Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Update on what we have been doing

I just posted about naming our little farm, but wanted to tell you some of the things we have been doing as of late. Honestly, it amounts to a whole lot of nothing. The area has seen record highs through the summer and drought conditions. We have been spending most of our time indoors reading and researching.

We have looked into digging a small well in the back yard. We want to use it for irrigation. We have a lot of water underground as we discovered when we put the fence up last spring. Water shot up out of the ground when the auger got deep enough. We checked out a book from the library called Back To Basics. It has excellent ideas and instructions. They talk about building a small well that is the diameter of a large pipe. After the drought this year, I would be afraid that we would run out of water for our garden if we experience the same lack of rain next year.

We also found a company to build our barn shed in the spring. We can't wait for that. Our metal shed just isn't cutting it. lol

I think I have figured out what type of herbs I want to grow and how I plan to grow them. I am hoping to use cinder blocks to create a raised garden. I also want to sell them at the farmer's market in town. I have been looking more into soapmaking and plan to start that after the holidays. I am always thinking on what new project with which I can experiment.

I made the rosemary and lavender jellies. Both are very good, but sadly, I think I am allergic to lavender in food form. I am disappointed about that. I also got my rosemary all dried out, but that is really it for food preservation this year. It has just been so hot and we have been so busy with life that I have run out of time. Sorry I don't have more to report.

Oh, I mentioned in a previous post that my husband was trying out homemade upside down planters. I wanted to let you know how they did. Most of our veggies died. Two tomato plants survived and produced some tomatoes, but they are still on the vine and still green. They didn't ripen. It was a total loss. I don't know if it was the heat, the drought or the system. I will urge him to try with at least one bucket in the spring to see if it will work under normal growing conditions and let you know. I hate to give up on it. We're still going to use our fence posts for the buckets, but he plans to plant them right side up. lol

All in all, this was a pretty unproductive summer with the exception of getting the little rabbitry started. I guess it's all baby steps and I can't complain because at least we accomplished something, right?

Naming our little farm.

The kids and I have been trying to come up with a cute name for our little farm. We were going to use our last name, but thought it too boring.

We recently brought home a new rabbit. We named her Priscilla, Prissy for short and her name fits her well. She is a Californian, the same as my buck, but she is solid white instead of white with black/blue trim.

I didn't know whether I wanted to breed the two, but after talking with some people, decided to go for it. We can use the extra manure come spring. I will go into more of that in another post since this one is about farm names.

I wanted something that would fit our farm size which is in my backyard in the middle of a subdivision, but I want to be able to carry it to our acreage when we finally fulfill our dream of owning property. I also wanted it to reflect what we plan to work on most which is the rabbits at this point.

Since we have the Californians, we thought we would breed them for meat, but I want Angoras later for the fur to spin into yarn. I found out it can be done and I love yarn. I could have a lot of fun with it and it's not cruel to the animal.

Anyway, what do you think about Cottontail Corner which could be changed to Cottontail Acres in the future? I think it is cute and fitting of our little start to farming. Now to convince the husband.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

4-H Ag Day

Today, my son's class took a field trip to the 4-H Fairgrounds for Ag Day. The teenagers, who happen to be 4-H members, taught the third graders from all over the county about animals, farm equipment, vegetables and other farming topics. As a future homesteader, I listened to them very closely and learned so much. It's amazing the things you can learn from kids. lol

My son has decided he wants to join 4-H. We thought this would be a great opportunity for him to learn more about farming and agriculture and practice these lessons at home. We want so badly to pass this down to our children so that they can be self sufficient.

The kids got to learn about the milking process, egg laying and candling, large animal veterinary medicine and tractors. Farm Bureau Insurance sponsored the food, one of the dairy farmer's brought organic milk and the kids got popcorn, too. They also brought home pencils, candy and coloring books.

Check with your local 4-H chapter and find out when they are doing Ag Day in your county. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, September 3, 2010

New Bunny

My Kirby has been a bit lonely since my black rabbit, Frankie, died two years ago. Kirby needed a mate so I found him one. She is a gorgeous, little, white, four month old darling. We have named her Priscilla and call her Prissy for short. Kirby is in love.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Our New Rabbit Hutch

I want to preface this with please ignore the mess in the back yard. We are doing a lot to it this year and hubby is saving plastic bottles to use as heat sources for the greenhouse we are going to build this spring. We still have a lot of clean up to do back there. Anyway...

My rabbit, Kirby, has been an indoor rabbit. We have run out of room to keep him inside, so we moved his cage out and put a baby play yard around it so he could get out and get some exercise. This arrangement, however, is not going to work in the winter and we looked at purchasing a hutch. They are quite pricey. Here is a pic of Mr. Kirby Birby.

You can see the play yard around him. We put a fence around the yard and have a bunch of fence panels left over. My husband was just going to get the wire cage off of the ground so it would be easier to care for Kirby. He started on it two days ago and it has morphed into a great hutch, made complete with a "bedroom" for the Birbster.

