Monday, August 27, 2012

Barn Hop #76


Welcome to the Monday Homestead Barn Hop where you're invited to link up your blog with your very best post of the week; something happening at your homestead or something of interest that will help benefit fellow homesteaders. Plus, each of the 3 Homestead Barn Hop hostess selects her favorite post of the week to highlight the following week. So be sure to visit all three blogs because the "Featured Homestead" could be YOURS!


This week's featured homesteader is Babychaser of Chasing Babies. I hadn't featured a sewing post before, but this one is something even the most inexperienced seamstress could tackle! She cleverly turned an old crib sheet into a petticoat for a toddler!

At first I was thinking she had used a pillow case, which would be even easier if you had one instead of a sheet. Use whatever you have, but if you're clean out of stuff to upcycle, you can pick up extra sheeting or pillowcases at an outlet mall or thrift store for very little cash. Sometimes you can hit the jack pot and get something vintage or retro! Wouldn't that be cute? Do you know how much these things sell for retail?? Trust me, it's worth learning how to sew a seam and a casing!





If you've been featured in the past...

If you've been a featured blogger on the Barn Hop, either today or in the past, we now have a special button for you should you wish to add it to your sidebar stating that you've been a featured blogger! You can find it on my button page by clicking the hen with the blue barn on my sidebar that says "HR Buttons". It's a good idea to link it back to the page where you were featured so your readers can see where you're actually mentioned. (These buttons do not have a code since it needs to be linked to the page you're featured in and it will change from week to week. Just copy the button or drag it to your desktop).



Join The Barn Hop!
and Amy @ Homestead Revival...

...invite you to link up and share your homesteading adventures!


Did you share any cool new homesteading tips on your blog this week? If so, we’d love to have you link up below! Even if you don’t have a blog, we always welcome your comments!

Please remember that the Homestead Barn Hop is meant to be a place to share homesteading related encouragement and inspiring ideas specfically related to homesteading. In an effort to keep our weekly round-up clutter free, links which are not specifically homestead related, and any promotions such as giveaways, contests, carnivals, etc, will be deleted in order to maintain the integrity of the Barn Hop. Please remember this is a family friendly link up. Any pictures or posts linked to the hop which aren’t appropriate for our children to view or read will also be deleted immediately. We’re pretty conservative, so we ask that you use good judgment and err on the side of caution. 

Make sure that you link to your Barn Hop post, not your blog’s main page, so your guests won’t have any trouble finding your great tips!

We would also appreciate it if you would link back to the Homestead Barn Hop in the post that you share! Feel free to grab the banner at the top of this post to link back to us with.

Want a chance to be a “Featured Homestead” next week?

Be sure you've included an actual link to the Barn Hop, preferably the button, on your post or sidebar, with a link back to us. Thank you for sharing the message about the Homestead Barn Hop!

Occasionally there is a problem posting due to glitches in the internet or the Linky Tools. If you have difficulties posting and it does not show up immediately, please wait a little while and try re-posting (this helps avoid double posting). We're sorry for any inconvenience this may cause, be we do not have absolute control over the internet. Thank you for your patience and understanding!






Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Blessing

"Bless the Lord, O my soul!
Lord my God, You are very great;
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,

Covering Yourself with light as with a cloak...




"The sun knows the place of its setting.
You appoint darkness and it becomes night,
In which all the beasts of the forest prowl about...





"Let the glory of the Lord endure forever;
Let the Lord be glad in His works...

Bless the Lord, O my soul. 
Praise the LORD!"

~ Psalm 104:1-2a, 19b-20, 31, 35b



Saturday, August 25, 2012

Preparedness Challenge #38


Welcome to the Preparedness Challenge! Each month USA Emergency Supply hosts a give away to encourage families to set something aside to prepare for a time of emergency or the unexpected. Those who link up or leave a comment of something they did during the month to be prepared will be entered in the drawing (please take a moment to read the rules at the bottom of the post).


Today's Winner & Give-Away!


Last month's give-away from USA Emergency Supply was the The Back to Basics Apple PeelerI'm pleased to announce the winner today...


