Tag Archive | do it yourself

Growing Your Own Seasonings

I have always thought that self-sufficiency is extremely important. Even more than that – it’s the most important thing you can do especially if you are one who likes to prepare for emergencies or in today’s world, eventualities.

On our homestead, we have been able to replace all store bought seasonings for cooking with what we grow ourselves on our gardens. This has always been my goal and I have had to do some creative adjustments to recipes to accomplish what we have. Even so, it is very rewarding to have grown and saved as much of what flavours our food as possible so far. Sometimes we can substitute and other times we do without what is called for in the recipe. Either way, it has been working well in flavouring the foods we eat.

Below are the ways I procure our culinary seasonings.

Seeds

Some herbs or seasonings are made by crushing seeds. The main one we use is Coriander (Cilantro). Also useful are dill seed, fennel and caraway. The latter two I have not always had success growing here in our climate, but dill and coriander always work out. I often use coriander to flavour cookies. The crushed seed gives a lemony flavour to sugar and shortbread cookies. You definitely don’t need lemon peel if you have coriander seed.

Drying

This is the way I save most of our seasonings. This year I have added Dill to the drying rack. Drying is easier than freezing in that there is less work and fewer containers needed. Drying does alter that taste for some thing a bit but not enough to prevent me from using it as a way to preserve food. We used to freeze our dill, but this year we’re going to try to get down to one freezer only. This will make it easier if we have to use the generator in the warmer seasons as our meat supply is kept there. We are also not planting broccoli, kale, or spinach for three reasons. We don’t really eat them, they are not that prolific in our garden and storing them, which is done in the freezer, takes up too much room.

This will be the second year that we are drying our multiplier onions. I did a small amount of them a few years ago and the result was excellent. Multipliers are small and very strong that grow in a bunch from one seed onion. Our multipliers are adapted to our area and have been growing here for decades in the family. We don’t grow or buy any other kind. They also store in bags all year long so drying is not critical for preservation but I’m doing it anyway because it creates a slightly different flavour in the onion than one not dehydrated. It also takes up less room.

Freezing

It’s easy to freeze many herbs, but not all. Parsley is the first one that comes to mind and we use it a lot. We use dill even more than parsley and it’s easy to chop and freeze. The only thing about parsley is that you have to harvest it early or it will have loads of aphids. Cilantro does not freeze well although some people make cilantro ice cubes for use in chili and possibly other dishes. Other herbs are frozen this way as well, but you could likely do it any way you find that works for you.

Substitutions

I have found that I am able to substitute herbs for most of the meals or recipes I make, or I do without them completely. An example of this is chili.  To replace the normal chili seasoning (cumin, cayenne, paprika) I use garlic powder, oregano, dried onions (which could be powdered)  and crushed hot peppers in place of cayenne. If you have those, you don’t need cayenne. I also add our own ground coriander seed, which I actually think is the most important herb for flavouring chili. I don’t use paprika or cumin because I can’t make or grow those myself. Some might not like chili without paprika and that is fine. My goal is, as I said, to be completely self sufficient with food, so this method of food preservation fits in well with that goal.

We don’t miss the other herbs and spices because we haven’t had them for years and it is more important to us to use our own. I want to be able to rely on what we have rather than running to the store for every little thing. The other reason is that we know where the herbs are grown and what is done to them before they get to our plates. Nothing is added or put on them for any reason.

Marjoram

Growing Your Own

In growing our own plants, we have been able to save seed for the following herbs: Summer Savoury, Thyme, Green Basil, Lime Basil, Mint, Chive, Winter Onion, Cilantro/Coriander, Oregano.

I often use Savoury as a substitute for Oregano and actually I prefer Savoury. Oregano does overwinter here but the flavour is not consistently strong, so I used the savoury instead.

Other herbs that we have not reached our self-sufficiency goal with are:  Sage, Lemon Balm, Parsley and this year I’m trying Marjoram again. It is also a substitute for Oregano but is sweeter. The only one of these that we use in any amount is sage with parsley a close second. With the growth there is on the Marjoram, it looks like we’ll get seed out of it as well.

