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Saving Oregano

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.

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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.

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This oregano bed has a lot of grass in it. Another reason to remove it.

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.

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We’re Building A Greenhouse

Our main focus on the village homestead is to reduce consumption of stuff we don’t need. That doesn’t include what we eat though.

We are actually increasing the amount of vegetables, including herbs that we grow ourselves. This means we need more containers for planting, growing medium and trays to put the containers in. We also need more space.

This year we decided it was time to have a greenhouse to support these plants. Since finally starting a business dealing with herbs and garlic, I felt it was now unavoidable to build one.

Ernie drew up a couple of plans and looked in a few books and we designed a greenhouse based on where it will be situated and the materials we had. We wanted to use as much of what we already had as possible.

Using What We Have

Over the years, Ernie has saved old windows that were replaced on the house, all kinds of wood, pieces of siding, nails and screws, and many other things that might come in handy for building. The only things that we were missing for this project were the concrete for the footing (which we didn’t really need), the roofing, which will be purchased fibreglass panels and some miscellaneous pieces of wood like some studs and a piece of plywood.

The door is even the old front door from the house. Nothing goes to waste.

We chose a slanted roof because it would be more efficient for collecting water. The tall side is north facing and has the door but no windows. There will be enough light from the other three sides. Rain water will be collected on the one side or go into the raspberries in the ground around the greenhouse. Water will not collect on the north side where we will be entering.

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My plan is to grow certain plants in the greenhouse all summer. These will be the tomatoes that I want to save seeds from in particular (heirloom), and some herbs that need the heat.

Since the building is not completed yet, I will be posting again on the progress and then on how I am filling it up with plants. Ernie figures it should be done over the weekend.

Vintage Knitting Book Is Gold

Today’s vintage item is my knitting book printed in 1947. This book was my mother-in-law’s and was here when I moved in. Likely she bought it at a yard sale or auction, along with a bunch of other things, but we really don’t know where it came from.

Either way, it is well used.

From a knitting standpoint this book is gold, but that is not the only reason I love it.

It is full of great information not only about knitting but about life at the time it was written. At the time of publication, women were getting back to being housewives, many after having worked while the war was on.

Some of the text in the book is quite dated with regards to how women were seen at that time in society. I do not feel bad about that, as I feel things have changed considerably, although maybe not completely.

My mother-in-law did not have her husband away during that time, and continued on in her role as a homemaker. She had just had her third child (out of 8) and did some knitting, mostly so that the children had clothes.

I wish I knew more about how she obtained this book, if she used it much and why she kept it. Unfortunately, access to that information is gone.

I use the book a lot. It stays in my current knitting project bag and I refer to it regularly. Even some of the patterns that do not seem practical are fascinating, like the knitted skirt. I can see how it would be to adapt this to a more modern look and usage.

I’m glad no one threw this book away. Things like this are sometimes at risk of being tossed just because they seem old and not relevant anymore, which couldn’t be more further from the truth.

There is always something contained within old or vintage things that is worth learning.

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How To Start Homesteading

Something that I have always believed about a person’s life is that each one of us has to do what is right for us (even when I was not doing that in my own life). Sometimes this means we do something right away without planning and sometimes it means we wait a bit and concentrate on what we have.

It is a personal choice.

What I do know for sure is that if you have an overwhelming sense of restlessness about something and you keep hesitating on taking action, something will eventually occur that will make a change for you.

Homesteading was that for me and I know it is for many others as well.

Homesteading to me means that you have a certain mindset, one that includes but is not limited to frugality, traditional lifestyle techniques, growing your own food, concern for nature and the environment.

Every homesteader has a different way of living and doing things. Some beliefs about homesteading however, are inaccurate. One of these is that a person needs to be in a certain place to do this.

Homesteading is a state of mind.

If you feel that you want to homestead or live a different more sustainable lifestyle you don’t need to move anywhere.

Just start right where you are.

As I have said before, homesteading (as a state of mind) is how person sees the world and what she/he does in it – NOT what property you own. It is a way of living more simply and being more deliberate about what you do. Sure, you can have goals for your future homestead but that does not need to stop you from working with what you have.

