy as usual – parsley, cilantro, dill, etc.). Last year I had such good intentions. I started all the seeds, tended to the little plants, and gave them the best potting soil money could buy. After some research a few weeks ago however I learned why my little plants did not do well … of all things … the soil was too rich and I did not neglect them. I'm learning. A youtube friend said I killed them with kindness. I like that thought.

Keep the garden weeded. If the garden is where I live, that should not be hard to do. I am a morning person by nature, and getting up in the morning, weeding, listening to the birds, watching the sun rise, and breathing the fresh air … I love it!! But, for the last several years our larger garden has been somewhere else, and that complicates things a bit.

Keep the house organized and clean. This includes getting rid of things that we do not use. So many things are in the cabinets because “we might need them someday”. What a waste of space. I'm a minimalist, but some of those around me are not :) We do the best we can. I am well on my way with this goal. In fact, just the other day I had a wolf spider crawl across my hand because I disturbed its hiding place. Why are they still alive this time of year????? We had a LOT of them last summer and fall. A LOT. So much that I actually got used to them. I hope it's not the same this year but it probably will be.

Keep the yard from looking trashy. We neglect the yard … every yard … why is that? I don't know. Right now there is a large pile of wood in our front yard, various baskets and 5 gallon buckets scattered here, there, and everywhere in between, tools, a broken washer [that I've been thankful for many times as it makes a nice work table!!], a few tarps, and more. Why? I don't know. At least we keep up with mowing and trimming!! We're getting better at growing flowers (included roses) and ornamental bushes, so that's good at least right?!

Keep good records. I did really good this past year and hope to do even better by refining the process. I have a binder-system going and it helps keep my head on straight. Record keeping is so important for many reasons. If I have time and desire I'll do a blog post or video on my record-keeping system.

Expand our beehive operation. We started with 2 hives 4 years ago but lost one nearly right away. The other is going strong and giving us lots of good honey. We tried splitting it last year but were not successful. This year we hope to either succeed at splitting it or just buy a few more nucs. We'll see, but the time is quickly approaching to take action. The stuff is liquid gold. So many have asked me, “Are you selling honey?” No way!! Sorry, but I only have enough for me! But I do not like giving that answer, so hopefully we'll have enough to sell next year. We'll see. It would make a decent side-income and we are really trying to 'diversify' incoming funds.

I'd like to get a better composting system going. The one we have now is not a system at all. We had a good enough one at the church, but the one here was/is like, “Hey, I have all these kitchen and garden scraps. What should I do with them? Oh, I'll just throw them in this pile.” And there it has stayed ever since last spring, except now there's a pile of chicken poop next to it.

I want to learn how to play the acoustic guitar. Always have. Maybe this is the year?

Another goal – I'd like to post more on this blog. I enjoy it and I miss it!! Youtube is easy for me right now because of our lack of internet (except my recent sabbatical), however I realized not too long ago that if I plan my time right, I can do a post at home (like I am right now) and then copy and paste it on to a blog post once I get to the internet.

A more important goal – be a better servant. I notice that sometimes I get a little overwhelmed when things do not go the way I think they should go. But I also notice that if I have the RIGHT ATTITUDE, that of a SERVANT, I am happy and thankful and don't even notice when “things don't go my way.” I'd also like to get to know a few more neighbors and see if they have any needs. Because of my health, I cannot be relied on regularly, however I can do some things. There is one neighbor down the road that I have not visited yet … and I feel bad about that. I want to live my life with no regrets!!

Speaking of feeling bad … sometimes I think “we” have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and then when things do not go the way we think they should, we stress out, get discouraged, and 'beat ourselves up' … but this is so not necessary!! I've been learning how to slow down and THINK. I still have room to grow, a lot of room to grow, but I know I am getting better (for example, the 'old me' would have had goats a LONG time ago!!). So this year I hope to foster that more and more. Slow down. What is necessary? What is not? Am I putting too much on my plate? Am I ENJOYING what I am doing, or are my activities causing frustration? Am I focusing on what is important, or drowning that out with vain pursuits?

And I think that's a good place to end this post. Have a great day!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

My Youtube Channel

I have been really going back and forth with what is easier for me ... this blog or my youtube channel. Right now without the internet it seems so hard to keep this blog updated but I can make and edit videos at home and then have them ready to upload whenever internet is available. I upload as many as I have available all at once and then publish them at different days so they are not all published at the same time. Anyway, youtube has been a lot more practical for me at this point in my life ... so here is a link to my youtube channel ... subscribe for updates!! I will continue to update this blog as often as I can, which includes updating the ever-growing "recipe" section. Thank you!!

