It has been a rough couple of years. My writings had, for a time been a daily or at least weekly event. In the last few years I stopped writing entirely and then only writing sporadically. There are numerous reasons for this, which I won’t go into. However, after spending a few days evaluating my life and my passions, I determined that writing, especially writing about homesteading, living simply, and sustainability is a something central to my being. I was re-reading some past writings from 2006. I could hear the passion in my voice in so many areas: living simply and living locally. I could hear that desire to create a future for my children and grandchildren. Although the passion was always here, the eagerness and the desire to share my visions was lost.
I am at a new place now. I had been sucked back into the vortex of the system at large. Recently, my tie to the system has been severed, which allows me to explore my life and passions. I can see the life around me turning back to how I always wished to live. So, we are now re-exploring making and growing our own: cleansers, vegetables, poultry, dairy, and meats. I look forward to sharing these adventures with you.
Everything (or almost everything) that was written previously has been moved over into this new blog. This meant combining 4 blogs into one. Unfortunately, most of the comments were lost in the earliest writings, but the content is there.
Many years ago I began a homemade household cleaning spree. I was using baking soda and vinegar for almost everything. When life changed, I started purchasing environmentally friendly versions of various cleaning items. Now I am re-evaluating and going back to the ways of old.
This week I made a variety of household cleaning supplies including a scrub to use on kitchen surfaces, dish washing detergent, and homemade liquid dish soap. I will, very soon, try my hand at making soap. With lye. I have a healthy combination of materials and fear. That is what holds me back. But I digress…
The dish soap comes from a recipe that I found on the web (and I can’t remember where!). It combines castille soap, washing soda, white vinegar, water, tea tree oil, and orange essential oil. There are numerous recipes which use bars of soap. However, I had an ample supply of castille and have that soapmaking fear to deal with.
This recipe is easy to make and easy to use. It does not bubble like we are accustomed, but it cleans well. As a bonus, it smells fantastic.
Dish Soap Recipe
-1 ½ cup of hot water
-½ cup castile soap
-1 tablespoon of white vinegar
-1 tablespoon of Arm&Hammer’s Super Washing Soda (used to thicken the soap)
-1/8 teaspoon of tea tree oil (optional)
Directions: Whisk all ingredients together until thoroughly blended. Store in any dish soap dispensing bottle and use as you would the commercial brands. Note: You may choose to naturally increase the anti-bacterial qualities of the soap by adding 1/4 tsp. of lavender or eucalyptus essential oils.
We love our goats. Truly we do. They are like toddlers — they try to get into everything that we block from them. If there is something to climb, they will find the way up it. If they want to get into something, they will find any way to do it. Somehow our goats found a way onto the roof of our chicken house.
The chicken house was vacated of its occupants this spring by a pack of hungry critters. Once the chickens were gone, the goats decided to move in and make it their home. The nesting boxes were quickly converted to feeding areas. The goats were happy. They had a little modern dutch condo with a beautiful glass window to watch the events outside. A bed of straw was added, the nest boxes were converted to feeding areas, and they were content with their living quarters. For a while.
Today we looked out the window to see a goat standing on the roof. We haven’t any idea why she decided to get onto the roof. Was it to see better, was she playing reindeer games, or was it a king of the mountain game? Only the goats know.
We went outside to see if we could coax her down. No doing. For some reason, she would not jump down the way she got up.
We walked closer to see if there was a reason that she would not get off of the roof.
And Gaia just looked at us. We talked to her in goat language “mmaaaaaaaa,” which usually encourages them to run to us. She would look at us, look at her feet, look at us, move slightly, seem to slip, and stand and respond “mmmmmaaaaaaaaaaaaa.” Oh oh. She is stuck. A goat stuck on a slippery wooden roof. It had rained for the previous few days which was suddenly follwed by a period of freezing temperatures. This means that we would have to find a way to help her down.
Gaia would have none of it. She would take some hay, venture closely to Chris and then skitter away. We would expect this type of behavior from Morgaine, who is slightly skittish, but Gaia loves to be petted and fawned over. She was simply afraid. Gaia would take steps towards Emme (on the ground), find that her footing was unstable, and step quickly back where it was safer. Chris tried to coax with hay and encourage her to come near, but every time that C would get a hand onto her, she would skitter back. This was going to be an interesting experience for all of us.
