Recently I wrote a blog post (ok not really recently but sort of) talking about how we were going to do more travelling and I would work from wherever I was.
Well, talk about messing up plans.
Two weeks ago we went on one of these trips – a camping trip – to a campground not too far away, about three hours. Both Ernie and I didn’t really want to go but because I was determined to go and had done so much planning to do so, we went.
Right at the end of the trip, one of our dogs passed away. Not just any dog. Not one of the 15 year olds, but our youngest and most active and my best pal, Miranda. She had an infection that had gone unnoticed by us and undiagnosed by the vet. She was on a medication that depressed the immune system to stop her from chewing her feet. She picked up a bladder infection which spread. I was weaning her off the med when she crashed. We took her to the vet where we were and they tried their very best, but it wasn’t to be.
Needless to say, we realized that we were focusing on the wrong things. Should I say I was.
Taking care of what you have is so very important. Because of this tragedy in our lives, I have a push to make the transition to homesteading full time and staying put. I had mentioned in my earlier blog post how I had wanted to travel ever since I was small. I guess I was wrong. I also can no longer look (groom, pet sit, or train) after other people’s dogs, something you may have heard me discuss in the past, but now seems pressing to do.
It often takes something major to happen to snap us out of, or move us toward what we really should be doing. Unfortunately, this realization usually happens after the fact.
I know this all sounds kind of silly, but when you have a feeling about something, listen to it. Feelings are facts in my opinion. You don’t have to read everything I post, but just know that your support is very helpful. Thanks.
I can’t believe it but we actually have too many potatoes. We never have too many. But this year Ernie says that if we don’t use them soon or give some away we will have to waste them. He has already planted as many as we can room for in our garden so what ever is left must be eaten.
So, we are making potato dumplings otherwise known as perohy in Ukrainian or perogies in Polish. I’m sure most of you have heard about these. They are a carbohydrate lovers dream. Mashed potatoes with onion sometimes with cheese, mixed in or just plain cottage cheese, saurkraut, or prunes, put inside a white flour dough, boiled and then either fried with more onions or just eaten boiled with sour cream.
When we make them we just have a potato and onion filling. Nothing fancy.
This food is really just a way the homesteaders and pioneers used up fproduce so that it didn’t go to waste. So even though they taste amazing, they are traditional and useful.
The recipe is fairly simple. The dough is flour, water, and oil. The filling is really whatever you darn well feel like filling it with. Cut out dough circles, put in a dab of filling and PINCH closed.
It really couldn’t be more simple. But you can screw them up. If you don’t pinch them right, and add the right amount of flour, they will fall apart in the water as they are boiling. If you make the dough too thick, you will have huge perogies. If your dough is not stretchy enough you will have trouble with everything.
But even though there may be a failure in the procedure, everything is still edible. That is the beauty of this food. At worst you will end up with half moon pasta pieces. Delicious.
Again it seems like us homesteaders are focusing on food.
On a recent camping trip, a loaf of pre-sliced homemade raisin bread that we brought along ended up being moved back and forth between locations in the vehicle. This happened because we had more food than space to store it in and the bread got kicked out of the cooler. When we started out it was a fresh loaf and when we arrived home with it uneaten, it was in mostly tiny pieces.
I was able to salvage about 3 pathetic slices for breakfast after we got home. My first thought was to toss it, but then I quickly realized it could be made into bread pudding. I have never made or even eaten bread pudding, but have heard many people rave about it. So I used the whole loaf and made some up.
Luckily my husband eats anything, because after tasting it, I decided I am not a fan. This is not to criticize anyone who loves it, for sure. It is just my opinion. What I do love about it is that the bread does not go to waste, which is likely what happens a lot to bread that has become stale in most households. One of our goals in life is to waste nothing and live frugally, and I believe this is where bread pudding originated – from people living frugally and not wanting to waste anything. If the bread had not had raisins in it, I would have likely given it to the dogs over several days mixed in with their regular meals.
