For us, history is very much a part of why we homestead. We have a strong tie to the land where we live and to the history of our ancestors who lived and worked here before us. We still do many of the things that they did during daily life. Making certain foods is obviously going to be one of these things.
In my last blog post I talked about eating whole or real foods.
Just as an aside, I was not trying to show anyone how great we are for doing this and I feel that maybe some people may have taken offence to what I wrote. This is how WE do things and how we WANT to live I was not criticizing anyone’s food choices, merely stating mine. If you feel that you don’t agree with me that we are able to eat only whole foods, then you may need to evaluate why you might think that or even care. We simply are doing it.
With that out of the way, we are still eating 99% whole foods. There are only a few things that have multiple ingredients or additives on the labels for the things we buy from the store.
Kutia (pronounced koo-ti-ya) is a traditional Ukrainian dish that is normally served at Christmas. Both Ernie’s and my families served this for Christmas eve supper and then again for breakfast the next morning.
The ingredients are:
Cooked wheat berries, poppy seeds, honey
Cook the wheat, add ground up poppy seeds and warm honey water – honey melted in hot water. Mix together. Eat.
That’s it. This is a meal made out of three whole foods that is nutritious and extremely tasty. Our source of honey is a local farmer (a one minute drive or a five minute walk). Our source for poppy seeds is our garden. Our source for wheat is Saskatchewan Red Spring Wheat from the local store.
When we made Kutia this time I found that some of the poppy seeds had not been dried properly before storage last fall and were mouldy. Ernie went to the store and bought some (still a whole food) and we made half with store bought poppy seeds and half with what was left of our own that was not mouldy. They tasted pretty much the same in the end.
This dish is a true homesteader’s food because it was made and eaten by our ancestors in this area after they immigrated to Canada. The tradition has been passed down and is a delicious one. Poppies were a flower that were seen in many gardens in this area. The flowers seeded themselves each year and provided a beautiful backdrop for the vegetable gardens. Obviously wheat was also grown in the area and is highly nutritious.
This dish is eaten on Ukrainian Christmas eve because it has no animal products in it. The tradition is that no animal products are eaten then in reverence to the animals at the birth. This is not to say that Ukrainians are vegan or even vegetarian. It is just a tradition.
If you want to watch us make this food see the video below.
This year we have started making an effort to buy only “whole” foods. This means that there is no ingredient list for the food or there are no additives on the ingredient list.
I probably don’t have to explain this to most of you, but I will. For example, a banana has one ingredient – banana. A bag of oatmeal is usually one ingredient – oatmeal. When I buy cheese, I make sure there are only 3 or 4 ingredients on the list, and no flavours or colours added. I just won’t eat it if there is. I have stopped buying most cheddar cheeses because they are usually coloured orange which is unnatural.
This way of eating is, I believe, important to food safety, health and control of our own ability to procure food for ourselves. With every purchase we make at a food store, we are making a kind of vote. We are telling large companies and stores what we will and will not accept about our food.
Some of the food we are buying now are things that we cannot grow at this time of year for ourselves nor can we put it away for the winter from our harvest. For example, we had very little spinach last year, likely due to the harsh winter we had. Our spinach is volunteer, so most of the seeds didn’t germinate. What did come up we froze and had very little for fresh eating. So we are buying some spinach for fresh eating this winter. Not ideal, but necessary for us to feel we are eating healthy.
If you want to see what we bought and why check out the video below.
So our focus on food this year is to keep buying whole foods and to buy as local as possible. Once we have been doing this for a while, it will become habit and we won’t be tempted to buy “treats” or sugar filled garbage food.
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.
Today I am cooking beets. Every year we have a good crop of beets even though we don’t plant many. For some reason they grow and grow. This is the pic I posted in a blog post last fall. We store the beets and other root vegetables in our cellar which is essentially an area under the house that was dug out and filled (sort of ) with concrete in some places. In other places, there is just dirt. But it works.
Here’s what it looks like:
The partitions were put in many years ago by Ernie and his dad.
Anyway, as usual we left the beets until now and they got squishy. We put them in pails with newspaper which works not bad to keep the ones that are lower down from getting soft.
Our main use for beets is in beet soup or in Ukrainian (our ancestry) – Borshch (not borsht with a t, but BORSHCH). We are able to grow all the ingredients (except olive oil, salt, pepper, and vinegar) for our borshch in our garden: beets, garlic, onions, dill, potatoes, beans, tomatoes and usually carrots but our carrots are finished now so we won’t buy any, unless we can find locally grown carrots in the store.
