Serendipity- Things happen in their own time…

Life reaches out and surprises you some time !

This spring I thought I would slow down on the Festival circuit, just doing my favorite smaller ones. Then , yesterday , I came home to a surprise. A festival I had done for several years had called while I was in town , asking that we vend it again this year. I had a pretty intense self talk about it all…

After batting it around for a while , I decided we’d do it again. I have been blessed to usually hit on things that sell well, and have built a nice clientele who will buy from me at whatever Festival we show up for. We are trying to meet some financial situations, due to family illness and I feel that this is an answer to prayers for a way to meet those needs, so off we go to the Festival Circuit!

So far , all the Flux festivals (My Fave) this year at Caldron Creek, Peach Tree at Crane Missouri , and now Byrdfest at Cass on the Mulberry. Come see us if you attend any of them !

Serendipity often presents opportunities like this. I believe our job is to be open to them. Paying attention, being open to change , listening to what is being taught. Awareness is a concious act- listening and absorbing what is being said.

Sometimes it is about being aware of your strengths and weaknesses. What do you do well? What gives you trouble? These are things that are important in Homesteading as well.

One of the major problems new homesteaders run into is not admitting problem areas. We always try to urge new folks to have a sitdown with their partner and have an honest talk about things you are good at and things that you hate doing. then think about these is realtionship to what you will be doing on your homestead. If you hate getting stinky- don’t keep pigs, do sawdust humanure or active composting. Does the site of blood bother you? Get your partner to to do the livestock butchering or take it to your local food processing folks.Really think about what you can and cannot handle- this is where being honest with yourself is really important.

Serendipity often opens up volunteer opportunities to learn, with neighbors, or as a traveling volunteer. Pay attention if you want to learn things that help you further your dreams.

Just thinking and havign the conversations about your skills and things that you just cant bring yourself to do becomes so important…

I am not a good detail person! Thankfully , Dear Hubby is. We complement each other on this. I am perfectly happy spending the day in the garden or hiking our hollow- he likes his time out with the TV… it works , because we don’t get frustrated with each other. I am the dreamer, he is practical. We both have a wealth of the knowledge of the oldtime homestead skills..I multitask – gather materials and helpers, while he does the nuts and bolts stuff. We both know carpentry and basic mechanics. He is a electrician and. plumber- welds and has a degree in Agriculture. I am a retired Nurse and also have a degree in Medieval  fabric art , with a focus on natural dyes. I am a past Master Gardener, we both have been Licensed Falconers, I have been a certified Canoe instructor and white water rescue instructor. We both love the native plants and wildlife in our area, while he is a hunter, as am I ,I hate fishing! I focus on photography, while he paints beautiful watercolors. He has a degree as a Journeyman Beekeeper and is working on his Masters. Me? I am super allergic to his pets! I love watching them fly- they are gold against the sun above our garden… so beautiful.

Point being, find where you are strong , and what your partner is better at.. listen to the things that open up in your life … Pay attention, live with awareness.

 

Listening…

Our trees are full of the wind right now. I love laying here at night and hearing it move through the hollow.

Living close to the earth like this , the things you hear are important. The sounds tell a story of what is happening in your world…

Crows are my best friend , they have 70 plus different vocalizations! They have a different sound for a man vs. a man with a gun…there is a very distinct call for a hawk and a completely different one for an owl.many hunters dislike them, because they will follow them and warn wildlife. Grain farmers also have problems, because they thieve grains..sometimes in large amounts. But for me, they are sentinels, protectors and local entertainment!

They have a hilarious sense of humor. I’ve seen a crow light on branch near a sleeping owl, then slowly sidle up beside it, look around, and ?suddenly do a raucous “Caw!” in it’s ear, flying away to sit and laugh as the owl wakes up bumfuzzled.

They tend to hang out in smaller family groups, living in one area, claiming turf. Yet I have them gather into murder of crows..hundreds in one spot, discussing , arguing, the it gets still and then it seems like they come to an agree ment and they all disperse!

They are extremely aggressive toward hawks and other raptors…ganging up on them and driving them out of their territory. It is odd here, ours tolerate our resident hawks, the Redtails, Sharp Shin and Coopers yet let a strange hawk move in and it is driven out rapidly .