The recipe for bread pudding is simple – bread, cream or condensed milk, hot water, butter, salt, vanilla and eggs. You mix the milk and hot water, and pour it over the bread in a bowl. Once it cools to luke warm (so the eggs don’t cook in the bowl), you pour the mixture of eggs, vanilla, melted butter and a bit of salt into it, mix it up and bake at 350 F for 1 hour.
If I didn’t remember the recipe and needed to make this I would just make it to taste using the above ingredients. You don’t even really need vanilla. We used real maple syrup as a topping but anything sweet could work. The recipe called for a runny brown sugar topping but since we don’t have brown sugar in the house, the maple syrup was more than acceptable.
With the syrup, it tasted to me sort of like soggy french toast. This stuff could definitely pass for a breakfast and could be gussied up with more raisins and maybe even walnuts and cinnamon. I think I might have cooked it in a pan that was too high though. It did puff up quite a bit and would have overflowed if the pan had been smaller, but after cooling it shrank considerably. The texture was the part that I found the most unappealing.
I don’t foresee making this again for a very long time, mostly because I hope we don’t destroy bread this way again. If we have any dried out bread that is not in so many crumbs and pieces, I will attempt to make croutons, which I prefer to the sweeter and softer bread pudding.
So to clarify, there is really no need to waste anything, especially food. We go out of our way to use up anything that we haven’t eaten soon enough in different ways, like this bread, and of course we compost everything else that is inedible for us or the dogs. Our dogs really appreciate any real food we can give them that is not spoiled.
I have tried the pudding once again and doctored it up with walnuts and cream and I can now say that I like it.
This year we have decided not to put as big of a garden in. We are also not planting anything in the house for transplanting. This comes after months of re-couperating from work burnout and a change in focus for our homesteading plans.
I will always be what I consider to be a homesteader. This name can mean different things to different people. We have enough food put away to survive a disruption in the economy. We know how to do most things we would need to do if that happened, for ourselves. We still grow all our own vegetables. We make as many things as we can instead of running out and buying something to solve the problem. We are conscious of how we treat nature. This does not mean that we do everything perfectly, but we do our best. These are some of the things that help define what a homesteader is to me.
And now I have added another thing to the definition of a homesteader. Making a contribution to the world by being true to who you are. Homesteaders truly are this in my opinion. You have to really examine who you are and what you want in life in order to be a homesteader. For me, this means that we do not necessarily stay in one place all the time and will incorporate travel into our lifestyle. I feel that this is one way that I can contribute more to the world in a positive manner than what I have been doing.
On the employment front, I have realized that I was doing a job – dog boarding – that was not something that I had originally wanted to do. To me it was my “shadow” career. I was doing it because I felt I had to for whatever reasons. I had other dreams of travel and working, in part, as a location independent or what is known as a digital nomad. The wish to be more mobile has been part of my thinking since I was 5 years old, but I was too scared to follow that when I was old enough to take action.
I found the term “shadow” career in the book Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield It resonated with me because it felt like I was just “playing” at work and not being serious about it. Essentially, it means that a person is avoiding doing the thing she/he really wants to do because of fear. The fear is different for everyone, and for me that fear was being more connected with people.
So as a homesteader, and someone who I feel is resourceful because of that, I have now been able to refocus myself to do work that is useful, interesting and should actually make more of a contribution to the rural lifestyle and quality of life. I hope it will also help me get more connected with my fellow humans. I think homesteaders are pros at adapting to new environments even if those environments are within oneself.
Starting another small business is the way I feel I will be able to do this. I obviously am going to work from home and sometimes we will be travelling so I will work on the road as well. I am managing social media, websites and marketing for small town businesses as well as freelance writing. This is something I have been doing for a while now, some for free and some for a fee. The logical jump was to go full time into this. I am also taking a larger step into my original profession – dog training and grooming – and putting it online as well in different forms.
Having more than one way to make a living is also something many homesteaders do. I myself have been doing this for years. Making a living, contributing to our and other villages and towns, and being able to do other things we want to do, makes for an acceptable situation for all involved. Even the dogs!
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.
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.
Recently, Ernie did some work on the bathroom. 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.
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 i the pic 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.
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.
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.