After not having written a post since March, I wondered why I was not interested in doing so, or why I hadn’t. My conclusion was that the blog needed an update.
For those of you who follow us, you may notice that the blog address is different as well as the name of the blog. “Conserver Life” instead of homesteading 101.
We are still what we consider homesteaders. But our focus as homesteaders, I have been finding, has been leaning more towards not spending money and doing as many things as we can ourselves.
Actually, most of my past posts are about that, but I always felt I needed to stay true to the original idea for this blog so I tried to make it revolve around homesteading specifically. Now the blog will move even more towards not spending money as homesteaders and as non-homesteaders.
I really appreciate all of you! Thank you!
We have two oregano beds that survived the winter. This plant is interesting because it is obviously not native to this region, yet is survives our ridiculously difficult winters. There is always some die-back and some sections of the beds don’t come back, but they always spread.
Both of our oregano beds have a north facing exposure so this is even more interesting to me. Because this herb is so useful, it is a good idea for everyone to plant a little and dry some for use in the off season.
This year I am planting more because of our venture into market gardening. The old beds needed refreshing so I harvested as much as I could very early. The stems were very short but I pinched them down to the ground.
The second bed has even more to be harvested which has yet to be done. All of this will be dried for our own use. The first batch I dried on an old cookie sheet but the second harvest will be dried in our homemade dehydrator.
The remaining beds will be removed, some good sections will be replanted in different locations, and the dead sections composted. The roots on these plants are VERY tough and difficult for me to even get a shovel into. This must be why they are so good at surviving the winters here.
I use oregano in many different things that we eat like the obvious – pizza, tomato sauce, salsa, salad, etc. but I also put some in my dog’s food – dried of fresh – from time to time.
Some people believe that giving greens to dogs is a not species appropriate but I don’t think that at all. In small amounts this and other culinary herbs are a benefit to dogs. I have been using them for years with no issues. Dogs that are not used to things like this should be started on them slowly using COMMON SENSE.
So I harvested quite a bit of early oregano for drying and now that is something I don’t have to think about for the rest of the summer. We have as much as we need for ourselves so I can concentrate on selling the rest.
Anything that we do here in our little urban homestead we try to do as eco-friendly and as frugal as possible. I know it’s difficult to be truly “eco-freindly” but one has to give it a good go anyway.
So for my new hobby, as I have said in a previous post, I have started learning to paint in both watercolour and acrylic. This requires some supplies like brushes, paint and some other tools. Not exactly your most eco-friendly stuff.
One of the things that I can use junk as a substitute for is my painting palettes. Right now I am using two different pieces of junk. One is half of an egg carton lid, which an be used over and over for acrylic paint. The other is a old plastic makeup kit box, likely from the 1960s, that Ernie found in the back shack. I pulled the mirror our of it and use it for mixing watercolours.
The third thing that I am using as canvases is scrap pine panelling cut into small pieces as a sort of canvas. Using acrylic paint, I am making scenes of local landmarks and plan on using them as tree ornaments. Rather than buying canvases I am making my own and produce unique, local art that has appeal to the local tourist market.
We also use thin sections of tree branches – maple, birch, even poplar as painting canvases. These are taken from either dead fall trees or trimmed branches both from our own property so nothing is wasted or cut down unnecessarily.
As a final canvas idea, which I can’t take credit for because it was my cousin’s, are smooth stones. Here are some of my cousin’s (who’s name is Rocky of course 😎 – seriously it IS), creations. I have started doing this as well but I’m not as good as this yet.
So there you have it. Several ways to save money, reduce waste and be creative at the same time.
Recently I wrote a blog post (ok not really recently but sort of) talking about how we were going to do more travelling and I would work from wherever I was.
Well, talk about messing up plans.
Two weeks ago we went on one of these trips – a camping trip – to a campground not too far away, about three hours. Both Ernie and I didn’t really want to go but because I was determined to go and had done so much planning to do so, we went.
Right at the end of the trip, one of our dogs passed away. Not just any dog. Not one of the 15 year olds, but our youngest and most active and my best pal, Miranda. She had an infection that had gone unnoticed by us and undiagnosed by the vet. She was on a medication that depressed the immune system to stop her from chewing her feet. She picked up a bladder infection which spread. I was weaning her off the med when she crashed. We took her to the vet where we were and they tried their very best, but it wasn’t to be.
Needless to say, we realized that we were focusing on the wrong things. Should I say I was.
Taking care of what you have is so very important. Because of this tragedy in our lives, I have a push to make the transition to homesteading full time and staying put. I had mentioned in my earlier blog post how I had wanted to travel ever since I was small. I guess I was wrong. I also can no longer look (groom, pet sit, or train) after other people’s dogs, something you may have heard me discuss in the past, but now seems pressing to do.