Interesting and frustrating.
Gaia finally came close enough to Chris so that Chris could grab her harness. Chris quickly leaned over, grabbed a hold and slid down the roof with the goat in tow. Gaias feet sliding along the slick wooded roof. Emme moved the ladder away from the outside nest boxes so that Gaia could jump back down and then swung the ladder back up to stop Chris from plummeting to the ground. Chris was ready for a drop and roll, but fortunately, it was not necessary. Chris stopped her slide, the ladder was in place, and Chris could safely descend.
As soon as Gaia was on the ground, ran into the chicken coop and started to ascend back onto the nest boxes and onto the roof. We stopped her and placed a piece of wood in the way. We looked at each other and ran into the barn to grab grain and appropriate tools. Emme grabbed grain to distract the goats while Chris grabbed 2x4s and a drill to block access to the nest boxes for climbing.
Finally everyone was safe, and in place, and hopefully quiet … until the next adventure.
Ahhh, the things we do for our animals. We chase them up and down wild hillsides, we splash in frigid temperatures, and we glean from frozen fields. This week we spoke to friends who own a large organic farm. The end of the season was upon us, which meant that the fields were full of unused and frozen produce. We have been thinking about finding ways to get our goats (and pigs) off of grain. Although grain can be a good supplement when they are young, grain is really not the ideal food for animal consumption. Hay, grasses, vegetables, are much more natural to many animals. So, we offered to help glean our friend’s field.
Of course, the week that we start gleaning the field is the week that the temperature plummeted to the teens and white stuff decided to fall from the sky. Emme refuses to use the s word quite yet, although snow would be preferable to the cold of which we are not quite accustomed.
We made the trek to the farm and found the appropriate fields. Our knives could barely saw through the frozen kale stalks — each pass over the stalk seemed to barely make a dent into it. We worked up and down rows sawing through the stalks and collecting the frozen pieces of vegetation to throw into the back of the truck.
When the truck bed was finally filled, we dragged our frozen and tired bodies into the cab and returned home.
The hope that the animals would like our glean was proven as the goats and alpacas timidly tasted and then devoured every morsel. We will be returning for more….
Ever try to chase a pig? Especially a pair of 200lb pigs? No? Well, if you need some exercise or some breakup of boredom we highly recommend you try it!
So, here we are again. For various reasons we have neglected our poor blog and also, frankly, to some extent our farm. However the world has gone around in circles again and life has changed and we find ourselves with much more time to spend here and at work on the farm. Until last week Chris was the chef at a local restaurant and Emme was the baker. Now we are back to being farmer Chris and Professor Emme
Luckily our pigs helped to welcome us back home.
The other night, in the midst of the chaos of our lives, our pigs (named bacon and porkchop) pushed through a fence and found their way into the yard. The pigs are about 200 pounds. Porkchop is friendly and outgoing, where bacon is timid and jumpy. Chris came home to find that the pigs had escaped. Porkchop took a look at Chris, associated her with food, and followed her back into her yard. Bacon, however, took a look at Chris and ran up the wooded hillside to hide. Chris spent hours tromping through the dark woods in an effort to find Bacon. Bacon would make noise, but run away as soon as Chris came near. After a long period without success, Chris came inside and take a break and warm from te cold. It was decided that running up and down a wooded hillside in the middle of the dark was not wise, so we opted to try again the next morning.
Morning came and then the sun. The kids went to school and we went out to hunt for our pig. Chris and Emme went up the hillside to the last spot where we heard her. We studied the area and noticed areas where she had obviously rooted into the ground and made herself a warm den under the soft bed of pine. We walked in the direction we believed that she had gone. We walked up and down the hillside calling out “piiiig” every so often. We would stop and listen — no hint of grunt in return. In frustration, we hiked over the hillside and down to the road. We walked the road back to our house and wondered who we call about an escaped pig. We had one more direction to walk before we made a decision. We would head that way first.
