March is the month we review how are vegetables in storage are doing and if needed, make alterations in that storage. Right now the onions are in need of some attention.
The onions we grow are what are called “multipliers”. These are very small onions that produce bunches. Early in the growing season they are provide greens which we pinch from the tops and then a little later, green onions. We no longer grow large yellow, white or red onions because they don’t keep for us and generally start rotting almost even before they are dug up.
Our small onions have been grown on this plot of land for about 50 years and before that on a different plot for many years. I now refer to them as a “landrace”, because they are perfectly adapted to our location. These onions have a much stronger flavor than large onions and you can’t really eat them raw because of that. If they are chopped up very fine and use in small amounts they can be eaten along with other raw plants, but they will quickly over power most dishes and palates.
We stored our multiplier onions in old orange bags hung from the ceiling in our shop. The temp doesn’t get lower than 1 C/34 F all winter. We do keep a small heater running in there when it’s super cold but that’s only on a few days out of the season. In other years we kept them in the cellar which is mostly dirt/cracked up concrete, but we decided to store in the shop this year because it was more accessible. At this time of year, we have to check our stored vegetables (carrots, beets, onions, potatoes) to make sure none are rotten or frozen. I also take the dry outer skins off to prevent any possible rot and make it easier for use when they are needed. After I do this, they sit in a bowl on the counter until they are used up. In the photo below, I’m taking the skins off and cutting up a few to dry in the drying room (our unheated porch with a drying rack).
I dry onions either on the drying racks or in the dehydrator. Both work well, but I don’t want to become reliant on electricity in order to store and use food – however that’s another blog post.
At this time of year, we don’t really have that many left for eating. The smaller onions (on the right in the photo) are put aside for planting when the ground is thawed. This is where we’re at right now for snow, so it will be a while before planting time. We will likely have to move snow in order to plant as you can see in the second photo.
When choosing onions it’s important to consider storage quality. Even onions we’ve bought from the store in years past have not lasted long, so I imagine poor storage quality is part of most types of onions likely because of the high water content. In our area, many people have stopped planting large onions altogether because of this reason. We prefer to have our own seed and not rely on having to purchase it from some unknown place.
This year is our second time not changing our clocks. The first time was a few years ago when we didn’t change into daylight savings time. That was a bit difficult because the period of time was so long and over the summer when there were lots of things going on and meetings happening. We had to keep one clock on the “correct” time in order to remember when events were. That became quite burdensome because we were always checking and re-checking the time. Again in November 2020, we stayed on daylight savings and I wrote about that experience.
This year, we stayed on Daylight savings time but for different reasons.
Our reasons are threefold:
We’re tired of doing something that doesn’t make any sense to us and actually causes stress.
It’s only for four months.
We’re ultimately removing ourselves from the system.
The first reason is actually something that I have heard many people talk about, that changing the clocks is silly, doesn’t make sense or doesn’t mean what it used to mean. Some people like having more light in the evening and I can understand that. That’s why we chose to stay on daylight savings and not the alternative.
Since four months is only a short amount of time it also assists in completing this challenge. It’s literally only four months. Why change the time?
Some of you will wonder about our second reason – leaving the system. This is something that most homesteaders consider and want to do to a degree, just by being homesteaders. It essentially means that ultimately we want complete self reliance and are no longer willing to participate in what is solidified in our minds as a negative way of living. Not changing the clocks is only one small part of the program. I have recently eliminated my credit card, which was our only one, since my husband never had one. Actually, he did get one many many years ago, but never used it, and then got a bill for a large sum. He promptly called the company, got the charge removed and cancelled the card.
Other things we are doing to leave the system are providing all our own food and water, and at some point in the future clothing as well. Anything that is connected to large businesses is being eliminated. maybe slowly but surely. We patronize local businesses only and if we can’t get it there we do without. Even this blog is part of what we don’t need. But I won’t address that topic further in this post since it would take up too much space to make clear what we’re doing.
For now, not changing our clocks has not caused any upheaval and we will continue to do this on our own. It actually looks like in the future, there will not be many events or meetings we will be needing to attend. Keeping track of the time to accommodate an outdated and frankly somewhat abusive system is not in our interest.