There are so many things that you can do right where you are that would technically qualify as homesteading activities.

A: Plant a garden.

No, you do not need to have any space outdoors at all. Start with planting your food flavourings – basil, oregano,thyme, multiplier onions etc in a container on your window sill. Buy some seed and a small bag of soil and plant them.

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B: Don’t throw everything away.

To grow a herb garden in your apartment, you don’t need to buy any fancy pots. Start by using plastic food tubs that no longer have food in them. I know you have those. Make smallish drainage holes on the bottom and find a reusable tray to put it on to catch the water.

C: Find multiple sources of income.

It is a really good idea to not have all your income come from one source. The reliance on one employer or one method of making money is what gets many people in trouble with regards to debt and making payments. The feeling of security from an employer can over ride sensible thinking.

An example of this is when I was working at the local nursing home. A woman who I worked with had applied for a position in the care home. She already had a job there but it was for fewer hours than the new position.

Since no one else applied, she figured she was a shoe-in for the position and she and her husband went and purchased a brand new truck on payments. The woman who was giving up her position changed her mind and kept it so the first woman didn’t get the position. She was very upset and blamed the other woman for her problem.

Relying on one source of income can be problematic when you spend more than you make or have payments that need a job to be paid.

D: Spend less.

This is a given for a homesteader. The point of homesteading (I feel) is to enjoy life more without spending on everything you see, to be more connected to nature and more conscious about what you are doing in day to day life. One of the things that we do here is buy only what we absolutely need. We rarely buy “wants” because we have trained ourselves to rethink a want before purchase.

For example, I have a large amount of yarn for knitting and crocheting. I don’t need anymore. Sure it’s tempting to purchase yarn for that really cool sweater. But I don’t need anymore sweaters. I have several. I am not trying to impress anyone with my new sweater, which is essentially what buying something you want is for.

E:  Don’t be influenced by those who are not doing.

When someone says something negative about your new pastimes (pickling, soap-making, herb growing…), ignore them. You need to keep in mind what your goals are and don’t listen to anyone else.

Never take advice from someone who’s life is not your ideal life.

Your life is your own and what someone else says about it is irrelevant because the comment is not related to you at all. It comes from that person’s own psychology.

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I remember one time my aunt had a older couple visiting. At the time I had really started to get into dogs and dog training. As we were standing around talking the man started picking on me about cleaning up after the dogs (poop-scooping).

He had spent his whole life shovelling livestock crap and he couldn’t understand how anyone would want to pick up any from any animal. He just couldn’t get over how I could do this.

This is not important information. This is purely emotional, based on how much he hated shovelling manure and that he spent his whole life at it. Therefore, to him, no one else should ever do that again.

In order to validate his own dislike of something, he tried to disempower me with negative questioning and ridicule and make himself feel better.

This is not information that would help me accomplish my goals.

I didn’t reply with any fabulous comment to clarify why I pick up dog poop, but his words did serve to make me feel bad – that maybe I was doing something wrong by liking dogs.

My response to him now would be something like “everyone is different” or “not everyone has a problem with poop”, or if I really wanted to be sarcastic perhaps “does that include dirty diapers?”.

Anyway, you get my point. Don’t listen to ANYONE who is talking negative about what you are doing. You are on your own path and must follow that.

So, the most important thing is not what you do to start homesteading. It is that you START and not worry about other people’s opinions of you or what you are doing.

If it is what you really want to do you will do it and if you don’t you will find out soon enough.

 

Junk Art Reduces Waste

I am currently collecting our garbage. I know that sounds weird but I hope to show that it will be useful and creative.

The Project Material

The stuff I am keeping from the garbage is anything that is plastic or ceramic and occasionally very small bits of metal. This includes plastic bags, packaging, anything that is ceramic and has broken or things that don’t work anymore.

I am also keeping plastic packaging from food like the wrapping from sardine or salmon cans, as long as it does not have food particles on it.

All of our wood is used for burning or is reused in another project and paper is recycled so there are never any of those materials. Also, some of the plastic we have can be recycled so I won’t be using it if it can be taken to the recycling depot.

