Tag Archive | Make your own stuff

The Results Are In – Homemade Vinegar!

Hi everyone!

These are the results of our vinegar experiment.  It is useable and we have a lot of mother of vinegar as well.

I did some research and found that I needed to cover it in the fridge to store it, which I did. I also re-strained it because there was more “mother” in the vinegar. I then covered the mother with some of the vinegar and put it back in the fridge.

This was what was suggested by the info I found online.

If you look back at the pictures in my last post about vinegar, you can see there is a definite change in colour of the liquid. It has darkened quite a bit. Also, it seems that all of the vinegar is continually producing mother of vinegar if left long enough, which is OK from what I have learned.

I ended up with two cups of useable vinegar. Right now I am giving it to the dogs by the teaspoon with their meals, as it has benefits for them as well.

All in all the vinegar experiment was successful and I am looking forward to making a larger batch next year.

MAKE YOUR OWN STUFF!!

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Making Our Own Vinegar

This fall I decided to try making vinegar.

This is part of  my goal to be able to make more of what we eat from our own produce, and to teach people locally how to do this.

I know, I know, I just wrote a post about doing homesteading the way you want and not trying to do things just like a “real” homesteader.  I still want to do that though. It’s not that I would necessarily rely on making our own vinegar all the time, but I think it’s important to be able to know how to do it.

That means we need to try to make it ourselves.

This fall we had an abundance of apples. I mean a LOT. So after we used up and froze as many as we could I decided it was a go on the vinegar.

I used chunks of apple, not fruit scraps, just because we had that many apples and we didn’t need to process any more whole ones. We cored and chopped enough to fill the jar we were going to use and put in a honey/water brine. I weighed down the apples with a regular drinking glass and a shooter glass inside that.

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I tbubbled away for a little more than a week and started to smell like alcohol – the desired result of the first part of making vinegar.

I think I left it a little too long because the apples started to brown and some of the liquid evaporated from the jar. Below is the result of the this first part of the process. Here I am getting ready to filter the liquid through a linen cloth.

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I thought it should be a bit clearer than it turned out, but it SMELLS right, so I’m going to keep going with it. This picture is the final liquid after the filtering.

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I am storing it on a shelf in the corner of the kitchen out of the light in a glass casserole dish.

We’ll see what happens in a few months. Hopefully it won’t take too long. I’ll post an update when it is ready.

Happy Homesteading – however you do it!

Eating Well On Little Money Part 2

Over a year ago, I did an experiment of sorts in my kitchen. Using the local Co-op weekly sales flyer, I chose food items up to $10 per day to see if a family of two could feed itself well on that amount.

The problem I have found is that eating “well” is a subjective term. Some people think that eating well means eating at restaurants or buying as much convenience food as they want. OR it could mean a certain quality or price of food.

All this is just avoiding learning how to eat well for less. It can be done.

To remind ourselves from the last post: The daily food purchases for Day One and Day Two are as follows:

Day 1: Eggs, Butter, Pasta (made from white flour, not great but that is what we used for now), Salt.

From this you could eat for the day and if you did have some condiments such as ketchup or left over from previous purchases of food you could use those to spruce things up.

At our food store, this all cost $9.54 cents. At other stores you could get it for less, I’m sure, but that is not part of the project.

The point is use what is available.

The belief is often that you can’t eat well and cheap, locally.

Day 2: Carrots, Banana, Potatoes, Onion, Barley. Cost: $10.00

With the ingredients from these two days, I made a vegetable soup that was unbelievably good.

So now you have pasta and soup with some fruit.

We figured out that our soup cost us 38 cents a serving while a store brand, canned, cream of mushroom soup cost about 24 cents. However, the nutritional content of the canned soup is clearly lower. Eating this canned food is NOT what I would call eating well.

I expect that some people don’t know how to make soup from scratch, and therefore think that they have to buy canned and therefore can’t eat well.

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The key to eating this way is to learn how to cook. It’s as simple as that, or as difficult.

Cooking for oneself takes time and effort, just like anything else worthwhile.  Our society has moved away from that. The focus is on ready made, packaged foods. You get addicted to these. They are part of the disconnect between how people work and how people live. They are easy and simple – and not nourishing.

I am not saying this to point the finger of blame at anyone or of how people live, just a statement of fact. My goal is to educate people to see that it is not as difficult as they might believe and to encourage a bit more food security into their lives – learning how to prepare their own food. That is the whole point of this blog.

Many people go to jobs daily that suck the life out of them. They are then exhausted and don’t have the energy to prepare good food for themselves. There is a different way.

This happened to Ernie during his working life in the big city. Work was from 7 am to 3 pm. Luckily his commute was only about 20 mins each way, but at the end of the work day he would go home and sleep for an hour before eating a meal or two hours after the meal. When he changed his life from working at this job, his food selections changed as well.

