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.

 

 

 

 

Volunteering with Us ūüėä

Over the last twenty years we have enjoyed volunteers from all over the world. Many of them have become family of heart, returning often.We are trying to share the concept that everyone can work toward being more sustainable, a few steps at a time.

As the years have gone by we’ve learned a lot about what works for us and what doesn’t! I thought I’d share a little about what a volunteer can expect here and what we are looking in return.

While we do ask our volunteers to help out, it is mainly about sharing our love for our local culture and the beauty of our area. If we can create a love for it, hopefully it will help preserve it for future generations!

Our life is fairly primitive, but we love it!

Most of the year, volunteers stay in tents down on the campsite.Our campsite is also our native plant garden..with paths winding around colonies of wonderful plants, some of them rare or endangered.While you are here you’ll learn about them.

The bath house has a cold water shower and compost potty…the shower is gravity flow, and has a wood burning hot water tank. The walls have art ….paintings by different volunteers..my favorite was by Charlene, She was from Quebec…all of 99 pounds soaking wet! She came in mid Febuary and it SNOWED!

When she came up to the house the next morning, we asked if she’d been warm enough! Her painting was better with snow coming down…ūüėā

We teach as we go, sharing not only how we do something, but why. Often there be another way of doing it…even a better way..so we try to share those as well.

Another goal is helping volunteers learn how to do things, teaching old time skills…between us we know many of the old ways of doing things..I grew up with herbs both traditional, and the wild ones, so that’s a big focus of what I share.

We set down to three family style meals, sharing Our day and making plans for the next one.

We also take off hiking to the scenic areas nearby…floating the Buffalo during season, and encourage our guests to visit places like Horseshoe Canyon Ranch to climb.

We ask folks to each help with a house chore and an outside chore and then help a few hours each morning with whatever project is in the works. Many hosts ask for more hours, but we have been happy with this arrangement.

Most of our projects are aimed at making a minimum impact on our land…our home was designed using passive solar concepts, and utilizing wind patterns and passive design to help cool it. Our gardens are developed using a meld of French Intensive gardening and horticulture concepts. We forage wild plants in season, hunt and fish..using several different methods of preserving our harvests. Much of our home medical care is herbal based.

We try to share the ideas behind all this and love hearing ideas from our volunteers as well.We have learned so much from them !

Chilly! Weather Patterns – Shifting?

Gooood Morning!

Woke up to a chilly 52 this AM !

As one of the Ancient Ones, I remember …

Old time folklore the first twelve days of january represent the months of the years – if the first is wet – January will be wet- etc.

Another one is about counting the fogs in August-the number of fogs is the number of snows the winter will bring.

We got into a deep discussion of weather patterns yesterday. I had to add my two cents worth here .

We are seeing a lot of changes. But I can remember seasons like this – Dad used to say we had three weather cycles- a three year one, a seven year one and a forty year one.

Things will stay about the same for roughly three years-rain patterns repeat about every seven years and seasonal shifts make the rounds about every forty years. in looking back – I actually was shocked to see – I think he was right !!!

Our traditional Pattern here was a couple of fair weeks early in January , then all *** would break loose- the worst of our weather usually through about the last week of February- when we would have an open spell- I usually turned garden then and pur out the early things- peas, broccoli, a small amount of lettuce – might even risk a small planting of sweet corn..It would turn bad again and then when it got better the early garden would be up and doing well.

Late March , early April it would fair up again – then storms come in – May usually was rainey and flood time- June would be hot then we’d have Fourth of¬†July lightening and thunderstorms–

August was dry – the creeks would start to drop , springs would get iffy- and the heat and humidity would be horrible- September¬†would be hot and dry .¬†October would start getting rainey-¬†another¬† of heavy floods –¬†and cold- I remember bundling up most Halloweens!

Then we’d get an indian summer through November. Thanksgiving time there was usually a snow and cold snap – then clearing off until Christmas. On the mountain we always had a snow – at least a flurry ,Christmas¬† night- then clear until about¬† ¬†week in January.

It seems like now we have the same¬†progression , but it has shifted by about 3-4 weeks¬†later in the year…

A lot of our weather here in the ozarks seems to depend on where the jet stream falls as well. Our storms are usually right on the edge of it. The years the edge of the jet stream drift down toward Little Rock we have snow- if it lands directly over us , we get the intense ice storms. It also affects our rainfall – the stroms follow the edges of the front- if it swings north of us – we are dry ..

Weather is always a topic of converstaion in the country – try it sometime !

Herbs and Instincts

“Follow your instincts”..

But isn’t that dangerous, when it comes to herbal medicine?

Begin by learning the herbs- from books, teachers , local folks that know them well. Be sure ¬†of your knowledge base- then take it deeper. Connect your spirituality or instinct –

A¬†deep part, in my opinion, ¬†of working with herbs¬† is to connect with them spiritually.¬† I know – “Oh, man – this lady is crazy!”

