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.

 

 

 

 

Volunteering with Us 😊

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…😂

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 !

Herbhome’s Mission

Mission? That works 🙂

Several of our volunteers have asked that we post our view of what we are about – so here goes…

I thought it would be tough to write about just what we believe and why we do what we do. Surprisingly it is fairly easy.

We want to pass on the love we have for our hills and hollows and be sure that the homestead skills don’t get lost. we hope to show that sustainability doesn’t have to happen in an instant- but can be achieved one baby step at a time.

We can create a better world by taking the dreams in our head and using our hands and skills to bring it to life.

I think that we interact with the “real world” daily, like it or not. Maybe we can make a difference by the small things we change on a daily basis. I used to be one of the loud , aggressive, up front people for the causes I thought were important. Now I think my role has changed. It is more about teaching, making small changes- “baby steps” each one making the word a little better. My best image is of the pebble dropping into the still pool . each ripple going out , touches and changes the next one.

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We love the hills and hollows here and treasure the waters – the Buffalo – our Creeks and Springs are all  rich and beautiful. The culture here is deeply ingrained in our community and we are gifted with a good array of skills that are important to pass done so they won’t be lost.

Our volunteers from the  different work exchange programs we are involved in hopefully walk away with a love for our area- the culture and people as well as a respect for the ecology that is so rich.

I think sustainability starts one person at a time.. if we can pass that on, then we have achieved a big goal!

“To DO” Lists-What’s YOURS like?

Got one? That dreaded “to do” list?

Mine actually helps me 🙂

Making lists didn’t used to be productive for me. Then I read something in a Womans Day magazine some years back that really made it work  by putting a new perspective on it.

A “to do ” list is a memory aid filled with SUGGESTIONS not a MUST  do thing.

How is it helping ?

Well, – we have a big scribble board -with four columns

We keep a NEED list- if one of us wants something or needs something the next trip to town it goes up here . The understanding si that these are budget dependent , of curse.

Then there is the one with the Day of the week and the Date up there for us old folks whose memories aren’t functioning well til there is a pot of coffee on board LOL- this is where the TODAY’S WORK is listed- We try to keep it down to three major items- that way it is not too overwhelming. If one doesn’t get done – it just stays up the nest day-IF it is super important on the priority list it gets a time frame set out-  this means – get that one done ASAP!

The third one is for  Neill’s reminders-his things he wants to remember

and the fourth is MINE – things I need to do in town – or business calls to make – orders to fill etc.

It is surprising how much this helps- also, when we have volunteers it let’s them know what next , if we are out of pocket for some reason.

We do keep a separate chore board – the everyday stuff spelled out for our volunteers- or us , if we happen to be in a time with no volunteers here.

The board is also a place to scribble where you are going if you hike- not intended as an intrusion, but a safety feature- if it gets dark -are you upstream or downstream – were you headed to town?

It truly  has helped us get a load more accomplished to keep our lists.

 

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 !

Taking a Day Off to Dream

Life can get busy as twins. All the “should” and “musts”…

Sometimes it does the Spirit good just to take a timeout  just to rest and recoup our energy. We need  time to let our brain process everything we feed it – and surprisingly it will come up with unexpected , unique , answers and solutions.

My rest times often produce some awesome dreams of things I hope to do here on the homestead- scares hubby a little LOL- his “Honey Do ” list gets longer !

It can also be a great time just to re-connect with why you live your life. Right now , the wind is stirring my chimes- an old belief that they scare off bad things has them hanging everywhere 🙂 -Wow! Just realized that comes from Uncle Fred  (My great grandfather) and all his tales of the Orient 🙂

My Shadow cat is curled up snoozing beside me, hummer’s are stocking up on sugar water- hounds are snoozing everywhere- the leaves are rustling .. just a soft day to BE.

The muscovie ducks I got from Jimmie are picking out their roosting spots , now that they are getting older-one has even decided she likes the kitchen roof- she can look through the gable window and see what we are doing..:)

I get so much joy from the world around us- I hope I never lose that sense of wonderment! When I get wrapped up in real world issues and forget to get grounded it really shows in my state of mind and behaviors. Being a type “A” personality , bent on providing the best for family, it took many years to allow myself to relearn the connections I had as a child to the woods and hills I love. So it often takes a conscious effort to stop and ground when “real life”  rears it’s head.

My skill set has always been to make things happen- and right now it is needed in our family due to illness. But I also don’t want to loose the things I hold dear about my life. So – time out to Dream.

Planning the medicinal garden growth- also getting a list together of what we still need to complete the wind tower- and the floor insulation the first… wishing for more tanks for water storage… and dreaming about the living roof we want for the new library we hope to build. LOL – As the boys all say – when is Jeannie EVER without a project?

I believe Dreaming keeps hooked in to Life!