Congratulations 
AMY @ JOY IN THE JOURNEY!

This month our give-away items include 2 food grade buckets with 2 gamma seals! Wow... perfect timing for storing extra grain! Guess you've heard we can expect grain prices to go up this fall - and in fact, I believe they're already climbing. Now's your chance to try putting some extra food aside in advance. 





Living out in the country in a farmhouse has some perks, to be sure. But it's also a favorite spot for mice! Having the buckets with gamma seals assures me that these unwanted guests aren't getting into my grains and leaving behind little "gifts", if you know what I mean.

I use the same buckets (10 + and counting) for rice, beans, oats, various kinds of wheat, spelt, dried corn, and sugar (for bees and canning, of course!). One even stores our G.O.O.D.Y. supplies. And having the gamma seal lids makes it a breeze to get into them on a regular basis while still keeping the buckets well sealed. If you need some good information on various grains, USA Emergency Supply has an entire information center with excellent reference material. 

If you plan to store items long term, you still need to use mylar bags and oxygen absorbers, but once you open the bag, as long as you plan to consume the contents in a reasonable amount of time, you can just pour it right into the bucket and put the gamma seal on. 


USA EMERGENCY SUPPLY
How I Met The Challenge!

I felt really good about this month's challenge...

• Food Storage:  Lots of food preservation going on around here... jams, relish, dehydrated cherry tomatoes, chopped and frozen bell peppers, etc. I also stocked up on oats, wheat, and chicken feed.

• Emergency Preparedness: From my THRIVE party, I got two 55 gallon water barrels, a pump, and a siphoning kit! Woo hoo! I've needed this for a looooong time. Thank you to everyone who ordered from my on-line party... you really blessed me!

• Sustainable Living: Got the fall garden going with carrots, parsnips, beets, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, three kinds of kale, and two kinds of chard. 

Now it's your turn to join the Preparedness Challenge..

Join the Challenge & Enter The Give Away

To be entered in the drawing you must complete the following 2 steps:

1) Either leave a comment
(with your email info - this is required to contact you)
OR 
link up your Preparedness Challenge blog post
(you only need to comment or postnot both).

2) Your comment or link up MUST include something you did this week to be more prepared in terms of food storage, emergencies, or sustainable living (or all three areas!) Posts not related to at least one of the three areas of preparedness will not be counted toward the give-away. Please be sure to clearly state in your comment or post what you did this month to be more prepared (see my example above as one easy way to do this). Again, the three areas we are focusing on include: 

• food storage for life's unexpected events whether related to long term effects from a disaster or a job loss and everything in between

• emergencies for times of power outages, natural disasters, and such

• sustainable living in order to be more independent, both physically and financially, and to live as close to the land as possible given each individual's situation 

Please be respectful of our challenge and only add a post on one of these three preparedness topics ONLY in order to retain the integrity of the link up event. If your post is just a general homesteading post, please save it for the Monday Homestead Barn Hop.

NOTE: This challenge and give-away ends Friday, August 31 at 11:59 p.m. PST.

Be sure to take the Preparedness Challenge picture and add it to your blog so others know you're participating and hopefully they'll join up, too! THANK YOU!!









Friday, August 24, 2012

Inspiration Friday: The Pantry!

With summer produce coming out of the garden and colder days looming ahead in the future, I get into the "nesting" mode. Kind of reminds me of a squirrel! Putting food aside for days when the garden is sleeping.

This week alone, we've canned, dehydrated, and frozen food. And with the exception of the freezer items, all that food has to go in the pantry (no root cellar yet!). Any items left over from the year before were moved directly into the kitchen for immediate consumption in order to make room for the 2012 harvest.

All this "pantry time" sets the stage for a little re-organization and yes... even a little glam! Here's some favorite ideas to inspire you, even if you don't have a pantry... yet! No two pantry spaces will ever look exactly the same, so glean a few ideas and make them work for you in your own home.

Pantry Inspiration

The vintage look of this first one wins me over every time! Any standard closet could be converted with wall paper and a gingham curtain as well as a single vintage metal sign (don't over do it with a bunch!). Check out the light that comes on when you open the door! And speaking of the door... if you REALLY want the vintage look, find one like this at a salvage store or add boards and paint to create it yourself.