So the process of making borshch is simple. Fry onions and garlic in fat (I used olive oil but you can use whatever you want), then add water, beets (I grated them with a large-holed grater we bought at a yard sale), dill, green beans, tomatoes and if you want carrots. I also put some garlic tops that I had frozen two years ago.
So there you have it. A simple, nutritious soup to use up your beets even when they are getting soggy! A true homesteader food.
So, we are out of the white onions that we harvested from our garden in the fall. They never really last very long anyway and sometimes we have to just chop them up, cook them and freeze them for use later.
For onions now, instead of buying we use our multipliers. This is good and bad. They are extremely flavourful, having much more flavour than regular white onions. The problem is that being small, they take extra time to peel and cut up. So much so that sometimes there is a temptation to NOT use them. But we buck up and do anyway!
We keep a certain number of them on the counter for convenience, but the rest (I am told there are still 2 long orange bags full of them) are kept in the cellar. These onions are grown from bulbs that have been grown in this area for decades. They are probably the same as most people have in many places though.
When thinking about being frugal, these onions fit right in to the scheme. You can grow them for green onions all through the summer, just for the mature onion, and for your own seed. They really are amazing. And so far there have been no diseases or insect bothering them at all like the other large onions.
We are also keeping what there is of our garlic on the counter. This year, as I have written about, was almost a failure. We had enough to plant about 6 small rows last fall, but what we are eating is very small as you can see. The flavour is good but again it is time consuming to peel.
In the picture, there is also an example of what is left of our apples. Ernie is still eating them but I cannot bring myself to 😉 He says they are good even though there is a little brown in the middle.
So we are set for onions until the winter onions peek through the soil in the spring.
Today, we had to process what is left of our tomatoes. They were one day away from the compost due to being in the house in pails on the floor for too long. This was a result of having planted too many plants in the garden and having a spectacular growing year. We had the hot day, almost hot nights and LOTS of rain.
We peeled and boiled down the tomatoes, so that they simply don’t take up as much space in the freezer. We decided not to can anymore because we already have 60 quarts canned and put away. The freezers are also loaded with many other vegetables, but can probably fit a few more jars.
Sometimes we add salt, garlic and basil and sometimes we don’t. It is a good idea to mark the jars with what is in the mixture so that no more salt is added by accident when heating it up or using it in something else like chili or soup. I’ve made that mistake several times, and have even put salt in saurkraut soup by accident! Silly me.
There are a few pails of tomatoes, some Roma and some regular, left on the kitchen floor, but we intend to put those in the fridge and eat them fresh.
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!
I recently noticed that as homesteaders, our lives revolve around food. Not being obsessed with eating it, but in order to have it, we have to procure it somehow. For us currently, this means planning our meals around what is still available in the freezer, or which crop is ready or doing well. Sometimes there is very little and we have to get creative.
We ran out of our potatoes this past month and had to buy some from the store. Luckily, the potatoes we bought were from a local business, so we weren’t too upset about having to buy.
In most other years we wouldn’t have bought potatoes. We would have just waited for the next crop to produce. But last year, I found a french fry recipe that makes the potatoes really crispy. This is pretty much why we are buying potatoes – to have fries.
The main thing you have to do to get crispy fries is to make sure they are REALLY REALLY dry before you put them in the oven, and heat the baking sheet to the oven temp. This will almost guarantee crispy fries.
If you would like to see the recipe, check out my VLOG about it.
This year we grew some of our own vegetables from seed for transplanting into the garden. These were tomatoes, cabbage, brussels, broccoli, oregano, basil. Everything grew and grew. This is unusual for us. More often, the plants are spindly and small and they take more work than is preferred to get them to live.
This time we ignored them, so I guess that is why they grew so nicely.
We will be moving them out into the shed soon for the nights and in the day they will be somewhat protected outside until they harden a bit.
We did transplant the tomatoes, which we never do, so I guess that does count as not ignoring them.
Maybe it is just one of those years.
We finally got around to planting our vegetables. We grow all of our own vegetables each year. This year we are going a bit crazy and so far have 9 trays. That may not sound like much to some, but with restricted space indoors it really is a lot. We are especially proud of our beer bottle seedling waterer that my mother-in-law made decades ago. I think the bottle has been replaced, but the cap on it has just enough small holes to water the tiny plants carefully. It works great and was free.
The trays sit on he dining room table in front of the window and on a smaller, old coffee table that we only bring in for this purpose.
Naturally, we had to buy potting soil but one day I hope to make my own. Hopefully everything grows well this year.