One of the deep joys of living here, is our wildlife. They have a rhythm to their lives that brings me a sense of belonging, when I slow down and listen. So many things here can tell a story, just by sound alone. Deer move the forest floor with a certain rhythm, while squirrels have their own crazy start stop sound.

The creek has it own voice. I hear it sing , gurgle and roar…you can tell if it is high water by the sound. There  are perfect places to sit and listen to the waterfalls, or wade …but watch out for the crawfads! They have an affinity for my big toe.

Sitting on the deck, just listening …a treasure all it’s own.

 

 

 

 

 

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Food Storage Options on a Homestead

One of the biggest gifts of homestead living is being able to produce your own food. You know exactly what it is, where it came from and how it was grown and processed.

Wheee! Ok , so you grew it! Now how do you store it to keep long term?

There are as many options as there are elbows. The trick is finding what works best for you…

First, a word of advice. Start by storing things you normally use. I pick up thing I use when they are on sale. Drink a lot of coffee, Buy an extra when it is on sale.. So many beginners are excited to get a chance to try all sorts of new and exotic varieties. Start with basics, learning as you go. Oh! And don’t store everything in one place!

Now, on to the good stuff! Most food you will store needs two things: consistent temperature and protection from rodents and insect invasion.

Store items as fresh as possible. Dry foods need to have some sort of insect protection in the storage container. Canned goods need to be protected from freezing. I also like to have a front edge on shelving, since we do get occasional tremors here. I remember jars of canned food waltzing slowly off the shelf. That was a fun cleanup…

I begin storage by thinking about what we eat each week..How many chickens will we use each week? How much pasta? Do I enjoy making my own or is that a chore I hate. That helps me decide what to store. We use chicken about twice a week. So 52 weeks x 2=104 stored for the year.  It could be cans of chicken breast, frozen bags bought on sale and divided into the freezer. Or canned chicken from home grown fryers or roasters. That gives me broth as well…

Pasta? I love making it, so I store flour in five gallon pails , with O2 packets to help keep bugs out. If you have access to a dry pack canner, use the appropriate gas in number ten cans. If you don’t like to bake , but enjoy pasta, dry packages of pasta and put them in five gallon buckets with O2 O2 packs. You can buy many dry goods in 50 pound bags, and in turn repackage them into five gallon pails or number ten cans.I do lot of comparison shopping for my bulk storage.

Places to store food…hmmnnn. I worship my freezer! It is one of the best tools man ever invented for the homesteader. But it does take either electric or gas to run… There are tricks to maintaining its temperature if you run out of power, tho. One is to keep it as full as possible. This helps keep an even temp in it. I often put gall jugs of water in the bottom. They help maintain the temp and are a source of drinking water as well. You can also store milk this way..Be sure to empty it down to the shoulder before storing. It will explode on you if you don’t. (Water jugs too) Be sure to give the milk 24 hours to thaw completely. When it freezes the fats and liquid separate ,so they need to be shaken up to remix , once they are thawed.

If your power goes out, open your freezer as little as possible, cover it with quilts, etc. Also if it snows, you can bury the food in the snow til power is restored!

A root cellar for storage is a wonderful addition to any homestead. It can be as simple as a dug hole lined with straw, cover with straw and dirt, to a nice well designed cellar with lighting, water and shelving an root bins.

The principle behind a root cellar is that once you are below your frost line (18 inches here) the temp holds at about 52 degrees. That is perfect for storing roots and other foods that don’t take freezing well.

Basically , store your foods several ways so it isnt all destroyed if something happens, rotate it so it doesn’t so out of date and enjoy the thrill and pride of being self sufficient.

 

 

 

 

Winter in the Ozarks

How is everyone faring with this weather ?

Isn’t it incredible ? One thing about Arkansas, if you don’t like the weather , wait 15 minutes and it will change.  Our weather changes so sharply , here in NW Arkansas. The contrast  in just a few jours can be deadly !

Maybe today is a good day to share a little about homestead prepping for winter, now that you’ve experienced one of our colder spells…

We live behind a creek, with a treacherous hill to travel in bad weather, so we have to plan ahead a little. Some of the things that are routine, from experience are pretty important !

Shelter , water, food and fuel to stay warm are the priorities , both for us and our animals. We have been in the situation of being homebound for 8-9 days before… I think the longest was back in the 80’s for a thirteen day period. We could have forced the issue and hiked out, but it would risk a bad fall in the process, so we stayed put.