If the "country" look isn't your thing, you can still use a curtain to hide items that don't look as pretty. Just go neutral like this one from One Perfect Room.


Imagine how cheerful it would be to wake up and make pancakes using ingredients from the yellow gingerbread shelving below. (Note the ticking curtain in the bottom left! Darling!) This one was featured in Country Living, but if you have a handy-dandy husband who does woodworking, perhaps he could cut out that decorative trim and add it to some simple shelving. Then all you would have left to do is paint it and dress it up with goodies!


On the other hand... this wire shelving unit is fairly inexpensive and yet, looks really good when paired with various kinds of baskets to keep things organized (See House Tweaking). Here's a tip that will make a big difference... Don't let your pantry get cluttered. It needs to function and W.O.R.K. hard for you, but periodically purge it of things that "just wandered in" and don't belong. Throw out items that have expired or use them up if they are close to the deadline.



A lot of us have a pantry like this one (as seen in Better Homes & Gardens), either in the kitchen itself or in a mud room. In fact, my mom had this kind when I was growing up. However, it didn't look like this! Wow! Are you noticing a reoccurring theme in each pantry?


Repetition, graduated sizes, and baskets... lots of baskets! These are the baskets I have in my pantry (photo below). I really like how they don't waste any space because of their straight sides. Check out the top shelf... a decorative display, and yet the space is still working to store vases, bowls, and other serving pieces used less frequently.


Speaking of decorative pantries... One of my favorite decorators, Joan at For the Love of a House, has a casual, yet very elegant pantry. Her extra wire rack adds needed storage and still manages to give it that Dean & Deluca feel. And the artwork and rug... perfect for a small cottage for two! (Although, I doubt it would work well for a family of 8).


Here's another rack just like it (see at BH&G), but this one is used right in the kitchen as a pantry. I really like how utilitarian it is while still looking great! The baskets, wood bread board (under the jams), and antique urns (on top) help to soften the industrial look of the shelving.


If you're going to bring the pantry out into the open, go BIG and devote an entire wall in the dining area to your pantry space. The vintage lockers and large sign make a big statement but I'd say it  really holds a LOT and gets the job done! (Country Living)


Even if the industrial country look isn't your thing, nearly everyone could use a LITTLE extra storage space right in the kitchen. Here's one that's easy enough to make from scratch or you could find wood boxes and repurpose them with a little paint. Just add an old curtain and voila! (Country Living)


I could go on and on... there are so many cute ideas out there! I'm always pinning more at Pinterest if you want to see some of them there. But if your kitchen pantry is blah, take some time and think about how you can give it a little face lift. Sure we'd all like to have something like this... {sigh...}


but most houses aren't going to have that kind of extra space with all that lovely cabinetry. But you can take something you like from the picture and add that to your own pantry...


The same jars look just as great on simple shelving! (The Farm Chick)

Make sure your pantry works hard for you and is functional, but "pretties" can always be worked in somewhere! Adding one thing each month or making one change each season will eventually transform your space into something to crow about!

So what are you going to do to your pantry to transform the space into something beautiful?


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Analyzing the Family Budget

It's good to take stock periodically and review your budget to see if you're spending the family money wisely. But sometimes, you also need to stop and evaluate how far you've come in making progress. When I was starting to fret over the bottom line this past month, I stopped and made a list of things that we were doing RIGHT; things we had already done to cut back.

And I was pleasantly surprised! It lifted my spirits a bit, just knowing we were making progress. (Imagine what the budget would be like if we HADN'T made these changes!) Here's a few things that I believe have made a difference...

How We've Cut Back on Expenses

Converted from propane to natural gas. This required an initial investment, but we started saving about 1/2 on our monthly bill right away. Over time, the conversion will pay for itself and save us big money!

Zoned the house for efficient heating. We have a two story farmhouse with all the bedrooms downstairs on one side of the house. The upstairs is just a large bonus room. A door at the top of the stairs can be closed to keep the heat from traveling up the stairwell and out of the main living area. Another door (a single french door) was installed between the entry and the hallway. The duct work was cut off so the two areas are now totally separate heating zones.