He still needs to put a ramp from the wire cage. He made the fencing on that side higher in case Kirby decides to get all Evil Kneivel on us and jump from the ramp over the fencing. This side also has his bedroom with hinged lid and hasps to keep him safe.

This is the gate he added so that it would be easier to get in and out to care for him. Kirby can get underneath the hutch area for added room to relax and play. We plan to use his manure in our garden next year, so we need to be able to get the pan out easily.

Here you can see the wire cage that we purchased from Tractor Supply. If you look closely, you can see Kirby trying out his new bedroom full of cedar.

This is the lid opened up. The screws still need to be clipped. This makes it easier to get to him and clean out his room. I can add locks to the hasps if I choose to as well.

Here is a top view of the bedroom area. He really likes it. I think there is enough room for another rabbit in the spring. If not, hubby said he'd add another room to the other side.

The roof piece over the wire cage is not attached. It will make it easier to hose it out when it needs to be thoroughly cleaned. He is going to make another panel to hinge to the roof that we can drop down when the temps drop. It will help to protect him from the weather.

I tell you, sometimes my husband amazes me. I had no idea (neither did he) that he had this in him. We didn't have any plans or instructions. He just got his tools, some wood and went to work. I'm very proud of him.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Canning this fall

I am making plans for a bit of food preservation this fall. Last year, I made applesauce and cinnamon apples. We're still eating off of those cans almost a year later. I am hoping that apples have done well this year. It's been so incredibly hot this summer and I don't know how that helps or hurts apple trees.

I have plans, today, to make either lavender jelly or rosemary jelly. I have been meaning to do this for a few weeks now, but haven't gotten around to it. There seems to be too much going on with the kids going back to school. I promised a couple of my friends that I would send jars to them. I guess I better get on the stick. lol

Do you do any canning? Have you ever made jellies? I have made pumpkin butter, apple butter and banana butter. I hope I can still find those recipes since I lost everything on my old computer. I had to set it back to factory settings. I think I have them printed off in my files, so as I work on these things I will let you know. I haven't fully decided on making the banana butter yet, but the pumpkin butter is a must have. You can make a batch and not can it if you prefer.

Anyway, I hope I can get one of my jellies done today. The weather is going to be comfortable today so I think this is the perfect time to heat up my kitchen.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Being resourceful is a virtue.

I ran out of laundry detergent. I really do not want to load up the kids and drag them out in this record heat to go to the store. I looked around and found that I had all of the ingredients to make myself some liquid laundry detergent. I have made the powder before, but it didn't seem to freshen my clothes. I think it is more my hard water than the soap itself since many people use the homemade stuff.

I altered a recipe that I found online and hope that it works better than the powdered I made once upon a time. As it is now, I mix my store bought with Washing Soda and Borax to make my detergent more powerful and it stretches my dollar.

Here are the ingredients:

3 Cups grated soap (Fels-Naptha, Zote, or any mild soap)
2 Cups Borax
2 Cups Washing soda
1 quart boiling water

Melt soap in boiling water. This may take a bit and you can leave the water on low while it melts. Pour it into a large bucket and mix powdered ingredients into soap mixture. Stir until dissolved. Add 7 quarts water to mixture, stir and cover. Use 1/2 cup per load and keep covered between uses. Makes about two gallons.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Have you ever churned your own butter?

I thought I would put this homemade butter post on my homesteading blog. It is on my other blog too. Enjoy!!!

This is more fun than it sounds. It's also a much simpler task than our sisters of past generations had to endure. I completely loved making my own then serving it up on some toast for breakfast. It was excellent on fresh baked bread, too.

The ingredients needed are minimal. All it takes it whipping cream and salt. I have seen the method using a jar and a marble, but who has an hour or the strength to invest in shaking it? I use an electric hand mixer.

First you will need one pint of whipping cream. This makes about a half of a pound of butter and one cup of buttermilk. Pour your whipping cream into a bowl and use your mixer on high speed. Whip the cream and whip the cream. You will notice it turning into whipped cream then changing into a curdled concoction. Keep whipping it. After a couple of minutes it will take on a yellow hue and start looking wet. You're almost there. Keep beating until it separates into a solid clump and buttermilk. It should have a pretty yellow color and be thick, just like butter.

Then you need to strain and squeeze it. I put a small colander over a bowl to catch my buttermilk. I don't waste that because it is good for other recipes. I then take my pretty butter and turn it out onto a cloth. I use a shop towel because there is no lint. Wouldn't want my butter to be fuzzy. I squeeze it, over the bowl, until I can't get anymore liquid out. Salt to taste.

How you want to store it is up to you. I use a make shift
butter bell that is really just a mason jar. I pack the butter in the jar, getting as much of the air out as humanly possible. It's easiest to pack small amounts at a time. I smooth out the top and cover it with water then put the lid on it. I can leave it sitting out on my counter so that it stays soft for spreading. When you use the butter, just dump the water, use what you need, then refill the water. You can also refrigerate it, but it isn't soft anymore.