We have had a couple of parsley plants go to seed in the past. Unfortunately, I forgot to check for seed from it, but at least I know what saving seed form parsley entails exactly. I have kept parsley over winter indoors and then planted it out in the spring before and that worked but they need a deep pot for the root and a bit of extra light, other wise the leaves do not green up enough.

The majority of our herbs are grown in containers with the exception of basil and parsley. When they are not transplanted out there is no transplant shock and you will have an earlier and more substantial harvest. Basil and Parsley are large plants with parsley hating to be restricted in it’s roots. I put most of the basil and all the parsley in the garden. There is at least a two week set back in growth because of that.

DIY

It’s no secret that I’m close to obsessed with self-sufficiency. In my opinion, which doesn’t matter but I’m going to say it anyway, more people should be concerned with being more self-sufficient. There is too much of a reliance on big companies for our food. I can’t really imagine what a good point for that would be other than it puts our food supply at risk. I have been saying that for many years. Since it’s so easy to grow herbs in containers, I encourage everyone to do it, and don’t waste any more money on store bought, irradiated seasonings grown who knows where. It’s crucial that people take more control of their own food right now.

Drying basil.

Why We Don’t Buy “Seasonal” LED Lights

I have an issue with the LED lights that are used at this (Christmas) and other times of year.

We have a box full of strings of LED lights that don’t work. Some of them have been around here for several years but the majority of them didn’t work almost from the very start. This is highly annoying.

And extremely wasteful.

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The lights in the box do not work and have to be thrown out.

I have decided that this wastefulness will no longer continue here at our house.

We put up all of the lights that work in an acceptable display. However, half of the lights we used were NOT LED lights but the old incandescent lights. THESE WORK.

The plan is to keep using the lights – no matter what kind we have –  until they are all gone or don’t work. We won’t be replacing them.

This is part of our contribution to the earth of reducing consumption. Yes, I know we are using power to light these up, but we are not going to throw the good ones away just because of that. We have them and we will use them.

Then we won’t buy anymore.

I feel that throwing away the lights that don’t work is MORE wasteful than the power we use to light them.

Two days ago, someone told me a woman who lives here in the village told her she watched as a couple across the street put up their lights on their house. She related that every time a string of lights didn’t work – INTO THE GARBAGE THEY WENT. EIGHT TIMES.

There was no attempt to fix them, they just got chucked.

I did some research and found many articles on how to fix these lights but they did not mention that almost every set has a different end and DOES NOT FIT into the socket. We have tried and failed every time. And we are talking about Ernie failing to fix something which just doesn’t happen.

This is wasteful and if I may say kind of, almost, unethical to make a product that can’t be fixed and gets thrown away when it doesn’t work. And then on top of that saying that they are more earth-friendly.

NONSENSE.

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Ira the Kuvasz playing in the light of the Christmas lights display in the back yard.

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.

 

Make Homemade Iced Cream

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.

Redecorating Without Spending

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, such as it is. 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 rules that I follow when redecorating with no money.

Use what you have. There is an unbelievable force in our society that tells people to buy new things and if you don’t you’re not good enough and you may end up feeling guilty for not doing it. We actually don’t need to do that unless there is a real need for something like a vacuum cleaner, a new shower head, or a large appliance. Most other things we buy we can do without, especially if they are from stores that sell cheap things in large quantities. You know the ones I’m talking about.

There are so many things that can be bought nowadays that break right away, look cheap and provide you with no unique qualities for decorating. I avoid these things as much as possible. Unless I already have them, I don’t include them in your redecorating. Mass produced cheap knick knacks and even household items often have no real thought behind their production other than to make a quick dollar.

Your best bet for decorating is to use what you already have. I can pretty much guarantee that you have stuff in storage that you can use, no matter what it is: fabric, craft items, yard sale finds, old stuff, new stuff, almost anything.

To reuse things you have, you can follow some basic principles for no money re-decorating:

Don’t always leave out something or get rid of something you dislike. Often, there will be an item that you dislike or that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere in your house. Don’t necessarily get rid of it.  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 see if an object or placement of an object grows on you. Sometimes even a few days is needed to make a final decision.

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An example of something I disliked was the white (yellow) pot on the right. It looked kind of yucky but because it is vintage, I just couldn’t get rid of it. Then I paired it with it’s green friend on top of the stereo speakers and it worked!