There are many others who do junk art with plastic garbage, namely from the project “Washed Ashore” who collect plastic garbage from the ocean and create amazing sculptures with it. Check out their website.

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The plastic they use has mostly been broken up from larger items from sun and water exposure. They also have a larger supply to collect from.

I am simply going to use what we ourselves throw out and in the state that it is currently in for the most part. Though if I think I can make use of something by breaking it up I will do so.

The Result So Far

What I have noticed is that our garbage cans have hardly anything in them. Actually, it’s mostly dust. There are the occasional food wrappers that can’t be cleaned as well because I can’t use those in junk art.

The point of doing this is that I no longer want to participate in throwing out as much garbage as we do. We have already reduced our trash by a huge amount since we compost and recycle, but for me it is not enough.

I just can’t do it anymore.

The main thing that annoys me about garbage or things that we throw out is that a lot of it is good stuff that stops working. You can see in the box two flashlights – both in good condition – but neither work. Ernie tried to fix them but can’t.

Also, the green strap belongs to a headlamp for camping that now will only flash it red light. It won’t work properly. Very, very wasteful.img_0114

I am hoping that saving “useful” garbage will actually produce a good result – a nice junk art sculpture – but I really have no idea if it will or not. Either way, I am going to have a nice collection of stuff and keep it out of the dump for now.

 

I also hope that I will inspire myself to reduce what I buy and use even more. Since I am focusing more on experiences in life rather than things, this might help.

Oh, and this exercise (or blog post) is in no way trying to criticize anyone who doesn’t feel the same way I do about garbage. I don’t think I need to say anything because the amount of garbage speaks for itself.

Happy Reusing and Recycling.

 

“Primitive” Kitchen Time Saver

When we go to yard sales in the summer, there are usually certain things that interest me right away. My large-holed grater was one of those things.

For years I used one that had smaller holes for cheese and other stuff, but the way it grated things so small kind of annoyed me. Especially food that was a little moist.

Previously, we used the four sided grater with the handle on top but the handle broke off from use and I was not going to by a new one only to have the same thing happen.

When I found this at a local yard sale I grabbed it immediately. I don’t actually remember how much it was – 1 or 2 dollars. I thought that was a bit steep but I took it anyway.

I use this to grate cheese on pizza, beets and carrots for soup, chili and salad.

The large holes grate things quickly. That’s why it saves time when you are making food. It also helps reduce cutting yourself with knives, which I have been known to do.

I don’t think there is anything toxic about these older graters. If anyone knows anything please let me know. This one is not rusty.

Check out my video description if you feel like it below:

Sense Of Purpose

For my first post in 2017, again I will write about philosophical things. Instead of writing a “how-to” or describing what I have been doing on the homestead, I’m going to tell you about my “why”.

As some of you may know, in the last few month I have read a lot about productivity, motivation, making a contribution and success. The reason I have done that is because I have been contemplating everything I have been doing.

This thinking was initiated by the deaths of two of our dogs. Now, again I am writing about this because we put a third dog to sleep yesterday.

We have always had at least six dogs, partly because of my profession (dog training and grooming) and partly because I couldn’t say no to people who needed homes for their dogs, who then became my dogs. So dogs have been a big part of our lives.

I think I had so many dogs because it made me feel like I was connecting with the farm animals that I had wanted for so many years, but just can’t seem to get.

So in re-evaluating my life I find that all of these things – success, productivity, goals etc. – are useless and are likely not possible without a “why” or sense of purpose.

No matter what I think I might like to do in life, it always comes back to nature, animals and our environment. I can’t get away from that. It is what I loved as a child and teenager, what I studied in university and is reflected in choosing to live rurally.

This blog is already about being frugal, making your own stuff and growing your own food. but even more now I feel that it is crucial that I be more sensitive to nature and our environment.

I am even having a difficult time feeling good about driving a vehicle. I know that some driving in gas powered vehicles needs to be done for now but I don’t like it and I don’t care what other people do, I can barely do it.

Even though I feel I am “successful” in life because I am sticking to my values, I feel I could be more so.

