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.

 

 

 

 

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. !

 

 

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.

In Crafting Mode ☺

With the first of our Flux festivals coming up, I am getting really excited! What can I make that will spark someones Imagination ? Stir their Creative mind ? Create a sense of wonder, relaxation or boost their inner beauty ?

I have ideas for some funky corsets for our steampunk fans, and a couple of ladies top hats !

A new idea for adult fairy wings, some fabulous gypsy patchwork skirts and belly dance scarves….and of course our luscious herbal soaps..have some yummy new scents for this season!

Fun wings and crowns for the youngsters, ribbon twirlers…while a few crown beauties for the elves who wander through…mayhap even a crown or two to inspire a mermaid.

I’ve even made a couple of paper lanterns to light your way in our magic cosmic wood…

I made two elegant formal cloaks thus winter..pricey but stunning IMHO lol…plus a handful of robes and capes for the adventurers.

There are collections of herbs and salts for various alchemy in or out of the kitchen, haha!

So come to Cosmic Flux or Byrdfest 14 prepared to spend your coin! Not to mention, having the privelege of visiting with me…the Hawke!

If they do well , I will have some herb starts available as well…

Seasonal Almanac

I had a moment of awareness hit today. Much of what we do is seasonal. We live close to the earth  and the seasons have a great influence on what we are doing on the homestead.

I have always known this. Yet I am doing a lot of “When this happens then it is time to do this…” I think it is time to have a special section set up this way – follow the process for a year and see how it all begins to align.

Fall-October

This month is time to set out bulbs- Daffodils go into the ground, Amaryllis, Iris= it is time to set out and mulch all the wonderful Mums that we’ve been decorating with.. If you get them out now , they will establish deep enough roots to survive the winter freezes.

How do you like to use your Daffodils? I like to naturalize them – the effect suits me… Some people like more formal arrangements and they can be very stunning that way –

Narcissus  (Paper whites) are lovely- we always used to bring them in and force them for Christmas to go with the Poinsettia’s-

Now is the time to give your perennial herbs a haircut- harvesting about two thirds of the growth – I tend to make a lot of tinctures now- getting my home remedies ready for the winter. Made goldenrod, plantain, basil  and several others just the other day.

I prefer to use a tea or decoction over tincture, but a tincture is a safe and effective way to store many of the herbs. I dry and then store a lot of herbs – have a nice garden cabinet friend Sue gave me – it creates a nice dark shelf unit to store my harvested herbs. These beautiful fall days I carry a pocket full of wally world bags with me and my pocket knife and forage as I hike – the biggest issue is to be sure you clearly label you harvest- date gathered , where , what and the preparation- I also add other info – like the moons phase it was gathered in – important to me for research purposes.

Be sure to keep your herbs well watered unless it actually freezing – they are building a strong root system for the winter months- even though you may not see leaf growth.

Herbs tend to take longer to germinate than veggies- instead of two weeks they can take 5-6 weeks.

I plant seeds that need stratification  (several months of cold weather ) now and be sure to set up id markers – my old lady brain forgets where I planted things and we also have a lot of helpers come through with our volunteers 🙂

Now is a great time to id trees – the leaves make the ones like sugar maples easy to find- take the time to learn the bark and leaves of two or three you are interested in.

I like to advise that students follow three herbs throughout a whole year- what does it look like in  the winter months – how does it look when it first comes up in spring- what plants or trees does it grow nearby- what of type of soil does it like- how much sun hits it? How much water  does it use. does the color change as it grows larger?

Are there insects that live in it? Can you learn what the job insect does for that plant?

All these things help find the plant colony through different times of the year.

Livestock is coming into heat now as well- goaties are a good example- now folks who want to hit the Easter buckling market will breed earlier.. it just depends on what your need is. I like to dry up my does to be sure they are very healthy when it is time to kid. As a small farmer I have that advantage.. that intensive management is my market advantage.

Now is also the time to be planning for which plants to start from seed in last winter- what plants do you want ready to set out in the Spring- how long does it take them to be large enough to set out?

What plants are in bloom now?  Here are a few – White Snakeroot,  Heal-All, Wild Indigo,most of the Aster Family are still in bloom. My Spearmint, Peppermint , Catnip are all blooming still.

The Honeyoye Strawberries are sending out runners. My mouth is watering all over again !

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 – there 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.