I don’t 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. Below you can see a small display I have on the top of my work desk. All items are finds, the green candle holder from a thrift shop, the glass holder and plant pot were already mine. They look good where I put them together even though they are completely different objects and unlikely partners.

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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. Just offsetting one thing can also work wonders.

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In the picture above, you can see that the wall hangings are not quite in the right position – at least for me. This is a personal preference. Put or arrange things so that they are pleasing to your own eye. When I put these up, I used the nails that were already in the wall without moving them. If I want to fix them, I would move the  painting down a small amount. that would be all I have to adjust to make it look better.

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.

And there you have it. My simple but effective, (I think), ideas for redecorating without spending money. Everyone has a different style and preferences. Make sure to use yours when you are working on your house and it will always work out well for you.

Freezing In-Season Fruit

At this time of year to save some money, we buy fruit, which is sometimes on sale, wash and freeze it for the winter. We do this instead of buying frozen from the grocery store in the winter. By doing this we know exactly where the fruit is grown and how it was processed (by us).

We do this with blueberries, Saskatoon berries (otherwise known as serviceberries) and sometimes strawberries if we can get them locally. To freeze them we use plastic honey containers as you can see in the photos. We feel this packaging method is acceptable since the berries do not contact too much of the plastic. Not as much as the honey that originally comes in them anyway.

This is what we are currently doing on the homestead right now as boring as it may seem.

blueberries

We usually buy about two dozen packages of blueberries and about the same in strawberries. The Saskatoons have to be picked, which we do locally. And then we stuff ourselves with fresh berries for a few days! That’s it!

Soggy Beets? No Worries.

Every year we have a good crop of beets even though we don’t plant many. For some reason they grow and grow.  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.

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Here’s what it looks like:

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The partitions were put in many years ago by Ernie and his dad.

As usual, we left the beets until now and they got squishy. This happens when the air around the beets (and potatoes, carrots etc) is taking the moisture out of  the vegetable because it is too dry. We did put the beets in pails with newspaper, which works not bad to keep the ones that are lower down from getting soft, but were still left with many soggy beets.

What To Do With Soggy Beets?

First, here are a couple of things we can do to make beets last longer in storage.

The first thing is keeping them at the appropriate temperature. Also AS important for good beets is being at the correct humidity. Being at the right temperature is something that most people will realize right away. Obviously, root vegetables have to be kept very cool. But lack of humidity is what causes root vegetables to get soft. The air around them is too dry and sucks the moisture out of them.

The beets need to be between 3 and 7 degrees C and the air to have high humidity like 95%.

It is difficult to keep the humidity high in an open basic vegetable storage area, such as our cellar. You could use a humidifier, but that could be time consuming and you are continuously using power to keep it running which when it comes to beets, is likely not worth it.

If you have some containers without air holes you can put the beets in,  interspersed with crumpled up newspaper for air circulation. Occasionally mist the top of the beets to add moisture but be careful not to use too much or it could cause rot on the surface of the beet. In containers with air holes you won’t need to put newspaper as much if at all but misting is still a good idea, especially on the top. Don’t get the beets moist near the bottom or again they could rot.

Remedy For Soggy Beets

For beets that have already gone soft you can soak them in water until they get plumped up again to a degree.

Uses For Soggy Beets

If you’re beets are really soggy and you want to get rid of them, you can make soup immediately, eat some and then freeze the rest for later. If you make beet pickles, make sure you soak them in water for a bit since most people prefer crisp pickle. It won’t always work perfectly but it’s better than throwing them out.

We make beet soup or Borshch (traditional Ukrainian pronunciation) (it’s not “borsht” (anglicized pronunciation).

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. After it is done cooing, you can add cream or not.

Beets are not a super versatile vegetable but are nice for a few things. Mainly, proper storage is what will prevent soggy beets. Otherwise, quick usage will help you save what you can of them.

Plywood Bathroom Sink Stand

Our bathroom has been in pieces for 2 years. It has taken us that long to dismantle, design, choose, and buy the stuff we needed to finish the project.

Actually, I am not really complaining. Our favourite thing when doing a project is to do it slowly. And that we did. We did that because we didn’t want to make any mistakes.