Working at something you don’t feel good about or are not connected with depletes your energy just like eating crappy food. I know, I’ve done both.

If you feel defensive when reading this post you may not be secure in your food or other choices. Please don’t post a negative comment. The intention is not to try and insult you (I am not that much in control of your thinking anyway ;-).

There are people who need help and it is to those people that this post is directed. Thanks you.

I will continue this experiment as planned and post the results here shortly – with a few modifications. Day 3 and 4 will be posted on soon.

Traditional Christmas Tree Alternative

This year we decided not to use our homemade Christmas tree . It’s pretty tall and a little difficult to fit in the house, especially now with the new puppy around. I don’t want to take any chances with him near it. It could go flying.

Instead, we are using a Ficus plant that I got when I was taking my Horticulture degree in university. This was one of the first things I got when I started living on my own and was a purchased from the Horticulture club on campus.

Use What You Have

Using a houseplant for a seasonal tree is very simple. The only concern is to us appropriate decorations. Obviously the branches on the Ficus are fairly sturdy but in order to avoid damaging anything you will have to minimize the number and weight of the adornments.

Also, if your plant does not have a nice pot to sit in, you may have to decorate that.

I didn’t do anything to the plant pot because there is a large surface area of soil and I need access to that for watering. The pot is just a left over one from a nursery plant that we had purchased and the tray underneath is an old aluminum pizza baking pan.

I know it doesn’t look great, and I may try to fix it up yet, but mostly I just look at the beautiful branches and lights.

It’s best to make sure that if you use electric lights, that you keep them away from the soil when you water.

Earlier this year I trimmed the tree’s branches away from the base and repotted it in a larger pot. The branches are now quite a ways up from the base which gives it a jaunty look.

If you have a larger plant in your house, why not try to decorate it for the season. You never know, it might grow on you.

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Make A Dog Bathtub From A Livestock Trough

When I first started grooming dog for a living, I did it fast, so I didn’t have much time or money to get all the supplies I needed at the highest quality. Thank goodness we live in an area in which most people didn’t care if I was bathing their dog in a livestock water or feed trough!

We purchased the tub at a farm store in the city an hour away and used it just as it was. One day we were out for a drive in the village and on a road near some cottages someone had put an old bathtub out for garbage. It was a small apartment sized tub – not a regular sized one – but it was perfect for my use.

So we took it and the trough got put aside.

Now we have a puppy who will be a big dog. Already I can’t lift him into the bathtub anymore by myself. At 5 months he is 55 lbs. He will be between 110 and 120 lbs at maturity.

So we get to reuse the trough on a low grooming table that Ernie refashioned (will discuss that in a different post 😎)

Because we can’t lift Ira the Kuvasz into any tubs we have to get him to walk up a ramp or use a step to get into the tub. This means the tub had to be cut in the back in order to make it easy for him to do this.  Hopefully he won’t have a problem after training wanting to enter the bathtub for a bath!

Ernie used a reciprocating saw to cut a section out of the end of the tub. The tub will sit on the low table when we need it.

He fashioned a drain out of left over pieces of plumbing supplies. It is a good idea to keep these things around just in case. And a good idea to learn how to figure things like that out.

The drain simply lets the water into a rubbermaid container underneath. This is all we have for now since there is no floor drain and the drain for the other tub is too high to allow for proper drainage.

Ernie also cut an old rubber tube in half that he had in his junk drawer and put it over the edge of the opening cut. This is where the dog will enter the tub.

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When I am done wetting or rinsing the dog, I simply have to lift the bucket into the other tub and dump it. Hopefully it won’t weigh more than 55 lbs! Actually, I’ll probably just use a smaller bucket to transfer water into the other tub until it is light enough to lift.

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Here I’m working with Tommy who is heavy but nowhere near as  heavy as Ira the Hungarian Kuvasz will be as an adult.

 

The main thing about this tub is that it is not just on the ground and any dog that will be bathed in it will need to become accustomed to being in it and getting sprayed with water. If you do some work ahead of time with out water and with some yummy food almost any dog can learn to step up into the tub with no problem for the dog or you.

This tub could obviously be used for other pets and washing other things as well. The limits are only made by one’s imagination.

I prefer reusing things as much as possible. This is one way we do our part to be kind to nature. We have stuff and we don’t throw it out if at all possible. If we hadn’t used this for a bathtub it would definitely be used for something else. Maybe to grow plants in?

Happy Reusing Stuff!

 

 

 

How We Make Sauerkraut

We don’t make sauerkraut every year but this year we had to because of all the cabbages that decided to grow.