Frugal Home and Health (HERITAGE HOMESTEAD) on YOUTUBE

Saturday, October 17, 2015

A Funny Chicken Video and an update

We were going through old videos today and yesterday and ran across this one from 3 or 4 years ago. I forgot all about it!!! It gave us all a good laugh more than once over the years :)

Besides that, life goes on as usual. I might have a post for this blog soon!! Until then, go check out youtube channel FRUGAL HOME AND HEALTH ... I am still keeping that up-to-date. Have a great night!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

THE BEST (really) Grain Free Gluten Free Brownies

(video at the bottom)
I've always liked brownies but never liked the fact that sugar was the main ingredient. I've tried many 'healthier' brownie recipes over the years, tweaked them a little, and still have not come up with anything close to the 'real deal' ... until now. In fact, I like these brownies BETTER than the 'real deal' and they are much better for you.

With almond butter or some other kind of nut or seed butter as the base and honey to sweeten, these brownies can be enjoyed instead of feared.

Grain Free Brownies
FIRST (optional but really good!)
Soak about 10 prunes for a few hours, a day or over night. Blend the prunes and 1 1/2t instant coffee granules (optional) WITH the soaking water until smooth. Add only as much water as needed to help it blend (you may need to add more water).

Preheat over to 325* and grease a bar pan (15" x 10 1/2")

Place 2 cups (512g) of nut or seed butter in a mixer bowl.
Add the prune/coffee puree and 3 eggs.
Mix well, stopping to scrape down the sides at least once.

Add 1T vanilla and sweetener. If your nut/seed butter is sweet already, only use 1/2c to 3/4c sweetener. If it is not sweet, add 1c sweetener. I prefer honey.
Mix well, stopping to scrape down the sides at least once.

In a separate bowl combine 1/2c dark cocoa/cacao powder, 1t baking soda and 1/2t salt. If you did not use the prunes, now is the time to add the 1 1/2t instant coffee granules (optional).
Stir to mix well.

Spoon the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients while blending. Mix well. Scrape at least once.
Optional: Stir in 1/2c to 3/4c dark chocolate chips (I do this for any nut or seed butter except the chocolate hazelnut butter). You may melt this if you'd like to.

Pour onto the greased bar pan, spread out evenly and bake at 325* for about 30-35 minutes, or until the center is done.

Cool on a wire rack. Cut. Store in an airtight container ... on the counter for short term or in the fridge for about a week.

Friday, September 18, 2015

THE BEST Gluten Free Grain Free Almond Flour Muffins

I've been spending a lot more time recently doing videos instead of posting on here and I think I've come to the conclusion that I like to post blogs better than make videos ... so I'm going to shift back into that and still do some videos as time allows. [10-17-15 videos are easier for me right now because we do not have the internet!! I'll do my best.] But for now, here is a video I just did the other day: Gluten Free Grain Free Blueberry Muffins (or whatever berry or other fruit you prefer). I'll post the recipe and instructions here but you may watch the video too if you'd like :) I'll put it at the bottom of this post.

I order the blanched almond flour from Azure Standard, however if there is not an Azure Standard drop point in your area you can find blanched almond flour on Amazon, Vitacost, or other such place.
Another starch may be substituted for the Tapioca Starch, however the texture might be a little different (Arrowroot starch, potato starch, etc.).

Blueberry Muffins
Gluten-Free, Grain-Free
Preheat oven to 350*
Have ready 12 paper-lined muffin cups.

Combine well in blender...
3 large eggs or 4 small eggs
1/2c plain non-dairy or dairy milk
1/3c sweetener (I like honey)
1/4c melted butter (or other oil such as coconut)
1 1/2t vanilla
1/2t other extract to suit your choice of fruit (see below)

Mix first and then blend with above until just combined. Do not overmix...
2c blanched almond flour
1/2c tapioca starch
1/2t baking soda
1/4t salt

Pour in to 12 paper-lined muffin cups.
Top each with one heaping tablespoon of berries or other fruit.
Bake at 350* for 30-35 minutes or until done. Check around 25 minutes.
Cool on rack for about 10 minutes before removing muffins.

Allow muffins to cool completely on wire rack before storing in an air-tight container. Store on the counter if using quickly, the fridge if using within a week or so, or the freezer for long-term storage and a quick breakfast or snack.

Blueberry with lemon extract or 1t lemon zest
Raspberry with almond or orange extract and/or orange zest
Cranberry with orange extract or zest (may also add chopped nuts)
Peach with almond extract (add a teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4t nutmeg for spiced peach)
Dehydrated strawberries with no extra extract (fresh strawberries are too runny)
Chopped, canned pineapple chunks with no extra extract
Chopped apples with almond extract (add 1t cinnamon and 1/4t nutmeg if desired)

For more videos please see our playlists:

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Easy, Healthy, Frugal, Fast, Freezer Breakfasts

In effort to save time in the morning yet still provide the troops with a healthy start to their days, I prepare various breakfast-type items for the freezer. A little bit of time and effort on one day when it's convenient for me saves a lot of time and effort each morning.

Some of the freezer breakfast ideas I share in this video are:
Freezer Smoothie Packs (video and post coming soon!)
Freezer Copycat Egg McMuffin Sandwiches
Freezer Waffles / Freezer Pancakes / Freezer French Toast
Freezer Gluten Free Muffins (video and post coming soon!)