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.
I recently noticed that as homesteaders, our lives revolve around food. Not being obsessed with eating it, but in order to have it, we have to procure it somehow. For us currently, this means planning our meals around what is still available in the freezer, or which crop is ready or doing well. Sometimes there is very little and we have to get creative.
We ran out of our potatoes this past month and had to buy some from the store. Luckily, the potatoes we bought were from a local business, so we weren’t too upset about having to buy.
In most other years we wouldn’t have bought potatoes. We would have just waited for the next crop to produce. But last year, I found a french fry recipe that makes the potatoes really crispy. This is pretty much why we are buying potatoes – to have fries.
The main thing you have to do to get crispy fries is to make sure they are REALLY REALLY dry before you put them in the oven, and heat the baking sheet to the oven temp. This will almost guarantee crispy fries.
If you would like to see the recipe, check out my VLOG about it.
We finally got around to planting our vegetables. We grow all of our own vegetables each year. This year we are going a bit crazy and so far have 9 trays. That may not sound like much to some, but with restricted space indoors it really is a lot. We are especially proud of our beer bottle seedling waterer that my mother-in-law made decades ago. I think the bottle has been replaced, but the cap on it has just enough small holes to water the tiny plants carefully. It works great and was free.
The trays sit on he dining room table in front of the window and on a smaller, old coffee table that we only bring in for this purpose.
Naturally, we had to buy potting soil but one day I hope to make my own. Hopefully everything grows well this year.
Our garlic harvest from last fall is still going strong. To date, there has been only one or two rotten cloves – that’s it. It is completely different from the previous two years in which we lost quite of bit of our harvest and had to quickly make garlic powder from the rest of the drying cloves. Many of the cloves are starting to sprout but no mould at all. The taste is still good as well, and we are eating some everyday!
Recently, my homemade dryer arm was completed with the help of several reused/recycled metal and plastic parts – and a new grooming arm that was purchased 2 years ago that I have never really used. Ernie pieced together the contraption so that I could brush out a dog’s coat while having the air blow on it without having to hold it myself.
The dryer sits in a piece of plastic that came from the back shack and is attached to an old plastic tripod. The arm moves in and out and turns from side to side, so I can adjust where the air is blowing. This frees up my hands to hold a dog and brush at the same time. Works great. Many things were saved from being chucked in the garbage.
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.
I am trying demonstrate that it can be done, that two adults CAN eat well on $10 a day, and likely even less.
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 (you know, not the canned stuff, frozen stuff etc.), 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 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 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 you can purchase. I figure it is often the lack of knowledge in how to cook real food that contributes to eating poorly. Just my thoughts.