So let’s talk a little about Belief. Many faiths teach that all things on this planet have life , right? Christ, Buddha, Mohammed…all mention plants and trees as responding to loving care . Science today has proven that plants respond to music, lunar tide cycles and other stimuli. Are we connecting with Spirit – or just processing information on a subconscious level, when we respond to them ?

I believe that we are part of  a whole living planet- from the tiniest electron to the planet herself. and beyond into space .. each thing interacts with the other parts in its surroundings. We are  Stewards of those around us. Whatever terminology you use Рthere is spiritual link from us to all life. If we can open up our hearts and Spirit to listen, then , I think we have  an innate ability to sense a clearer awareness of the essential use of each plant.

Haven’t you ever sat under a big old oak tree and almost heard it sing? Or heard a voice in a field of grass as the wind moves through it?¬† Practical response -It is just the wind! But listening with an open heart- possibly they are sharing with us. I happen to believe that if you are open and listen , each plant can teach you something about itself. One of the ladies I truly respect in the herbal world – BethAnne from Natures Wonder – always said that each plant can tell us what it is good for. We spent a lot time just touching and smelling and tasting – often times just sitting outside the store next to her small area of plants.It was a time of learning for me.

The summer I spent hiking the Appalachian Trail was a special learning time – there were still families living close to the trail at that time- and they would open their homes and hearts to us. One widow woman, Maggie Claggett, ¬†was a yarb lady – she asked me to come stay a while-added over a month to my time on the Trail LOL-¬†we spent some peaceful days wandering those high meadows and ridges- talking about herbs and how to use them-grubbing roots and snapping spice bush twigs –¬†and she always said the herbs sang for her. I never forgot that. Part of what she shared was the oral history – I have since learned that was how families would pass history down – telling it over and over in a pattern- my family did it- and the clues for genealogy research have proven how accurate the oral traditions are.

A large part of gardening is listening¬† to your inner sense of right timing – for weeding, planting , harvesting.. you KNOW when it it right…

My weeding time in the garden is a time to listen . I will be pulling weeds, with the humble bumbles buzzing around – ¬†and sit back to rest, when it¬†all of¬† a sudden it ¬†seems to be a right time to look at and smell a particular herb. I often come away with a stronger sense of how to use it- the¬†head learning ¬†part¬† seems more clear – and I seem to have deeper understanding . it makes sense in a new way …

I often forage like this as well. I¬† walk out with the intent to garner¬† plants to strengthen and heal my loved ones – and end up ambling along , finding unexpected treasures- which in turn meet current needs. I have often been asked¬† why I don’t make a map of where the wild herbs are- . I guess I do have a inner map, where the colonies of simples are and the seasons they need to be harvested .. but it tends to be more of a wandering – zigzagging here and there- as they present themselves. .

It is an inner knowing. The more we listen , the more we can learn.

 

 

Medicinal Garden Planning

Some years back , we had a large(16 acre) herb garden ,with many Natives and Medicinals. Here on the new place , our focus has been more on edibles – veggies and culinary herbs..

This year, we intend to begin to renew our love of the medicinal herbs . I have been gradually collecting starts and seeds and working on preparing beds for them . The early part of September the signs are right , so we will start prepping seeds  and our rooted cuttings to go out- Happy Dance!

Please do check back on this post as I will be adding to it as the seeds germinate and all!

Please remember that these are medicinal and almost all can be very dangerous or even deadly if used improperly! This site is intended for information and pleasure only- please research thoroughly, consult reliable sources and use caution.

I have a completely separate area where I process any medicinal herbs. This is just common sense safety!

Here is a list of some the starts we have- and basic tips on growing them ūüôā

Let’s start with ones for full sun or partial shade:

BelladonnaAtropa belladonna

Likes partial shade best- and rich moist soil.

I usually soak the seeds in cool water , replacing daily for several weeks- frig if you have one- but be sure to keep isolated – highly poisonous!

Belladonna grows well from seed or root cuttings. Mulch it well and it will pop back up in the Spring. Seeds take 4-6 weeks to germinate

Belladonna’s medicinal properties are best after the third year. Be sure to us gloves when handling it for harvest-

Wiccan belief uses it in astral projection and healing, while the old yarb women use it for eye irritation. Women in Medieval times used the drops as a beauty aid to brighten their eyes. Planetary association is with Saturn

Wild BergamotMonarda fistuloa

We use this as a tea- love the orangey mint tang it gives when added to other blends.

Black Mandrakemandragora autumnalis(White mandrake is var. vernalis)

A plant of Saturn , these are tender perennials here in our area- I usually plant them in a protected corner. It propagates best by root division. I loe their flowers – purple-ey with whitish stripes.