For this process we have a ceramic crock that Ernie’s mom used. It is a large high – sided pot really, that was made in Medicine Hat Alberta, Canada. Ernie’s parents were given this crock in 1967 by neighbours but we really don’t know how old it is.

For things like that I just call them “vintage”.

This year we used 18 heads of cabbage for sauerkraut. We also used some of our own onions and of course, coarse salt.

Sauerkraut is so simple. And so tasty. And good for you. So we have decided to make more of an effort to use what we make. Often we forget that we have it, and it gets left over from year to year. This year though I think we have run out so our crock full will definitely get eaten.

Many of you already make this food but I will go over it again anyway because you can do it with almost any container, just on you counter.

Chop or coarsely grate (we grate) the cabbage into the container to about 2 inches or 5 centimetres. Add some onion and the appropriate amount of pickling salt. For us it was 2 tablespoons per layer of cabbage.

Then we filled the container about 3/4 full. As  he went along, Ernie would squish the cabbage in his hands to get the juices out.

Once done filling the crock a clean pail full of water was used to weigh down the cabbage to stay underneath the liquid. Ernie cut two pieces of pine board to fit on top of the cabbage inside the crock that the pail sits on.

Check out my video below to see all the steps.

In the past, Ernie’s mom used to use a board similar to what we use, only she weighed it down with a big rock that they had found here in the yard. I opted for the pail although I’m sure there are many things that could be used to do this job.

Ernie kept tasting the cabbage to check it for sourness over the next two weeks or so. Once it reached what he figured was ready, he squeezed the liquid out by hand and packaged it for freezing.

Not difficult to do at all, and so very good for you.

 

We Have Basil!

This year Ernie did the garden planting. I was working (at home) and didn’t have the extra time so he put in all the plants. He even picked up the seeds at the store and some transplants from the local greenhouse.

Needless to say I forgot what he bought and planted.

So when I started harvesting the oregano and rosemary, I was pleased to find out that we DID actually have basil, something I use more than any other herb. It was by accident too that I found out, as you can see in the short video I posted below.

It really was a surprise and I REALLY had forgotten. I don’t even remember where they were purchased or if I planted them and Ernie can’t remember either.

Our Drying Method Is Simple

The trays that I use to dry my herbs are silver trays that we bought for our wedding 11 years ago and used once. Now they are really getting put to use. I believe in using what you have as many of you know. I simply keep the leaves on the trays and “fluff” them daily. I don’t use any special air movers or a food dryer or anything like that.

The key to doing it this way is to keep moving the leaves around on the trays so that they get exposed to the air. This method does take longer than using dryers or screens but it costs nothing and is maintenance free.

The moral of this story is – Check your gardens. You may have something delicious growing that you missed – other than weeds (not that any homesteader would 🙂

Happy Homesteading!

Homemade Iced Cream – Whole Foods At Their Best

I found a method of making iced cream on Facebook of all places. You make it with plastic bags, ice and a lot of arm strength. Now I am not one for using plastic much as you may know, but since we have so many in the “junk” storage from previous use, I thought why not reuse some for this project.

We have three ice cube trays and I made the ice myself that you need for this. We also have a vintage iced cream maker but decided to give both methods a try.

Make It

There are only four ingredients: 1/2 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of cream, 2 tblsp, sugar and a dash of vanilla. I doubled this for our second try and quadrupled it when we figured out what we were doing and use my own method as you will see below.

To make the iced cream you put the ingredients in a zip top bag. You then prepare another larger bag with lots of ice and salt and place the bagged ingredients inside the bag of ice  Shake it for ten minutes. Your hands will get cold. We used a tea towel wrapped around our hands to prevent this.

We tried doing this method twice. The first time I accidentally, poured the iced cream out of the plastic bag into a bowl along with some of the salty water from the bag of ice. Ernie ate it anyway.

The second time was better and better tasting. But it was still labour intensive.

The iced cream maker was a no go as the centre metal container was rusted inside.

My Method

At some point during this iced cream making day, I realized that I have been making an iced coffee recipe for years with the same ingredients as iced cream – except the coffee. I make the drink in a glass loaf pan and  turn it into an iced drink in the freezer. To keep the drink smooth and prevent crystalization, you need to keep stirring it. The main thing is to not let it freeze overnight. I figured out how to make this iced coffee recipe by trial and error.

Because the ingredients are basically the same, I decided to try to make regular iced cream this way as well.

I used the same glass loaf pan. You can use whatever you have, it doesn’t have to be fancy. Put all the ingredients in and mix with an electric mixer. (My mixer is vintage of course and is older than me.) Do this every half an hour to prevent the ice from forming large chunks and to make it freeze slowly. No shaking, no ice cream maker needed.

When it is the right consistency to eat, eat it. That’s it.

You can add any flavourings you want to this like chocolate, fruit, or whatever.