So if any of you reading this can stand listening to more protecting nature or environment friendly blog posts, that’s great because that is exactly what you’re going to get.

I know I could use more of that.

 

Success To A Homesteader

Since it is my last blog post of 2016 I thought I would be a bit philosophical.

I have been reading a lot of articles on productivity, improving oneself etc. The idea that has made the biggest impression on me this year was that success is a subjective thing. It is defined by what YOUR OWN values are.

This is something I have never considered. I always saw the achievement of external goals to be success, things that other can see.

But your success is really defined by whether or not you are living in line with your personal values.

Now that I have realized this, I can see that I was successful in my personal endeavours all along, even though I thought I wasn’t getting anywhere. I don’t need more courses, certifications, money, or friends to be successful. I just need to live as close as I can to how I believe I should, focusing on what is most important to me.

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Sometimes it is difficult to screen off all of the noise there is out there, especially in internet-land. People you come in contact with including family members may all try to convince you that something else is worth your time and energy. I’ve had that issue with family for years, always thinking that I should be doing something else. What that does is take you away from what is really important to YOU.

The people who are trying to “help” you are simply projecting their own desire for a different life on to you. They likely think there is no hope for them so maybe they can influence you to do what they never could.

This is not something that one needs to be angry at. It is likely completely unconscious for them and something that needs empathy not criticism.

What I was able to do was separate my likes and dislikes and prevent all the “noise” from distracting me to pay attention to it. I find it uses more energy to follow what you don’t want then to ignore it and do your own thing. At least for me.

So when faced with someone’s idea for you or something that seems appealing, it’s a good idea to do a check-in with yourself to see if it is aligned with your value system and big picture.

I know I will be paying more attention to this everyday.

I hope that you all have time enough for yourselves and are able to move toward what you wish for yourselves in the future. Happy Homesteading.

 

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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ONE Tip For Redecorating Without Spending

We have two pink sitting chairs. Well, three if you count the one we gave to my aunt because we had no room for it. We actually bought the third one at a yard sale because it was the same kind as one we already have. We thought we could use it upstairs in front of the TV up there.

Turns out we didn’t.

This happens a lot, or HAPPENED a lot to us before we clued in to what we were doing. I have to say here that I have always been a frugal advocate, but somehow, as I have said in another blog post, I got a little lost.

Turns out we were buying things left and right and not realizing it.

Then came the chair issue. The two pink chairs in the sitting room are ugly and don’t really look good there. Both were in this house when I moved in. But when I figured out our recent spending habits were not sustainable, I decided that the chairs HAD to stay, no matter what they looked like.

After I had committed to keeping the chairs, I was starting to get a back ache from sitting the the one I usually sit in. It is not a lounging chair, just a temporary sitting chair. The one Ernie sits in is a recliner and very comfortable, even though it is pink.

So we switched the pink chair I was using for the black leather recliner that we had bought for Ernie several years ago that was in the other room.  We don’t need a new chair. Even though the black chair is leather (which actually prevents dog hair from sticking to it), and has some small tears and extra folds we are NOT GETTING A NEW CHAIR.

So the one redecorating tip is to just move stuff around, adding only things that you already have.

It is so easy to think that you need something new to fix a problem.

You probably have something in your house right now like that. It’s something that you don’t really like, is in too good of shape to get rid of it but you still feel it is out of place.

It started when I was a kid.

When I was a kid I used to rearrange my parents basement furniture and put things on the walls to decorate the area. My parents were not going to buy new stuff for the basement. But we had to play there and enjoy the place, so I decorated it.

I just simply moved stuff around until it looked fresh and interesting.

I did that again when I was living at my parents house and was in university. Redecorating weekly and sometimes daily was kind of like meditation for me. I didn’t BUY anything unless it was from a yard sale and under $1, I just used what we already had. This included dried flowers I made from our garden flowers and stuff I pulled from boxes that was stored.

So the lesson of this post is what many of you frugal and homesteading people already know. You don’t necessarily need to throw money at something to fix it. Just use your imagination.

Happy Homestead Redecorating Without Spending!