So what are the obivious thign s to do ?

Let’s start with shelter. Be sure you house is weather tight-if it’s not there are many tricks that the old timers used…(and those whose homes aren’t finished yet) such as  covering windows with plastic- be sure to extend this over the seams where the windows join the walls. Many people use bubblewrap on the inside of their windows-I prefer insulated drapes that I can open to allow the solar warming from the sun- since it is nice and low on the horizon. Passive design REALLY helps here…. It often is only a 8-10 degree increase in temp, but that is that much less wood you have to use to heat your world. If you can’t afford insulated drapes, use a comforter- be sure to use one large enough to cover the edges where the windows join the wall.

Use a snake beneath your door- I make one – a fabric tube filled with sand, ashes, gravel, whatever you have on hand.

It’s often about just thinking ahead, bring ready for the seadonal changes and living with our Earth.

New Year’s Eve 2017

Snow Flurries here at Herbhome ! Happy Dance !

Something  magical about snow , it always creates a overwhelming happpy feeling in me…

Haven’t posted in a while … seems like I have been spinning my wheels on the highway for months now. It is nice to stop a moment and reflect.

I am not much for resolutions. I tend to blow them off, but Carrie and I decided that 2018 will be “The Year of the Mom”. We both are caretakers .. nourishing thoses we love is very central to who we are. Sometimes our own health and well-being  tends to slip off the roadside.

An important thing to remember  is that you can’t care for others very well, if you don’t take care of yourself first. For those of us dealing with illness, aging issues, or busy work and family lives, it can be hard to break the habit of putting everyone else in front of ourselves. So we made a pinky swear to work on it, together. Go find a partner and  make a pact! Bet it will help you to keep your resolutions better.

What things would you like to change for the New Year? How about what you’d like to keep doing ? Today is a good day to review your past year.

One of my goals is to learn to be stronger spiritually.

I want to be kinder to those I love. I need to to work hard at not saying things I can’t take back. They can’t be unsaid and often cause extreme pain. I believe it is very imporatnt to thank those around you- those close to you are deserving of courtesy and gratitude.  Express your love daily!

Another is to gain physical skill in my martial arts. It has done so much for me spiritually , but also has kept me moving. (My body is starting to show the wear and tear of many years of working.) I love the precision and intense focus required in my practice.

I want to get more work done on the house, making it more comfortable.

Farm-wise , I hope to expand our garden, increasing it’s productivity. I want to add a large deep freeze to our arsenal of food storage.  We need a hay barn  still and hope to add a library. One of the disasters for us of our house fire in 2001 was the loss of our library. Between us , we had a huge research library and wonderful reading selection. miss it .

I’d like to do more crafting- work on my herbal- and finish my novel.

Our world on the Homestead is very seasonal, I’d like to develop an seasonal almanac to track what we “normally ” do .. .

For instance, January is when I get the green house ready for new seeds. I have baby spinach in outside beds to harvest now and some cilantro… it’s time to turn those beds and fertilize them … I am brosing seed catalogs, making selections of heirlooms to try – I usually introduce one new variety each season, Our actual garden space is fairly small, so for protection of their genetic heritage. I only use one new variety each year.

February  usually has a warm spell toward the end of the month.. I try to have ground turned , ready to plant by then .. That’s when I plant early greens- and sometimes will throw in a small patch of corn. If you get the timing right it won’t be up until the next warm spell .. of course there are times when it is a goof, LOL!But that little extra effort will make a good early corn crop if it is sucessful.

March is usually for planting my root crop. The season is different here in the Hollow- I am gradually adjusting the varites I grow to meet this… it has been a learning curve, beieve me- I have almost exclusively lived high up in open areas for garden. We are now deep in a hollow, and with much less sun. So I have had to keep good records and change varieities to meet those differences. I sow my annual flowers like zinnias and coreopsis.

April tends be really wet here- sometimes to the point where root things will rot- so we occasionally have to replant.

May- this is the big garden time- planting all the summer harvest things.

Ah, well… loads to dream about!

Havea specail New Year. May all good things come your way in 2018. !

 

 

Busy Times

Haven’t posted for a while…this time of year gets so very busy!

Catching up…Let’s see, what has happened?

Carrie’s tests came back NED! Happy times😊 Life is so much better.

