Last night we had a killing frost. Not that there was much on the garden. Just Brussels Sprouts, Rhubarb, some beans drying, and Horseradish of course.
Inside the house, however, is a different story. Mostly with regards to the tomatoes. In fact it seems that everyone in our area had a bumper tomato crop and we can’t give the things away.
So we’re canning juice, freezing ketchup and plain tomatoes and making soup. We were able to reduce the bags of frozen tomatoes from last year to zero, but we still have over 30 jars of canned tomatoes from last year in the cellar.
We decided to stop processing the tomatoes because we have enough. This is the total of what we put away:
29 canning quart jars of juice
11 large freezer bags of whole tomatoes
10 reused peanut butter jars of marinara sauce
18 pb jars or ketchup
and we have some romas still in the fridge for fresh eating.
and again this is added to the 29 canned jars already in the cellar.
Nuts, I know.
Next year we will not be planting tomatoes. Well, OK we’ll plant a few for fresh fruit but that’s it.
We did have some left and Ernie took them to his sister who doled them out at the Drop-In and to immediate family that needed some. That went over quite well and none were wasted.
About The Garlic
I planted the garlic by myself this year. Ernie was busy with other things so I did all the planting, which is fine.
We bought new garlic seed this year from professional garlic growers. Marino, Gaia’s Joy and Northern Quebec are the names. This garlic is prairie adapted to our area.
We also purchase new seed from the organic vegetable farmer we originally bought from years ago and found out that he buys seed every year from a different province. This means it is not prairie adapted and would likely explain why we are having trouble with it.
We will therefore be reducing the plantings of this variety – I can’t remember what he said the name of it was – in favour of smaller types of garlic produced locally.
Altogether I planted 250 cloves in three different locations. Below is a picture of the new garlic bed. The chairs and pail are to help prevent the dogs from running through it.
Peppers Were Successful
We had a pretty good crop of peppers considering we didn’t plant as many as two years ago. There were enough to put away quite a few containers in the freezer. Peppers are on par here with garlic with regards to importance. We have decided to up the pepper production next year.
We now have a good method of starting, transplanting and increasing speed of production for our area. Pepper tents are a must here and work wonders.
And of course cabbage, herbs, beans, peas were all good this year as well. We left most of our beans to dry and will do that next year as well. Neither of us care much for processed beans, so we will only be eating fresh.
We had trouble with corn since it was so dry and grass bound so they were stunted. But they gave a little produce anyway.
And the potatoes. Well, lets say we’ll be buying in the spring. This year was so dry that we got half of what we had last year. We need to plant in a different location next year as well and make a few soil amendments that I will discuss at a later date.
So that’s it for the garden. Now on to other homestead things like cooking and eating, crafts and art and small town life. And maybe a bit of travelling. And writing…
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.
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!
This year we have started making an effort to buy only “whole” foods. This means that there is no ingredient list for the food or there are no additives on the ingredient list.
I probably don’t have to explain this to most of you, but I will. For example, a banana has one ingredient – banana. A bag of oatmeal is usually one ingredient – oatmeal. When I buy cheese, I make sure there are only 3 or 4 ingredients on the list, and no flavours or colours added. I just won’t eat it if there is. I have stopped buying most cheddar cheeses because they are usually coloured orange which is unnatural.
This way of eating is, I believe, important to food safety, health and control of our own ability to procure food for ourselves. With every purchase we make at a food store, we are making a kind of vote. We are telling large companies and stores what we will and will not accept about our food.
Some of the food we are buying now are things that we cannot grow at this time of year for ourselves nor can we put it away for the winter from our harvest. For example, we had very little spinach last year, likely due to the harsh winter we had. Our spinach is volunteer, so most of the seeds didn’t germinate. What did come up we froze and had very little for fresh eating. So we are buying some spinach for fresh eating this winter. Not ideal, but necessary for us to feel we are eating healthy.