Happy self sufficiency!
Disclaimer: I am not a vet or canine nutritionist. I do have years of experience feeding my own dogs and wish to write about that experience. I have also taken canine nutrition and health courses to assist me in writing about dog health and help my own dogs. If you choose to use information I am writing about that is your choice and there is nothing wrong with that.
Taking Care Of Our Pets
Everyone wants to take care of their dogs the best they can. I believe this is true. There are as many different ways to do this as there are dogs and people and not one way is the best. You know your dog best and how he reacts to different things, including food.
In the situation that the world is in now, it will likely become more difficult to give our dogs the optimal care with the assistance of other people. Dog food is usually purchased from a store, or online and delivered. Supplements or special diets can be purchased from companies for dogs and some just rely on whatever they can get or maybe don’t really think about it much from day to day. No matter what you are feeding your dog(s), you most likely have to rely on others to get it.
What I’ve Been Feeding My Dogs
For several years now, I have been feeding my dogs real food – raw meat/organs, eggs, fish, bone broth, oysters etc. This is real food – not all raw, but real. I don’t feed anything processed or with additives.
When we realized that we will most likely be isolating ourselves to try and prevent sickness for the next few months, we were not worried about how to feed ourselves and our dogs because we have been prepared for months and even years for something like this. It is just part of being a homesteader – to be prepared – especially if we have animals that we need to look after.
We are currently feeding three dogs: Ira – 86lbs, Emmett – 55lbs and JoJo – 43lbs
It’s important to know how much your dog weighs and SHOULD weigh when thinking about how to feed him in an emergency. The truth is, eating less is more healthy for both humans and dogs. Many dogs are overweight as is and this is not good for their health or longevity.
My dogs normally get two meals a day:
9 am Breakfast – raw meaty bones, mostly chicken, sometimes duck or rabbit with amounts according to each dog’s weight.
4 pm Supper – meat, organs, occasionally meat with bone depending on the dog and what he/she needs that day, supplement food ( eggs, oysters, bone broth, greens and other vegetables, some fruits that we grow ourselves – raspberries, apples, Saskatoon berries and herbs etc.)
In the evening before bed, all the dogs get a small treat, usually cooked meat or fruit. I brush their teeth 5 night out of the week with coconut oil.
As an aside, the reason we have dogs is for livelihood. Ira is a guard dog. He protects me and my husband and makes sure wild animals don’t encroach on our property and garden. He is here for a reason. The other two dogs also have jobs. They and I (along with Ira), work together to make a living online as teachers of working dog training to help others. Both my Australian Shepherds do many activities including herding and watchdogging. We don’t just have dogs for fun. We feed them the best we can in order to keep them the healthiest we can so they can do their jobs. We work together. By feeding them as much real and species appropriate food as possible, I feel I can achieve this.
What Will Change In An Emergency
So now that we’ve gone over that, things will change in the next few months. Currently we ourselves have to limit going out to get meat for the dogs, as in we don’t go out at all anywhere there are people. I have always had a good supply of food for both ourselves and the dogs on hand. I try to keep each food item at a certain level and not take from that unless we can replace it immediately.
Because we don’t actually know how bad things will get, we may not be able to replace what we had. We need to be prepared for anything – even the most serious situation that we can think of. When you prepare for these things, you will have peace of mind because you don’t have to worry about where the next meal will come from. This means being able to grow or produce some of your own food and your dog’s food, as well as have enough on hand before things get worse, for whatever the issue is.
It is unfortunate that in today’s world many people don’t even know how to cook their own food anymore. Going out to eat is the norm and makes people feel rich and decadent. The beauty of living rurally or in small towns as we do, is that you are most likely able to access space for a garden and more easily in contact with local farmers/ranchers. Also, there is easier access to local butchers. We in fact, live right net door to a butcher business.
There should not be a longterm shortage of dry or canned dog food during this crisis (but we really don’t know for sure). There may be a bit of difficulty finding food locally for a short time on occasion.