The living area is strictly heated with a wood stove and the bedrooms on a very small heating unit on a timer for only a small portion of the day. In time, we hope to install a second stove and turn off the heating unit entirely. (The current wood stove could not heat all of the downstairs sufficiently, so this option seemed best).



Cut out the air conditioning. Since we live in the mountains, we only get a couple of weeks each year that seem a bit unbearable. So instead of running the A/C, even on those hot days, we've opted to just open up the windows. We built several screen doors as well to allow for even more air flow and it really makes a difference. I've learned that if you open up the house in the early morning and close it before the temperature gets above 75 or 80, you can trap the cool air for most of the day. Then open the doors again in the evening as soon as it cools down, and you can bring the indoor temperature down for bedtime.

Cut down on the dryer use. With the installation of my lovely clothesline (thanks to my sweet husband!), we now use the dryer for about 1, MAYBE 2 loads a week... bath towels. I also have a very nice drying rack in the laundry room and I hope to install a ceiling mounted drying system for winter drying (I have 12 foot ceilings and heat rises! Best to make good use of that.)


• Make our own laundry soap. We've been doing this for about 2 years now and it's worked great! A load costs just about 3 cents and cleans really well. (My recipe can be found HERE).

Make almost 100% of our cleaning supplies. I'm down to just one cleaner that I still purchase and as soon as I can figure out a suitable solution for it's replacement, that will be gone as well (small steps, right?). Instead, my cleaning closet only contains baking soda, vinegar, Borax, Zote soap, and other natural items I can purchase in bulk for a fraction of the cost.

• Cut off the satellite TV. Instead of spending lots of $$$ on channels we never watch, we pay less than $16 a month for Netflix and we watch when we really want to see something at a much more convenient time. There are many more family friendly choices as well. And if we only watch one or two movies for the entire month, we're still saving over going out to the movies and certainly saving over the cable/satellite choices!

• Use the public library more. We're a family of bibliophiles and if there's anything we L.O.V.E. spending money on, it's a good book! We've nipped that in the bud for the most part. Now we really only buy reference books (just in case!), an occasional classic, or something else that we know we'll read again and again. AND, before we buy any of the above, we try to check it out at the library FIRST to make sure it's a good choice. Yes, they're really getting to know us down at the library (and our very unusual reading selections!).



• Driving less. Well, sort of. We're really trying! And by being conscious of the fact that we need to drive less, we actually are making less trips to town. With the distance (and dangerous, narrow road), it isn't possible to use a bike, but by careful planning, combining errands, sharing a ride, etc., we're getting there!

• Eating out less. This has been VERY hard. Not that we eat out all that much, but because my goal was to eat only one meal out a week. While I can't think of a week we've achieved that, just having the goal has helped tremendously. We've been much more diligent to plan or come up with something at home.



Eating more beans. Although I can't say we've had a lot of bean meals this last month, we definitely have had more the other 6 months of the year. And we'll continue to do so once the heat wave is over. (No one is all that hungry in the heat anyway!). We're getting pretty creative with bean ideas.

Buying meat in bulk. While we could certainly eliminate meat or buy a cheaper quality, the fact that we were paying more at the store has made bulk meat purchasing a frugal alternative. (Read about our bulk meat purchase HERE).

Make all our own bread products. I've fudged on this and bought about 6 loaves all year long (usually for a special occasion). The rest of the time, I buy my own grain, grind it, and make our sandwich bread, biscuits, rolls, etc. I've even learned to make English muffins in the GNOWFGLINS Sourdough class. If we don't have some made, we do without. Talk about motivation!


Growing our own vegetables. Let me be clear... we are not growing ALL our food. Not yet. But every season is one step closer. And in the meantime, it's making a difference. It's amazing how your attitude about food changes, too. You get what God provides that day! And any food that comes through our door... we're being extra careful to utilize it by canning, dehydrating, or freezing if we can't eat it right then.