In the picture below, Ernie is varnishing the sink stand. He made it out of Maple plywood. We stained it with dark stain and then varnished it with water soluble varnish.

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The next picture is the bathroom mostly done. The sink was purchased at a hardware store and was really the only choice we had and it was in stock in the store. If we had to do it again, I would either order one that we knew was eco-friendly – if such a thing exists, or we would make our own out of something recycled. The plumbing is not done in the picture, that is why there is a rag hanging out of the wall. Obviously the sink tap is not cheap. We have found that often you get what you pay for so we spent some money on that.

The ceramic wall tiles were left overs at the store and they had enough for this surround. Ernie bought pine panelling for the wall behind the sink and a small section on the other end of the bathtub. This will be varnished with the water-soluble varnish as well. Just as an aside, the mirror in the picture was salvaged and Ernie made the frame from scrap wood. I varnished it.

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So from a homesteading perspective, I feel we did the best we could on the recycling/reusing side and the not spending too much side. Ernie did all the work himself and did it at a relaxed pace, not stressing himself out at all. It took several weeks but was worth the wait.

Eating Well On Little Money Part 1

Last year I started a project in which I was trying to figure out, if you start with NOTHING, and spend only $10 a day (and you live in the city and don’t have a garden) can you eat well?

In the documentary “Food Inc” there was a family that believed they couldn’t eat well because good food was too expensive, yet they went to a fast food restaurant for supper. They spent time at the grocery store lamenting how expensive everything was, but yet had money to buy ONE meal for each person in the family. I would think that taking $15 or $20 that they spent on fast food for the family ($5 per person) and putting it towards actual food would be more productive and cheaper in the long run.

This is what I am trying to show with my experiment: to demonstrate that it can be done, that two adults CAN eat well on $10 a day, and likely even less.

How To Start

I used the local Co-op food store and their sales flyer each week for 4 weeks. The food at the co-op here is more expensive than larger grocery chains in the big city, but my point is to be able to shop where you are and still eat well. The food had to be non-processed (food that has multiple ingredients but could be canned or frozen if it only has one ingredient.), and thus good food. Some was on sale and some wasn’t.

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 left over from previous purchases of food (ketchup, mustard, oregano, basil, garlic, etc) 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, Bananas, Potatoes, Onion, Barley. Cost: $10.00

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

One may wonder how this food can sustain you for days but what actually happens is that you build up your stock of food over the week and then weeks, and you are able to continue eating well day after day. Maybe the first day or two isn’t ideal, but when you are considering eating nothing as opposed to this, it looks ok. And fast food always costs more.

So the point of all this is to, again, show that you can eat well for little money IF you can use your creativity and figure out how to use the food that is available to purchase. I figure it is often the lack of knowledge in how to cook real food that contributes to eating poorly. Just my thoughts.

day 2 food

DIY Dog Groomer Home Workspace

My 4 HP High Velocity dog dryer is outrageously loud. I bought it when that was all you could get. In fact, they now make HV dryers that hardly make any noise at all – at a nice high price. I am not going to throw this dryer out and buy a new one. The noise however is unbearable and in the winter I can’t put it outside to dampen the sound.

So Ernie and I came up with a way to save the dryer. He cut a hole in the drywall that separates the workshop from the dog room and put the dryer hose through the hole. The dryer now sits outside the dog room and only the hose comes through.

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Imagine having to have a motorcycle or snowmobile revving its engine in the same small room as you. This is what it was like before this change.

Ernie found some old vacuum hose at the dump and that’s what is used to go through the wall and attach to the original dryer hose. The dryer and hose is now out of sight and in a contained area so it is not an eyesore.

We used electrical tape to secure the hose to the hooks on the wall but I will be covering that with something a bit more appealing to the eye.

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Finally the hose is long enough now that I can use it properly. The pic below shows it hanging from the ceiling onto the grooming table.

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So, all of this is just really the start of changing over to a more eco-friendly business and way of living. Some may think it looks cheap and crappy but I believe it is a state of mind. We take our time to finish projects and eventually it will look better. If we expect everything to be new and cookie cutter, then old buildings will be torn down and good stuff will be shown in the garbage. Not here anymore.