It often takes something major to happen to snap us out of, or move us toward what we really should be doing. Unfortunately, this realization usually happens after the fact.
I know this all sounds kind of silly, but when you have a feeling about something, listen to it. Feelings are facts in my opinion. You don’t have to read everything I post, but just know that your support is very helpful. Thanks.
This year we have decided not to put as big of a garden in. We are also not planting anything in the house for transplanting. This comes after months of re-couperating from work burnout and a change in focus for our homesteading plans.
I will always be what I consider to be a homesteader. This name can mean different things to different people. We have enough food put away to survive a disruption in the economy. We know how to do most things we would need to do if that happened, for ourselves. We still grow all our own vegetables. We make as many things as we can instead of running out and buying something to solve the problem. We are conscious of how we treat nature. This does not mean that we do everything perfectly, but we do our best. These are some of the things that help define what a homesteader is to me.
And now I have added another thing to the definition of a homesteader. Making a contribution to the world by being true to who you are. Homesteaders truly are this in my opinion. You have to really examine who you are and what you want in life in order to be a homesteader. For me, this means that we do not necessarily stay in one place all the time and will incorporate travel into our lifestyle. I feel that this is one way that I can contribute more to the world in a positive manner than what I have been doing.
On the employment front, I have realized that I was doing a job – dog boarding – that was not something that I had originally wanted to do. To me it was my “shadow” career. I was doing it because I felt I had to for whatever reasons. I had other dreams of travel and working, in part, as a location independent or what is known as a digital nomad. The wish to be more mobile has been part of my thinking since I was 5 years old, but I was too scared to follow that when I was old enough to take action.
I found the term “shadow” career in the book Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield It resonated with me because it felt like I was just “playing” at work and not being serious about it. Essentially, it means that a person is avoiding doing the thing she/he really wants to do because of fear. The fear is different for everyone, and for me that fear was being more connected with people.
So as a homesteader, and someone who I feel is resourceful because of that, I have now been able to refocus myself to do work that is useful, interesting and should actually make more of a contribution to the rural lifestyle and quality of life. I hope it will also help me get more connected with my fellow humans. I think homesteaders are pros at adapting to new environments even if those environments are within oneself.
Starting another small business is the way I feel I will be able to do this. I obviously am going to work from home and sometimes we will be travelling so I will work on the road as well. I am managing social media, websites and marketing for small town businesses as well as freelance writing. This is something I have been doing for a while now, some for free and some for a fee. The logical jump was to go full time into this. I am also taking a larger step into my original profession – dog training and grooming – and putting it online as well in different forms.
Having more than one way to make a living is also something many homesteaders do. I myself have been doing this for years. Making a living, contributing to our and other villages and towns, and being able to do other things we want to do, makes for an acceptable situation for all involved. Even the dogs!
Pets are an expense. Food and vet bills are the main issues. When I consider feeding my dogs on the homestead, I always feed the best food I can find. This doesn’t always mean bought food either.
Dogs need to eat well just like we do. What they eat affects their health. Having six dogs and many more over the years and being a pet professional, I have tried all kinds of store bought dog foods as well as those I prepared myself and I have seen many different kinds being fed to their dogs by clients.
On the homestead, the more food I can provide for my dog the better.
This is what we do:
We Feed Dry Dog Food
We buy the best quality dry dog food we can find that is made in the closest location to us. Yes, we use a dry dog food for convenience. Yikes! Isn’t this the opposite of a homesteader’s thinking? In a way yes and in a way no.
By yes I mean that it is not self sufficient and likely NOT the most ideal thing for a dog. By no I mean that I have always felt that our dogs need to be able to eat from many different sources. Often, I have worked with a dog who has been babied and won’t eat anything but certain types of food. I expose our dogs to many different kinds of foods and this includes a good quality dry food.
So if you are a “purist” and want to and can feed your dog raw or only stuff from your homestead, great. It can be done. I have fed raw in the past for years, but currently don’t have the access to the kind of meat I want to feed to six dogs. Also, two of my dogs are 15 years old and can’t chew bone anymore. They also are starting to not eat, so I give them whatever I can that is tasty enough to interest them AND give them nutrients they need.
We Feed Cooked Fish
We buy canned salmon and sardines, and fish that was caught from the local area lakes. Don’t forget that if you are or want to be a “raw” feeder, canned fish is cooked and so is not raw. All fish caught in local lakes is cooked before feeding to the dogs.
We Feed Scraps
All scraps have to be whole foods i.e. NOT processed meats, foods with additives etc. Our scraps include things liked cooked potato and other veggies, meat scraps like chicken, venison, beef, pork etc. If there is fat, we still feed it but are extremely careful not to feed too much at once.