Raising our own dairy products. Having chickens and goats means no more store bought eggs, milk, half-half, yogurt, or other milk related items (if I get them made!), including ice cream. We've started making our own raw goat milk ice cream and it's wonderful!

Cutting back on electronic purchases. When we started looking into going off grid, it was apparent that we needed to first cut back on our electric usage. Every chance I get, I'm trying to opt for a non-electric alternative. So while we still have electronic devices (and will continue to do so), we're at least trying to consider where we want to actually spend that power. And it's starting to show on our electric bill... YAHOO!



Cutting our own hair. I'm the only person in our family that is still paying for a haircut. The girls have let their hair grow long and I trim it about twice a year. We also invested in an electric hair clipper and I cut my husband's hair (if he doesn't get to it first - yikes!).

Reduced gift-giving at Christmas. Oh, I do hate to sound like Scrooge, but truthfully, our Christmas budget was waaaay out of line. Over the last 5 years, we've steadily cut back. And this year... we're slashing it! Gifts will almost all be hand made (mostly food) and our emphasis will be to participate in a local charity, Operation Christmas Child, and Samaritan's Purse via their Gift Catalog (similar to Heifer International).  

So there's the list so far. I think I left off one or two things, but these were the big areas that I think are really adding up for significant savings. I realize, not everyone can do all these things; and perhaps you've cut back in an area I can't. But by posting this, I'm hoping that it will help you look around and see areas where you've already cut or perhaps where you can in the future.

In time, we want to continue to trim other categories, like clothing (we don't spend a ton anyway), but let's be honest... there are few budget items, that have actually INCREASED.

Ways We're Spending More

Animal feed & needs. You've heard the saying, "There's no such thing as a free dog". That's a true statement. Animals cost money. Do I think it's wisely invested? You bet! Chickens, goats, bees... even dogs and cats. All serve a purpose on our homestead and all contribute. But they have to be sheltered, eat, and have regular care. So, yes... we're spending more in this area.

Almost 100% organic, non-GMO food. We're paying in advance for our health care! My earlier post, Why You Should Shun Cheap Groceries covers my thoughts on this subject in detail.

• Homesteading projects. Did I already mention animal housing? Yes... that costs money, too. Barns, mini-barns, coops, fencing, animal runs, animal protection, the clothesline I mentioned above, and so on and so on... There's always a project that needs attending to and yet, I see this as an investment. My husband likes to build really well, one time, so most of these items should last for many, many years.

Preparedness. Stocking up? Yes, some. But it's more than that. Self-sufficiency, emergency needs, medical... It's one of those things that's easy to say we'll do "someday". My monthly Preparedness Challenge helps me to stop procrastinating and we're actually making progress. A little each month is easier on the budget, but it still costs something.

• Increased cell phone and internet bill. Ouch. What can I say... I like to blog. Seriously, we have made some choices as a family that have increased our cell phone and internet usage. For example, three of our children do school through on-line schools, so it is what it is. Some budget items are unique to each family and I've just had to swallow hard to get this one down, cause it isn't going to go away. Would I like to run away at times and join the Amish? You bet! But then again, I'd miss all of you!

Looking through your own budget, what's been your biggest money saving change?



Monday, August 20, 2012

Barn Hop #75


Welcome to the Monday Homestead Barn Hop where you're invited to link up your blog with your very best post of the week; something happening at your homestead or something of interest that will help benefit fellow homesteaders. Plus, each of the 3 Homestead Barn Hop hostess selects her favorite post of the week to highlight the following week. So be sure to visit all three blogs because the "Featured Homestead" could be YOURS!


This week's featured homesteader is Jacqueline who blogs at Deep Roots at Home. She linked up a couple of great gardening posts this week, but I wanted to focus on her August Garden Chores post. At the end of summer, we all need a bit of encouragement... some plants are on their last leg, fall seedlings need planting, and it's just plain HOT! Her article was very thorough and just what I needed to hear to keep me going. Because the end of summer shouldn't mean the end of the garden!



If you've been featured in the past...