Happy Homesteading.

Small Homesteads Can Be Big Producers

Since our homestead is in a village, we have a restricted amount of space that we homestead on. Obviously it is going to be smaller than most. We have in total about one and 1/4 acres.

Normally one would think that you can’t do much on a small property and I used to believe that too. We have found though, that anything you want can be grown or produced even on a small homestead.  It is similar to what the amazing things you can do with a can of paint for redecorating or how you can live in a tiny house, which we know that many people do.

Below are the things I have come up with that work for us the best when trying produce food on a small homestead.

We make use of all the space we have. This one is clearly the most important and actually includes most  of the ones below. This space includes everything. Cupboard space, yard space, garden space, and any storage space. I guess we could always do better but for the most part, we get creative about storing things.

We don’t buy something if we can make it or do without. Buying things takes storage space. We don’t have storage space. It really is the same as living in a tiny house. You just don’t have room for the extra stuff.

An example of things like this are machines of all kinds. We bought a new riding lawnmower out of necessity and definitely had to have a place to park it indoors. The only shed that it will fit in is off the ground about a foot, so Ernie had to make a ramp – out of scrap wood of course – to drive it into the shed. So now the shed is mostly taken up with this lawn mower and to put up another shed will take space away from the garden so there is basically no more room for any new machinery. Luckily we don’t need a tractor, yet. Anyway I think you get the idea. We have no room for boats, cars, or fun toys etc. We do without those.

We only plant what we know we will eat. This way food will not go to waste and the space won’t be taken up by something we don’t need and put to good use growing what we do need.raspberries

We grow some of our vegetables upwards.  Cucumbers and peas are planted on vertical fencing or lines to have them grow upwards. We also are fussy about pinching the tomatoes – taking the sprouts out of the branches so that the plants grow more upwards and don’t sprawl all over the place. This all saves space in the garden.

We make changes if something doesn’t work out the way we thought it would. If we do have something on the homestead that we thought we would like or might be useful but it turned out not being needed or not working out, we change it as soon as possible.

For example, we bought a gooseberry bush several years ago and put it in the back yard. Unfortunately, the dogs were also in the back yard often and would run into it regularly. Luckily no one was injured as they have thick coats. They would also EAT the berries before we had a chance to pick them. So we moved the bush to a totally different location and now it is growing well and producing so that we can use the berries.

So, producing big on a small homestead is mostly about creative use of space. If we had livestock, we would still be able to house them and feed them with what we have now. We would just keep it to the scale that is appropriate for the size of the property.  I have said it before that homesteaders are pros at adapting to new environments. I also believe we are pros are being creative with what we have.

Happy Homesteading!

 

Tips For Redecorating With No Money

This is one of my favourite topics and pretty much goes hand in hand with homesteading. I redecorate regularly by spending no money. This is actually something that I have been doing since I was in elementary school in my childhood home.

My parents had little money, and certainly nothing to spend on decorating. For some reason redecorating the house came naturally to me, and I did it regularly for almost two decades. I would simply move furniture around, and find things in boxes or closets that hadn’t been used. Occasionally, we bought things are yard sales – which didn’t cost much anyway, but most of the time it was what we already had.

When I got a little older, I started growing flowers in the yard, cutting them and drying them for the house. I also dried wildflowers from the ditch that I picked up when we were on holidays and used them in the house too.

Now my obsession continues.

Currently we have no more room for any new things in the house. I like to keep things to a minimum. What I am using for decorating is what was already here or what I had before I moved here. Also, I am not repainting or staining anything. It has to look good just on it’s own without any adjustments.

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There are a few important things that I follow when redecorating with no money.

I don’t always leave out something or get rid of something I dislike when I am redecorating. Obviously if you REALLY don’t like looking at something maybe don’t include it in your display, but sometimes things you may really hate can look different among certain other things. It really just depends. My suggestion is to try it first before discounting it. I find that it is better to wait a while and seeing if an object or placement of and object grows on you. Sometimes even a few days is needed to make a final decision.

I don’t always try to match things. Matching colours or sizes of items is boring to me. I don’t go nuts with using bright colours or anything like that but new stuff and older stuff  can often work together or different fabrics and material can give neat contrasts. Just go with whatever you like and that usually will be right.

Moving things just slightly can make a big difference. I find I don’t always have to move EVERYTHING around to different places. Sometimes there will be an item that just doesn’t work and it’s removal or a change in position will fix it. Or just offsetting one thing can work wonders.

I make sure to dust. Yeah right! Well, the intention is there. Dusting really makes things look better and makes you FEEL better about your house. Just regularly dusting some things can make a huge difference and gives the illusion of redecorating! It’s magic.

Ane there you have it. In future posts I will examine each one of these separately. Happy Homesteading!