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.