We also buy dog cookies/treats at this time from the pet store, but that is also for convenience and we buy from companies that are as local as possible with the best ingredients as possible.
We Feed Meat From Local Sources
We get meat locally. The beef is grass fed from nearby ranchers and we get chicken from a woman who raises them herself. We used to get pork from a farmer but have not had any for a few years. Ernie also hunts during the season, and sometimes the dogs get extra deer meat, but we always cook the deer. The deer antlers are also given to the dogs instead of bones to chew. If I feed bones they must always be raw. We only give chicken bones as we have had bad experiences feeding other bone.
If I feed raw meat only on one day, I make sure to always give bone meal if it is beef or feed the chicken with the bones. Feeding raw meat exclusively without bone leads to nutrient imbalance.
We also feed raw or cooked eggs. If we have farm eggs then we feed raw. If not, then the eggs are cooked. In the fall we have apples from our trees but make sure not to give too many so that they don’t eat too many seeds. Most seeds go right through because they don’t chew them, but just to be cautious we watch how many they eat.
And thats about it really. Basically, we try to keep it simple and not feed processed food from the grocery store. Dry dog food is processed but with the high quality that we buy I am not worried about that. If we come into a regular source of local meat for the dogs, I will start feeding that.
This year as usual, there were many things in our garden that did well. We also had a major failure. This is the pattern that most gardeners find every year. Some things do well and some don’t.
Garlic crop failure
This year we had a major failure of garlic. When we asked around, almost everyone in our area did too, except one person. That person had mulched her garlic with straw the fall before. Last winter had very little snow cover and most of the garlic seed rotted in the ground. We ended up with only 150 cloves to plant for next year, and now we have to start all over again to produce for garlic sales.
The year of the pepper
On the good side, it was the year for pepper. Hot days and nights with a lot of rain. We used peppers houses on half of the plants, but near the end of the summer the peppers that were not under the huts caught up to the covered ones and ended up being as productive.
Lots of everything else
All other vegetables did pretty well. We are even waiting on Brussels Sprouts which we have never had any luck with, but have already put away 2 ice cream pails of them. Tomatoes we unbelievable, again due to warm nights and lots of rain. We actually are having to give some away as they ripen because we have no more room in the freezer, and already have 50 large canning jars put away.
Every year I try to save Coriander seeds to dry and crush instead of buying the spice from the store. Every year I have to watch carefully so that I don’t pick them too late. Many of the seeds will have white mould on them which I will not use. I also dry basil and oregano. The screen shown below is what I use to dry the leaves. it is an old window screen. Simple but effective.
Horseradish really speads
Ernie removed and harvest one of the horseradish plants. There were three and we didn’t realize how fast they spread – or how they spread. When he dug the plant up, it was easy to see how the roots go underground kind of like poplar trees. New plants grow from the long underground roots. We gave some away and kept some.
And finally tonight we used what was left of the apple-crabs and made a small amount of jelly. It turned out amazingly clear. Have yet to taste it.
Happy Fall Harvest!
Recently, my homemade dryer arm was completed with the help of several reused/recycled metal and plastic parts – and a new grooming arm that was purchased 2 years ago that I have never really used. Ernie pieced together the contraption so that I could brush out a dog’s coat while having the air blow on it without having to hold it myself.
The dryer sits in a piece of plastic that came from the back shack and is attached to an old plastic tripod. The arm moves in and out and turns from side to side, so I can adjust where the air is blowing. This frees up my hands to hold a dog and brush at the same time. Works great. Many things were saved from being chucked in the garbage.
There is someone in own town who eats every meal at the local restaurants. It is either because she can’t cook or doesn’t want to. Either way, when a family member of Ernie’s from the big city heard about this, she was shocked and declared that she was going to start teaching her daughters ( 17 and 21) how to cook! Frightening isn’t it?
This got me to thinking. I believe that MANY are like this, unfortunately. It may contribute to lack of funds for certain people – having to buy everything you consume. Most likely the food will be processed as well.
On Sunday, I don’t work on the computer. I rest my eyes for one day. Instead, I did three things:
1. I made pasta/pizza sauce from scratch. All the ingredients were our own (fat, tomatoes, basil, garlic) except the salt. And you don’t even really need the fat.
2. I made a pizza. We had ingredients around the house already. We used a couple of wieners for the meat – nothing else was as quick, but they were left over from last year, so we used them. Not the most healthy thing but no wasting food, even wieners. We had cheese but only cheddar. It was actually really tasty. The onions were ours. The old aluminum cookie sheet is dented, stained and ugly but works well.
3. I made a toque. I used yarn I had lying around from previous purchases.
It is unbelievably crucial to be able to make things for yourself, from ingredients you have procured form yourself. Young people who don’t know how to cook, are being set up for struggle in the future.