Start to finish, it takes me about thirty minutes to make my butter. It is a delicious treat that tastes so much better than store bought. Give it a try. It's more fun than you might think.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Quick and Easy Food Preservation Project

As the title of my blog suggests, I am a stay at home wife. I use natural ingredients for cleaning as much as possible. One of the things I use is lemons. They are a great natural bleach to get stains off of your counter tops. You can use them to scrub a wooden cutting board for disinfection. You can simmer them on your stove for air freshening.

When I use them for cleaning I hate to throw the zest away. I searched around for instructions to preserve them and found out how to easily dry the zest.

Use a regular vegetable peeler to peel the zest from the lemon taking care not to peel the pith (white part of the peel). The pith is bitter and would not taste good in your food.

Lay the pieces on a paper towel and allow to air dry for a few days.

You can then use this dried zest in any dish that calls for fresh zest. I assume you could do this with any citrus fruit such as oranges, limes and grapefruit. It is a good addition to tea and I have dropped them into a bowl of water and warmed with my candle warmer.

I store my zest in a little canning jar in my cabinet.

This is how it looks all dried out.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Container Gardening

My husband and I have been reading up on the ins and outs of homesteading. We are so very excited about getting our garden up and running next year, but for the time being we have had to make due with some containers.

I have been growing rosemary in containers for a few years now and love how easy it is and that I can move my pots around when I want. I added lavender to my list this year and recently found out that my lovely daylilies are edible (more on that in another post). I plan to put all of my containers in my side yard next spring and planting my lavender in the ground this fall so they will flourish.

My husband didn't want to wait until next year to start growing some vegetables. He is using a few buckets that he is going to transform into an upside down planter after the plants get big enough. If these planters work, I will post the how to here.

I went out to check on the plants and to water them. We have lima bean sprouts, green bean sprouts, pea sprouts and a tiny little tomato sprout that my husband did not notice this morning. I am so excited about this. If this works, we will be able to utilize our fence posts for hanging containers, freeing up ground space for more root veggies like carrots and potatoes and rows of corn, broccoli and cauliflower.

So now begins our mini garden. It's so hard to wait until next spring to really get going on this.

Looking into Urban Homesteading

Urban Homesteading is a term coined by folks looking to become more self sufficient in their own yards. Some people do this from their apartment balconies, some in their small yard and still some in their average yards.

I would say we have an average yard. We live in a small town in a neighborhood. I am not sure of the dimensions of our property, but it is plenty big enough to grow a nice garden that will produce food that can last us through the winter. This way we will only have to buy bread, milk and other dry staples such as pasta and rice. Of course, we will still have to buy our meat, but being in the area we are, there are several different local sources from which to buy.

We have set aside an area in our yard that my husband is getting prepared this year by putting lawn clippings down to suffocate weeds and grass. Next year, it should be a nice composty pile that he can till.

We have decided on an irrigation system that will be using rainwater from our gutters. We will be making collection tanks and running them to our garden and flower beds so we can utilize what nature offers.

Have you ever seen the upside down grow systems that are being sold everywhere right now? We plan to make our own. I am thinking vine veggies in the bottom and herbs in the top. I am calling them my Marinara buckets. lol

I have a section of yard on the side of the house allotted to flowers and possibly herbs. We renovated part of our garage into a bedroom and there is a door that goes from that room to the area, so I am going to make it a lovely flower garden. It will be a place to relax and I will benefit from having flowers to bring in the house.

We are also looking into animals. We have the typical slew of cats and dogs. We also have a rabbit that we were going to give to my husband's friend who has a rabbit of his own. We had two once upon a time, but one of them died and my rabbit has been kind of lonely. I have found out that rabbit droppings are excellent fertilizer, so we are going to get a second rabbit in the spring so my Kirby won't be lonely anymore and we have extra manure.

Another animal we are thinking about is a pygmy goat. Their manure is similar to a rabbit and he will spread it all over the yard to help promote healthy grass that we may later turn into more garden space. Plus, goats are just funny friends to have around.

The final critter we are looking into is chickens. I only want a couple for the eggs. I have heard that fresh eggs taste better, not to mention free range chicken eggs are healthier for you. More vitamins and less cholesterol. I am doing a lot of research right now because they are a lot of responsibility that I have never had to deal with. Cats and dogs are different. I have already called my local officials and it looks like it's a go on their end. Next, I have to ask my neighbors. lol

This is going to be a lot of work, but so worth it. Food is costing more and more and it's becoming less and less healthy for us. I am tired of putting pesticides and preservatives into my family's bodies. Organic is so expensive to buy and can we really be sure it's organic? I just don't really trust labels all that much.

So, wish us luck on the endeavors and keep watching this blog. I will be posting new things from time to time. Hopefully you'll get some glimpses of new critters in the spring.

Introduction to a new way of life

I started this blog to chronicle our leap into homesteading. I am planning on talking about our garden and animals and everything in between. Hopefully, I can offer others a glimpse into what it's like to have a homestead in a neighborhood (urban homesteading)focusing on everything from chickens to food preservation.

I am going to be learning as I go, so I am sure I will make many mistakes. Please, if you have any experience with this, feel free to add your insight. I am open to all advice.