We’ve been busy working on building a workshop, reusing the supplies from our old bathroom, plus some barn boards from Phillips mill. It’s very close to being finished! Neill is setting it up just the way he wants it, with a small wood heater, all his saws and bee stuff and then one side will be for mechanical things (plus I get my back porch back!! Yay! ) .

Doelings are weaned, Moonbeam is bred and is drying up…going to miss her milk…have plenty stored for my soapmaking..canned a bunch before we dried her up😁

We have two amazing youngsters from Scotland volunteering with us right now, Jamie and Krista (Krista is actually from Latvia) …both of them are a real asset…we have bern getting lot done.

Main focus has bern on the garden…getting the greenhouse prepped for extended crops and planted, and doing fall cleanup in the raised beds. Krista made a mini bridge to cross the spring run off and a nice stone step up between the terraces!

Neill is doing his Journeyman’s class this year in bee-keeping…so far is holding his usual “A”…makes it look easy..grrrrrr.😈 They are thriving..hoping to sell some honey commercially next year.

I have crafting fever..ideas overflowing..looking enviously at fabrics ..told myself no more until current projects are caught up, Haha!

Harvested Jewelweed for Soap and Salves, have it infusing in organic olive oil…Plantain and Wild Lettuce made salve, Elder made both tincture and syrup as well as jam…

 

I love Fall! The turning colors, the changes in the light, the falling of the leaves…sometimes just quiet in my rocker, watching a single leaf swirl on the wind…

We have some wonderful youngsters helping us currently…Jamie and Krista are Scots, Krista is from Latvia , originally. Her accent is hilarious, Euro overlaid with a Scottish burr!😁 They are cycling across the US, learning a little of our Culture.

They have busy, helping with everything…hauling lumber, sawdust, we’ve Hiked, cooked, and talked the world over…ahhhh..Neill N Jamie on politics! Now theres a conversation to be listening to!

I truly will miss these two. IMG_20171007_144435_hdr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herbal Salves

We use our homemade herbal salves for so many things. Often our volunteers ask about them, so here goes!

They very simple to make and yield such wonderful goodies for us to use…most from our gardens here on Herbhome. Good herbs, grown on the homestead, can add a lot to your lifestyle. We cook with them, use them in our soaps and Dream Pillows and make many teas, tinctures and salves, all out of our gardens and the woods on our place.

We garden organically, so our herbs are grown in healthy soil, without pesticides and , being the crazy granny lady, they are talked to pretty much daily😇

The wild plants we use are harvested responsibly. Many of our native plant colonies have been devastated over the last decade or so, due to the current popularity of herbal cures. We try to promote responsible foraging, only taking small amounts , reseeding and protecting these wild treasures. I usually will only harvest every third year, alternating between colonies.If one of the colonies seems weak, it is left in peace.

Our old timers all knew where the herbs were, and would harvest for sale, but most of them left the “medicine patches ” be. Just like a lot of us know where to look for items in a grocery store they knew where the plants were.

The process is very basic, just changing up the oils and herbs to match your needs.  For instance, if I want a light, smooth salve, I will use something like grapeseed oil. I tend to use organic olive oil because it is so nice on my skin.

Most salves are made with certain proportions of oil to beeswax. I use all organics in ours. Just me bring pickey, but they are for my family 😁

I like to make mine with nine parts infused oil and one part beeswax, with one capsule of Vit E per cup as a preservative. Using a double boiling to prevent scorching, I melt the beeswax and slowly still in the oils. I add the vitamin E, and then pour into a sterilized jar or tin. Label, label, label!

To make the infused oil, I take freshly harvested herbs (you can use dried, if you need to) and macerate them (crush  or break) filling a quart jar.Then I cover them with the oil of choice…using a dinner knife or narrow spatula to remove air bubbles. I seal, label and set them back for six weeks . Shake the jar gently daily, and if the level of oil drops, top it off.

When you are ready to make your salve, strain the oil for use.

If you want a stronger infusion, replace the herbs with frsh and let infuse several weeks more.

I make Comfrey, for bruises, aches and pains, Arnica for sore muscles, Chickweed and Plantain, for bugbites, Rosemary and Lavender with Yarrow for infection and Lemon Balm and Lavender for soft skin..

There are many other great combinations, but this is a good, basic collection for your herb cabinet! As always, we make no medicinal claims, these are just things we use.