Chris took the truck into the back part of our property while Emme did some coursework. After about 30 minutes, Emme’s phone began to buzz with text messages that Bacon had been found. Emme grabbed some rope and hiked to the back part of the property and up a very steep hillside. Emme walked quietly, listening for noise as she texted Chris from an idea where to go. Up the hillside she walked until the grunting of a pig was obvious.
There she was — near the top of a hillside with Chris sitting nearby.
Emme marched up the hill, rope in hand, laughing at the sight. Chris sat on the hillside in wait.
When Emme finally reached their side, there was a discussion about what was the best way to capture the rogue pig.
Rope in hand, Chris crawled up to Bacon’s side. Little did we know how quick the girl was. As soon as Chris was close enough to touch her, Bacon was on her feet and running further up the hill. Emme followed quickly — jumping over fallen branches, and zig zagging to keep ahead of the pig. The goal was to be on various sides of Bacon so that she would go where we wanted her to go. Herding a pig? Ha!
Emme tried playing rugby with the pig — dashing and tackling the pig. This didn’t work, instead tumbling onto the hillside. Chris ran along side and we attempted to figure out where to go. Suddenly we slowed and Bacon stopped. We stopped. Bacon rolled in the sunny leaves and enjoyed the sun while we discussed what to do. Bacon’s tail was wagging in eagerness. We decided to make lassos and try to herd her to another one of us. Chris circled around and Bacon took off in an entirely different direction. Emme jumped up and both ran up the hill (how much up is there in this hill??). Finally we topped the hill and Bacon found another sunny spot. We looked around and worried about the places that we could go and what would happen if she decided to go down the other hillside. Oh what to do….
We decided to return to the house and choose another plan of action. At home we looked online under search terms such as “how to catch a pig.” The recommendations included enticing with grapes, roping, and of course, a gun. We read and wondered, read and conversed. We were at a loss, but knew that if we did not get her back, we would have to deal with a rogue/wild pig in our hills and that could be a dangerous situation.
Our decision was to go to the bustop and pick up the youngest child and then head to the hillside to bring her in one way or another. Chris packed up a gun into the truck and we headed to the bustop to wait. We talked about the possibilities. The bus stopped and the youngest tumbled into the truck. We were ready. Chris would head up the hill and Emme would wait inside with our youngest.
Suddenly the truck stopped as a pig crossed our path. Huh? Did Porkchop get out again? Chris got out and took a look at the pig who was trying to jump over her. We told the youngest to stay in the truck as we looked at the situation. Chris moved over to the barn while the pig ran over to her. It was Bacon. Bacon had made her way all of the way down the hillside to us. She must have heard the truck (which she associates with food) and run to the sound. Emme had a bag of grapes in my pocket and threw them to her. She devoured them.
We made certain that the youngest child was safe and then worked to move Bacon to her yard. We threw food onto the floor into a trail to the door of the fence. Bacon devoured every bite. We got her in and her sister welcomed her home. We sighed in relief and double checked every piece of the fence.
This last year has a period for reclaiming myself. The past year I walked away from everything of old and explored the world outside. For the past few weeks I have been thinking about my household, my role, and how I would like to live my life. Although there are parts of my old life that were difficult and that I do not want to return to, I want to return to many of my old ways: canning, cookstove, cheese and yogurt making, bread…. I do not want to return to carrying 60-70 gallons of water a day (although I may have to — for the goats and pigs).
The period was, in many ways, good for me. You see, for a time I didn’t know what I was doing or why I was doing it. Was living an AMish lifestyle truly my choice, or was it deemed to be the way we lived? Was it because I wanted to live simply or because my (now ex spouse) was afraid of a post-apocalyptic life? In many ways I don’t know which life it was then, but I do know that I miss many aspect of that life now.
It started with the cookstove. Recently, my ex told me that the people he has living in the old house (renters) are using the wood cookstove. I broke into tears. That stove was the heart of the home. I loved that stove. I loved heating and cooking and dancing with the wood and flame. I missed the slow food and the slow life. I missed all of it (not him). That is when I realized that part of that life was me. It was meant for me. I was meant for it. That eagerness to live differently: slowly, simply, and intentionally was at the core of my person. It is what I love about baking (sidenote: I baked professionally for about 5 months). Baking is part science and part art. So is living as we did when we were “going Amish.”