What we plan on doing is supplement dry dog food, which we had picked up weeks ago from the grocery store, with as much local food and our own produce as possible. I had a feeling a few months ago that we would possibly need some extra food, so we made the decision to by dry dog food. Since all the types of food that were available to us were pretty much the same – grocery store brands – it didn’t really matter what we picked. We weren’t going to be able to make a trip to the city to get better quality dry food ( if you can say there is such a thing), so this would have to do.
If we run out of real food for the dogs, I will start feeding dry food with supplements.
My plan is to feed the dogs dry food for each of the two meals and alternately add in mixed blended greens and herbs from our garden, sardines, canned salmon, raspberries and Saskatoon berries from our garden, oysters and eggs.
Any green plant fed to a dog MUST be either cooked or pureed, otherwise the nutrients will not be absorbed by the dog’s system. There is some good research showing that adding some vegetables to a dog’s daily meals decreases the risk of cancer. For more info on this please refer to planetpaws.ca
or check out this video from that website on vegetables in a dog’s diet:
If things get really bad, we have a reserve of meat. We have livestock for our own emergency meat. I won’t discuss this here as it won’t pertain to any of you who do not have the capability to raise your own livestock. But this is something that could be looked at for the future if and when things settle down and the opportunity to do so becomes available.
The Most Important Thing
It is crucial to be prepared in advance. Most people are not and live from pay check to pay check. I have seen so many posts and comments about how people cannot prepare for emergencies because they can’t afford it. This is either an avoidance tactic or complete ignorance. There are so many things that money is spent on that are not important. Even buying just one item each pay check over a year will add up to peace of mind.
Panicking and hoarding means you are NOT prepared. We are not talking about that. Being prepared means getting to that point over a long period of time in an organized and calm fashion. It also means getting the best information you can and doing the best you can in a crazy situation.
Being prepared for the dogs is important, in order to give them the best care possible.
I have expressed it before – garlic is our most important and possibly most valuable garden plant. The reason for this are the health benefits and the flavour it provides to meals and the ability to sell our excess at decent good return.
Over the years of garlic production we have become proficient at growing it, using it and in making garlic powder. We have had almost complete harvest failures some years as well as amazing production in others.
We even have our own DIY Dehydrator which works amazing well and we have used it for several years.
The Taste Test
This year we planted four different cultivars – Tibetan, Siberian, Marino, and Russian Red. The first three were adapted to our area (prairie adapted) and the Russian garlic was obtained from a different province that is normally much warmer than ours. Guess what the growing results were.
The three prairie adapted cultivars were fabulous producers. Not super large bulbs but consistent in the number of cloves and in size and colour. Most of the Russian garlic ended up wormy and rotting. This then, was the first type we made into powder since they would not last much longer.
We kept a few cloves of the Russian cultivar and did a raw garlic taste test to determine hotness and other flavour qualities.
To evaluate flavour we had to use something to act as what I call a hotness “disperser” – bread and butter – to prevent the garlic from burning the mouth and throat too much. Toast could also be used here.
I repeated the taste test twice, trying one cultivar (one whole clove) per day, twice. I used the same kind of bread and butter and ate the whole clove on one side of the bread so that I had the rest of the bread to absorb the hotness if needed.
We had interesting results.
The cultivars we naturally thought would be hotter were the Tibetan and Siberian, and naturally the Marino should be less hot, simply based on the names. The Russian garlic turned out to have a decent amount of hotness and residual burning after finishing, likely due to its larger size and higher moisture content (I really have no idea, I’m just guessing here)
The hottest and best tasting garlic for me was THE MARINO! I had read somewhere on the internet that if you can grow only one garlic, grow Marino. Maybe this had influenced my taste buds and therefore my decision? I really have no idea.
The Marino was hottest on the first bite and had lingering hotness throughout the tasting. The Siberian and Tibetan both were not super hot at first taste, then got a bit hotter and then decreased in temp right after that. By the end of all the taste tests, no cultivar had residual burning that I have experienced with the Russian garlic in other years.
