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. 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.
There is someone in own town who eats every meal at the local restaurants. It is either because she can’t cook or doesn’t want to. Either way, when a family member of Ernie’s from the big city heard about this, she was shocked and declared that she was going to start teaching her daughters ( 17 and 21) how to cook! Frightening isn’t it?
This got me to thinking. I believe that MANY are like this, unfortunately. It may contribute to lack of funds for certain people – having to buy everything you consume. Most likely the food will be processed as well.
On Sunday, I don’t work on the computer. I rest my eyes for one day. Instead, I did three things:
1. I made pasta/pizza sauce from scratch. All the ingredients were our own (fat, tomatoes, basil, garlic) except the salt. And you don’t even really need the fat.
2. I made a pizza. We had ingredients around the house already. We used a couple of wieners for the meat – nothing else was as quick, but they were left over from last year, so we used them. Not the most healthy thing but no wasting food, even wieners. We had cheese but only cheddar. It was actually really tasty. The onions were ours. The old aluminum cookie sheet is dented, stained and ugly but works well.
3. I made a toque. I used yarn I had lying around from previous purchases.
It is unbelievably crucial to be able to make things for yourself, from ingredients you have procured form yourself. Young people who don’t know how to cook, are being set up for struggle in the future.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My grooming room is large enough for my purposes but I still have to use all the space I can. The shelves in the pic below were made from salvaged wood – of course. One used to be a shelf itself, the middle one was a section cut from an old table, and the bottom was a shelf Ernie made but couldn’t find another use for.
The orange high-velocity dryer has been moved from where it was in the pic, which I will show in the next post. Ernie rigged up a neat arrangement for it where we didn’t have to spend any money.
With the arrival of 2015, we have decided to make the slow switch to EVEN MORE eco-friendly living, which means anything that I need for the grooming shop has to be homemade, reused, recycled, dump-picked etc. I will even be composting dog poop and finding more eco-friendly grooming products if such a thing exists. The obsession has begun.