Borage – Borago officinalis

One of my favorite companion plants- it is a wonderful companion for strawberries., tomatoes  and squash. They are usually tall, with striking blue blooms that are edible in salads and such.

Cardinal FlowerLobelia cardinalis

Grows wild along creek banks here- it was endangered at one point , but has made a nice recovery- perhaps due to it’s popularity in native gardens lately. It likes rich soil and sun and enjoys closeness to water.

ElfwortInula helenium

Elfwort is one I haven’t grown before , so it and I are on a new adventure. It is supposed to smell like violets and camphor.¬† and the flowers are supposedly a beautiful golden color. We’ll see ūüôā

Purple FoxgloveDigitalis purpera

Deadly  poison! it has been used in the past to treat cardiac arrhythmias, but is extremely poisonous. The flowers are beautiful- tall spikes of small glove like flowers ranged wn the stalk Рdefinitely NOT a plant to have around toddlers.

HyssopHyssopus officinalis

Often  used in potpourri or in the old days as a strewing herb to fresh the floor reeds, hyssop has a sweet camphor like min smell. The flowers are edible.

MonkshoodAconitum napellus

It’s blue flowers draw bumble bees. the plant is deadly poison- remember that all these plants are medicinals – grow and use them with an clear awareness of their dangers.

Stinging NettleVrtica dioica

Ah, Mother Nettle!- source of iron and vitamins, one of the first greens of Spring, source of wonderful soup and healing. I love the green dye she makes.

PennyroyalMentha pulegium 

It can produce sweating, aid against seasickness, and is an insect repellant. It also causes liver damage in too high of a dosage , so use with caution.

SweetgrassHierochole odorata

Very poor germinator for me… but grows well here once started. A native American standby- used for purification, woven baskets and rope making.

Woodland TobaccoNicotiana sylvestris

I use this is my moon gardens – the lovely white flowers have sweet scent -not a smoking tobacco in my book.

Wolfsbane Aconitum vulparia

Needs rich, moist soil. Humble bumbles ove it , but again , it is poisonous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Blog- Library for a homestead

OK- I know we all use the internet these day , right ? LOL well I still love the feel of book hands when I curl up to read and it can be a wise thing to have a good reference library on hand! There will be many times that you use these books…

Tyler Geyman was back up from Louisiana to visit for a while and we got to talking ”¬†things to know “- and what books are good¬†to keep on hand. Promised him a list ! So here goes…

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First the usual disclaimer -This is for informational purposes only – these are books we use and enjoy.

My three standbys are :

“The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening” -Rodale Press

Good basic¬† info about gardening , livestock raising and companion planting”How-to” graft, starting root cuttings etc.

“Stocking Up”

Great how to’s on preserving food- drying , canning , root cellar design , etc.

Merck’s Veterinary Manual”

Conventional meds for livestock- has dosages, diagnoses for illness etc.

There are many other good books- and great resources for books

Storey books- usually on a shelf in you farm supply store- these are good beginners manuals Рwith sound information. They can give you a great start on basic animal care

Chelsea books – fantastic publisher of alternative building books

Horizon Herbs- now “Strictly Medicinal” – some very good books and their catalog is full of growing info on herbs of all sorts

Alchemy Works – great seed resource for medicinal’s and tons of wonderful, accurate information !

Books in our library include the following , plus many more- I search thrift stores for basic texts on things like chemistry , physics ,etc.

The Hand Sculpted House- fun and informative about cob building…

Serious Straw bale – I feel this is the best book about building with bale-we followed is guidelines about moisture issues and have had no problems with it in seven years…

Rocket Mass Heaters by Ianto Evans and Leslie Jackson- a good read about basic rocket mass design

The Old Farmers Almanac- great lists of best planting days and all – gestation table- just good general information.

Llewellyn’s Moon sign Book- a yearly Lunar almanac

Any of Susan Weeds books about  healing

Euell Gibbons books – wonderful reads about wild foraging…

The Modern Herbal by Henriette Grieve- wonderful compendia of herbs Рshe refers to Culpepper a lot Рincludes many old time uses , but there area lot of American plants not included. I tend to use it for reference , but do not count on it for accuracy.

The Herb Book – by john Lust- I consider this to be one of the best sources for descriptions of a plant- I use it in combination with Nat. Audubon Society’s Field Guide to North American Flowers

Trees of Arkansas by Dwight W. Moore- good basic guide to learning trees

Audels- this is a serious of how-to books for construction and mechanics – on of the best to have on hand. Gives how to figure angles for rafters, proportions for mixing concrete, how to figure load bearing. etc.

There are so many more , but this gives you an idea¬† of what a resource library might have in it ūüôā

Have fun browsing LOL!