If you want to see what we bought and why check out the video below.
So our focus on food this year is to keep buying whole foods and to buy as local as possible. Once we have been doing this for a while, it will become habit and we won’t be tempted to buy “treats” or sugar filled garbage food.
Pets are an expense, food and vet bills being 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 pre-made, store bought food either.
The reason for this is simple.
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 want to and can feed your dog raw or only stuff from your homestead, perfect. It can be done and is the best way in my opinion to feed dogs. I have fed raw in the past, 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. You could probably feed it raw but it would have to be frozen for at least 3 weeks before feeding.
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. Cooked fat is different from raw fat and has a different affect on the body for dogs. So limit cooked fat.
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. It is easy to make your own dog treats. There are unlimited recipes to be found on the internet.
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 freeze the deer for 3 weeks before feeding. The deer antlers are also given to the dogs instead of bones to chew, but can also cause cracked teeth so we need to be careful about that. 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 (made specifically for dogs from ethical and clean sources) if it is beef or feed the chicken with the bones. Feeding raw meat exclusively without bone leads to nutrient imbalance.
Other Fresh Foods
We also feed raw or cooked eggs. If we have farm eggs then we feed raw and can feed the shells as well. The skin on the inside of the eggs has nutrients that benefits the dogs. If the eggs are boiled in the shells, we do not feed the shells as they become sharp when cooked. Dogs can be fed eggs either raw or cooked and receive similar nutrients. Eggs are like a vitamin pill for dogs.
In the fall we have apples from our trees and the dogs eat them right off the ground or are given one to eat. We 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. We also feed raspberries when they are available from our garden and blueberries when we can buy them in season.
Vegetables from the garden can include spinach, kale, parsley, and some herbs.
And thats about it really. Basically, we try to keep it simple and not rely too much on processed food from the grocery store. 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.
I am currently experiencing extreme burnout at work. So much so that I have to stop working and shut down my business. My job and business – grooming, training and boarding dogs, has for years ( 9 years) made it so that there is no time away from dogs. I work from home and I have my own dogs here as well as other people’s as part of the business. The whole thing was part of my plan to be an urban homesteader: working from home at something I love to help support the homestead lifestyle.
Most people enjoy going home from work to be away from work. For me, there is no such thing. When I board dogs, the dogs live here with us so I am on edge 24 hours a day thinking about the boarding dogs.
Don’t get me wrong here, I appreciate being able to even HAVE a job that I can do at home and not have to commute. I know there are people who don’t have jobs. However, in my enthusiasm to work from home, I picked a career that was too similar to my home life and therefore had no separation.
Because we live in a lowly populated area, I am forced to take most if not all clients at the risk of not making enough money that year or losing clients. Sometimes there is overlap of clients so that I don’t have any days off for weeks and weeks. We can’t go anywhere or really do anything as there is always someone’s dog to consider, even if it is just one dog staying with us.
As a business owner, I also am in charge of promotion of the business in real life, and on social media. As well, I took on some extra work as a social media manager for several other businesses. These were not pet businesses, but added to the workload.
I discussed this with Ernie, and we both agree that the burnout is in part because of the long hours and no breaks, but I also believe that at some point my heart was not really into it. I feel that I may have been pursuing the pet professional business because I had something to prove. This, however, is a subject for a completely different post so I won’t elaborate here.
My burnout is so extreme, that I have even stopped going to dog shows which I used to enjoy, training my own dogs, and have completely changed my hobby interests. I am now painting.
Strangely, I am OK with all this, especially the painting part. Yes, I am a beginner, but this is something that I am using to relax my mind as I recover from the burnout and is purely for the love of the process. I don’t care if it ever gets me anywhere. It is FUN.
So, I am a little depressed and sad about closing down my business that I have pursued for so many years, and leaving behind the clients that I enjoyed meeting and interacting with. But I think that I will be able to do more in another area of work when I find it because I learned what I did wrong with the previous one.
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.