I am going to attribute the garlic hotness or lack of it to growing conditions. We had a very dry year, but all the garlic seemed less hot to me. I guess it could also be me used to eating raw garlic?
So the hotness was the main concern in this taste test. If there are other ways to test garlic flavour I do not know them. So for now, the differences in hotness is what we have determined about the garlic we grow, and can relate that information to customers.
If you can stand it, try a garlic taste test yourself. I would like to compare to grocery store garlic sometime!
Up until about seven or eight years ago, I felt that I needed to be externally acceptable to others, especially those in my age group. Probably most if not all of you have felt the same way at some point. For me, this came through in the form of wearing trendy clothes, having to keep my hair a certain way and wearing makeup. If I didn’t, I would feel stressed that I was not socially acceptable.
The whole trying to fit in thing started when I was in elementary school and continued on through high school. In university, I held back a bit more with the makeup, but still obsessed about hair and clothes. When I reached my over 40 years, I realized that the thing that was most important to me about fashion and style is that I need to be able to be relaxed at all times in my clothes. This means that I need my clothes and hair to be clean and comfortable and that’s pretty much it.
Personal style is not normally influenced by fashion, but it can be. By today’s standards, you should be able to wear pretty much whatever you want, no matter what the trend is at the time. Trends are there simply for big clothes companies to make money. They change the styles randomly so that you have to buy new stuff whether you need it or not.
For myself now, I wear pretty much what I want when I want. Hair and skin care for this homesteader has also had a transformation to the frugal and basic kind. I don’t have time to waste on trying to make other think I’m acceptable.
Almost a year ago, I decided I want to live in an even more “eco-friendly” or sustainable way. This means I want to use as few personal care products as possible and the ones I do use are basically things I can make myself.
I started a while back by committing to only buying products that are made in North America. I actually used this rule for buying things for the home to start and continued it over into the beauty product area as well.
Homestead Skin Care
My first discovery of frugal, eco-friendly skin care was done by accident. I was trying to get to the point of having cold showers in the morning. I started by using a hot and then cold cloth on my face and neck to get used to the idea of shockingly cold water. This routine had the result of eliminating any pimples I had been getting on my chin and forehead. If I stopped the face cloth routine for more than a week, I would start getting pimples again. This was something I had not anticipated but was pleased about because it solved an issue that was somewhat annoying.
This became my skin care routine and I didn’t have to buy anything new. When I was in high school I went through the buying of skin care products because it seemed like the thing to do. Some girls and women are certain they can’t get along without numerous facial products. I wonder whether putting all kinds of chemicals on one’s skin is not part of the problem.
Shortly after I started this routine, I decided to try the “no shampoo” thing again. I had attempted it a year and a half ago but quit when I saw that it was not working as fast as I had read it should.
This time around, I didn’t stop. The initial result were the same – my hair stayed oily for months and still has periods of being heavily greasy, but there are fewer of those times now than before. When I think about it now, it makes sense that some people will have trouble with this method, especially if you have spent decades washing your hair every day with shampoo. In my case it was well over 40 years of stripping the natural oils from my scalp. That can’t be a good thing.
In order to make this work, you need to find the right combination of water temperature, brushing and combing that works for your hair. What was described on informational websites about hair did not work for me. I was not going to buy the recommended “boar” brush due to the fact the I could not find one that was made in North America. Instead I use a vintage wooden handled plastic bristled brush I found here in the house made in France.
The brush does need to be washed regularly as you can see in the picture above to remove the oil that is removed from your hair by brushing.
My hair has now started to slow down on the oil production and I have also become better at caring for it in its natural state. It is not shiny (fake) and “flyaway” like it was when I removed the oil from it, but it is also not as greasy at the end of the day as when I was washing with shampoo daily. It was definitely over-producing oil then. Sometimes I felt I needed to wash it twice, morning and evening, to get rid of the oil.
Other benefits of this hair care method are that I don’t have to use conditioner now, I never get “statiky” hair anymore or knotted hair from the wind, AND my split ends are gone.