If you've been a featured blogger on the Barn Hop, either today or in the past, we now have a special button for you should you wish to add it to your sidebar stating that you've been a featured blogger! You can find it on my button page by clicking the hen with the blue barn on my sidebar that says "HR Buttons". It's a good idea to link it back to the page where you were featured so your readers can see where you're actually mentioned. (These buttons do not have a code since it needs to be linked to the page you're featured in and it will change from week to week. Just copy the button or drag it to your desktop).



Join The Barn Hop!
and Amy @ Homestead Revival...

...invite you to link up and share your homesteading adventures!


Did you share any cool new homesteading tips on your blog this week? If so, we’d love to have you link up below! Even if you don’t have a blog, we always welcome your comments!

Please remember that the Homestead Barn Hop is meant to be a place to share homesteading related encouragement and inspiring ideas specfically related to homesteading. In an effort to keep our weekly round-up clutter free, links which are not specifically homestead related, and any promotions such as giveaways, contests, carnivals, etc, will be deleted in order to maintain the integrity of the Barn Hop. Please remember this is a family friendly link up. Any pictures or posts linked to the hop which aren’t appropriate for our children to view or read will also be deleted immediately. We’re pretty conservative, so we ask that you use good judgment and err on the side of caution. 

Make sure that you link to your Barn Hop post, not your blog’s main page, so your guests won’t have any trouble finding your great tips!

We would also appreciate it if you would link back to the Homestead Barn Hop in the post that you share! Feel free to grab the banner at the top of this post to link back to us with.

Want a chance to be a “Featured Homestead” next week?

Be sure you've included an actual link to the Barn Hop, preferably the button, on your post or sidebar, with a link back to us. Thank you for sharing the message about the Homestead Barn Hop!

Occasionally there is a problem posting due to glitches in the internet or the Linky Tools. If you have difficulties posting and it does not show up immediately, please wait a little while and try re-posting (this helps avoid double posting). We're sorry for any inconvenience this may cause, be we do not have absolute control over the internet. Thank you for your patience and understanding!









Friday, August 17, 2012

Inspiration Friday: Fall Vegetable Gardens!

After yesterday's post, I think a little fall gardening inspiration is in order! It's not too late to get some goodies growing that will last until the first frost and beyond (although the heat right now may fool you!). It just takes a bit of creativity, planning, and good old fashion "get 'er done". (We really need to get over the mindset that gardening is ONLY a summer thing!)

For creativity and ingenuity, how about this? Lindsay @ LLH Designs Blog wanted to plant some produce in boxes, but her only sunny spot was her steps. So she promptly had her husband replace the step with a wider one. Now that's commitment! (No excuses city dwellers - she's a Houstonian). These can easily be pulled in the garage or house for those cool fall nights and set back out again during the day.



Hume Seeds has a great post on fall gardening tips: late maturing - early maturing, wind break considerations, protection, and lots more (but without being overly wordy). 

Diana of A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa wrote a post at Simple Bites with a weekly countdown of what to do and when along with some crop ideas.

Fall is the time to plant garlic! (Can you ever have too much garlic? I don't think so.) Karen at The Art of Doing Stuff says that anyone can grow garlic. (Well, okay... she said it a bit differently.) But you can read about how on her blog. 


As a side note, she does not recommend soaking them, but Susy at Chiot's Run says it's a good idea; perhaps try it both ways and see which works best!


She also has an excellent post on growing great carrots. I just planted my seeds accordingly this week... hope they grow!


There's always several ways to protect your plants once the first frost starts to set in. You can use straw bales...

Photo Credit
Or you can go even more simple, like this one from Michelle @ It's A Small Town Life.

Conduit hoops are kind of my favorite (or PVC). They can be made in numerous ways, but Amy @ What Did She Do Today has really thought it through... she can actually access the plants!

It doesn't have to be blah out there, you know. Some mums or fall blooming annuals make a spectacular show. Lowes has a few suggestions


You can always count on Mother Earth News to have some great tips for fall gardens. Can I just say, who wouldn't want to spend their autumn days in a garden like this?

Plan and plant now, for the next season awaits! Even if you only plant one thing... get 'er done!



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