I spoke to my partner today and we agreed to work toward living that way again. I am done with the “recovery” year of my life and ready to move on to live intentionally — the way we want to live, rather than how we feel that we need to live. C is on the lookout for a cookstove.
I know it has been quite a while since we’ve posted any updates. This has been a whirlwind summer: It started with a car accident, Chris becoming an executive chef and Emme becoming a baker at the same restaurant, house issues, gardens, fish, pigs, and livestock galore. Life was busy, hard, and interesting. Life is more interesting now, but allows more time for living the life we want to live.
We will be back with more postings soon!
For over a month the coop has haunted us. We have worked on it and had to stop due to days of snow, sleet, hail, or rain. Other projects have taken precedence and forced a pause in the building of the coop (the goat fencing). Our own lack of building knowledge has made us stop and think about our plans. But finally, finally we have a coop that has taken shape. It is not yet complete, but it is close. We only need to finish the nest boxes and add a place for the birds to perch. Fortunately, we can take a little break, as the chicks are less than a week old.
We did have some unappreciated help. The goats really liked to tear into bags and boxes of screws. We are still trying to clean up the debris from the goat help.
The picture window was actually from the sliding glass door that was on the previous chicken coop. The frame rotted away and the door fell out. We decided to use it as a picture window instead.
We never thought that we would finish, and even doubted that it would stand. But then, suddenly, it began to take shape and actually look like a building. It seems to have a personality — a postmodern Danish structure. The green wood frames a chicken door. We also plan to use this green to frame the picture window. The green wood was part of the freebie wood. We decided to have fun with it.
The chicken door has a door. There is a human door on the other side. We will provide the chickens with a ramp.
The coop is not 100% completed, but it is almost done. There are 60 chicks now living inside of it and we are excited to have it usable. I hope the chicks enjoy it!
It is that time of year. Rhubarb is ready. We try to eat as locally as possible. We feel fortunate that this means that we can go outside and pick what we need from the garden. This time of year, rhubarb leaves start peaking through the ground, until is is large and stalk is ready. The stalk is the only edible part of the rhubarb.
We loves scones and so I decided to make rhubarb scones. The recipe comes from http://www.food52.com/recipes/4318_naughty_rhubarb_scones
SERVES 12-16 SCONES
- 3 stalks rhubarb
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup vanilla sugar
- 2/3–3/4 cups heavy cream
- Preheat oven to 425.
- Slice rhubarb stalks 1/4 ” thick. Toss with 3 tablespoons of the sugar.
- Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in large bowl or bowl of food processor.
- Cut butter into flour mixture by hand (or whiz with food processor) until butter is the size of small peas.
- Blend in 1/4 cup of the sugar.
- Blend in sliced rhubarb.
- Blend in cream until a soft dough forms. (note: you may need to add more than 2/3 cup depending on the weather,etc.)
- Transfer dough to floured surface and divide in half. To make triangular scones, flatten into 6-inch disks and cut each circle into 6-8 scones. Sprinkle with remaining sugar.
- Arrange on ungreased cookie sheet and bake about 20 minutes or until reddish-brown on top.
The vanilla sugar is created by allowing vanilla to sit in sugar for a long time (mine is more than 6 months old).
And the scones:
The Dandelion. The bane of many suburban lawns, yet the love of my lawn. I love the dandelions. It is considered by many to be a weed. However, I see the beauty in the flecks of gold. The dandelion can be consumed and used in many ways. The tender young leaves are consumed in the spring like salad greens. The greens are a source of calcium, vitamin A & C, iron, antioxidant lutein, and more. If you plan to use dandelions, be sure to get them from a place that does not spray.
We use almost every part of the dandelion — from the flower to the root. There are a number of ways to use the flowers. I am making an herbal oil from the dandelions. To do so, the dandelino heads are picked and placed into a jar. Then the flowers are covered with an oil, in this case, olive oil. We let it steep for about two weeks and then strain. This will be used for sore muscles. I can also use this oil, mixed with beeswax, as a salve.