I do have to be a bit more creative at times about how I wear my hair because it is thicker and still shows a bit of oil in certain styles. But I never have bad hair days anymore which is amazing to me. It used to drive me nuts because my hair was so flyaway when shampooed that it would mostly just be impossible to keep in one place. Now it stays where I put it. Surprisingly, there is no odour in hair washed well with water, or at least with mine anyway. Oh, and my scalp is not itchy all the time either like it used to be when I used shampoo – another benefit.
So, my homestead “beauty” routine is as natural as I can make it. As for traditional beauty products, I can’t stand the smell of nail polish anymore so I don’t wear it and I still have a few dozen unfinished bottles of it. With regards to makeup, a few years ago I started getting watery eyes from anything I put on or near them or any scent that was in foundations. This makes it easy not to wear any makeup at all.
No makeup, no perfume, no purchased hair or skin products. That is my homestead skin and hair care routine.
Happy Homesteading (and not wasting money and time on beauty products)!
Last month I told you about how we are attempting to spend less money on food. The result of our February experiment was that we spent $280 for the month which ended up being $109 less than February last year (2017). It’s also consistent with the $10 a day spending experiment that I have been doing to see if it is possible to eat well for $10 per day for two people. It IS possible.
The main things that made this possible were the following:
Eating in season. We bought blueberries when they were in season in the summer at a great price and then froze them for use now. We also froze most of our own fruit, including currants, raspberries and apples.
Not buying convenience foods. This is an obvious one. Convenience foods may look cheaper to start with but they are used up faster because the quality is poor. You end up spending more because you have to repurchase more often.
Eating a bit less. There is nothing wrong with eating less. I found this quite liberating. We were eating better quality food, and therefore not needing to eat as much because there were no cravings.
Cooking everything for ourselves. This is a must. I have found that eating at restaurants is actually not that fun for me. It’s really for convenience. I prefer the food that we make for ourselves, for the taste, the control of the quality, and time spent together. I know where the food is coming from and what goes in it.
Having a garden. Naturally, growing your own food is going to save you a bundle. It is more work for sure, but the quality of the food, at least in our case, is superior to anything we’d buy from the store.
The Coming Months
We are continuing our spending freeze on food for the next two months at least to see if it can be kept up. We are definitely going to run out of potatoes this year but that should be about it and not sure if we’ll buy from the store when we do. We’d only buy if they are locally grown potatoes so we can’t predict if there will be many or any to buy in the spring.
Our source for meat is local, which provides us with grass fed beef, humanely slaughtered on farm, so we don’t need to buy meat at the store. This also saves us money. Even though we don’t eat much meat, I eat it for the energy it provides me. Not every one needs to do this but by the same token, not everyone can be healthy by eating only plants.
As an aside, but following the nutritional topic, our dogs eat a raw meat and whole food diet (no kibble or canned dog food). We are able to keep their meal costs to $100 per dog per month (more or less, as the dogs are different sizes and eat accordingly) which is extremely good.
So, all in all, our experiment is providing us with an interesting and useful pastime with a very good result so far.
This fall we had an abundance of apples. 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. You can use just the cores and peels for this if you use the main part of the apple for something else. If I were to use cores, I would remove the seeds before I used them, just to be sure that they don’t break down in the vinegar and leach anything into it.
I cored and chopped enough to fill the jar put in a honey/water brine. I weighed down the apples with a regular drinking glass with a shooter glass inside that. Use anything that fits in the mouth of the jar you use. Make sure you use a glass or ceramic weight and not metal or wood.
It bubbled 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. This removes any pulp and residue from the liquid.
I thought it should be a bit clearer than it turned out, but the smell was right so I continued on with it. The picture below is the final liquid after the filtering.
I am storing it on a shelf in the corner of the kitchen out of the light in a glass casserole dish.
The mother of vinegar will settle out from the liquid. The “mother” is the substance that you would use to create new vinegar from just juice. It is slimy looking stuff, kind of like a jelly that will settle in the bottom of the bowl of vinegar.
To store in the fridge, it is necessary to put a cover on it 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.
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 usable vinegar. Right now I am giving it to the dogs by the teaspoon with their meals, as it has benefits for them as well.
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.
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 and the convenience of them. 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.