Friday, January 30, 2009

Another Blog Gone

Since discovering the wildly amusing (and addictive) world of blogs, I must admit that there are some I read daily.... even if they don't post daily. These are the ones that I feel like I know them so well based on their blog alone, even if they do use fake names and I have no idea where in the world they are. Who cares? They're my blog friends (okay, they may not know me, but I know them and therefore, we are friends. ha)

I'm assuming that with the giant ice/snow storm that has much of the eastern U.S. shut down, that bloggers from the affected areas aren't posting. Which gives me time to flip thru and check on some of my fave blogs. ( I allot myself 1 hour a day for blogging - and spend 99% of it reading.)

Anyway, another one of my favorite blogs has bit the dust. Domestic Accident is no more. Her blog was eye candy... pink and black with a vintage looking avatar. She talked about her kids in a way that I can totally relate to mine. There was just so much to her blog that I loved... and now, poof, it's gone.

Lisa, I hope all is well in your world. I'm gonna miss ya.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Peanut Butter ~ From Scratch

In light of the recent peanut butter snafu, I decided to adventure into making our own... as a prelude to maybe growing our own peanuts this year. My kids eat nearly 60 pounds of peanut butter a year. I have no idea HOW they consume that much, but they do. I've been tracking it.

We started with a a 2 pound bag of roasted, unsalted peanuts from the Seed & Feed store. It was $4.45 for the bag. Emma, Aubrey and I had fun shelling them. We opted to remove the red skins too, but you could leave it on. (I have a few picky eaters and I wasn't sure what they'd say about red flecks in the PB.)

I weighed the peanuts after shelling - 1 lb 6 oz. Popped it into the food processor and added about 3 TBS of oil. Most recipes I've seen call for peanut oil, which I didn't have. So I used canola oil. Veggie oil would work too. Just be aware, you'll need to store it in the fridge. I also added a pinch of salt and about 1 TBS of honey. (The kids are so used to store bought PB which is sweetened, I thought a bit of sweet would help ease the transition.)
I processed it until the processor starting whining, loudly. Spooned it into a container and noted it was about 2 cups. We all did a quick taste test and decided it was VERY peanuty in flavor and sticky too. Reading online recipes comments I discovered that store bought PB has oils as well as other additives to ensure it's not too sticky. Also, if I had opted to process in a blender, it would've been smoother.

Overall, it was very easy to do. But, in the future, I'd like to find a much cheaper source for peanuts. I did pick up a 3 lb bag of shelled, roasted Spanish peanuts for $6. I'll use them to make PB too, but I may opt to not remove all the skins.
Incidentally, in my hunt to learn how to grow them, I read that Virginia peanuts are the largest sized and what is typically found in a grocery store. You can buy raw peanuts and plant them in the spring. I'd like to know if anyone has grown them or have a thought about buying raw to plant. I did several searches for heirloom or organic peanuts, but didn't find exactly what I was looking for. And, I'd love to get info on yields too.
As a bonus, I read that a peanut plant can process nitrogen from the air and deposit into the soil, so it would be an excellent crop to put into rotation following corn.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Seed Savers Challenge

I've committed myself to starting all my veggies from seed this year. Some are already started and others will be direct sown. As part of this plan, I've bought exclusively Heirloom seeds for the express purpose of being able to save them for next year. Thus, my intention is to not have to buy new seeds/plants ever again. How's that for frugal?!

Join in the challenge by visiting here.
In a future post, I'll list my garden plans... although, I want to do it in a non-boring way. I've tried so hard to read what others are growing this year, but the super long plant lists just make my eyes cross. Maybe it's just me?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cha Cha Is Magical

My oldest son is hard wired to find fun things to do with his cell phone. The latest and greatest is Cha Cha. If you have ever found yourself needing an answer to a question RIGHT NOW and your go-to person wasn't available, Cha Cha to the rescue.

To try it out, I sent in a silly question and had a response in less than 2 seconds. A correct response, I might add. It's not mobile search, it's mobile answers, according to the website. Basically, on your cell phone, you send a text message to 242242 and put your question in the body of the text.

The funniest thing we've done with Cha Cha is settle an arguement. It can explain a phrase or quote. You can get current weather stats anywhere. I asked it to find me the closest gas station that was open on a Sunday evening in rural Kansas.

Regular text fees from your carrier apply, but the Cha Cha service is free. I think you can only ask 4 questions every 72 hours. Be sure to check out the website and the Tips & Tricks section. It has shortcuts for jokes, stock quotes, movies etc. Oh, and the confessions page is the great testimonials from other users.

Two other helpful services I have in my cell phone's speed dial list:

Google via text is 466453 ~ I use this when I need an address or phone number and I'm not close to a computer. Much faster than accessing the web via my cell.

Mapquest 1-800-373-3411 - gives you voice activated directions for free (also has a free download for blackberry users - from your blackberry, go to it's web brower and visit

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Nesting Boxes Done

After several days of head scratching, Jerry figured out how to build and attach the nesting box to the coop. YEAH!! I'm so excited! The chickens figured out pretty quickly what they were for and we had our first 3 egg day. Having the box outside the coop makes for easy egg collecting and cleaner shoes. All that's left is the siding and a paint job, and our 6 month project will be completed.

Here are two of the lovely ladies, Pot Pie and Chipmunk. They are on the outside of the chicken run looking into it. I do think the phrase "bird brain" is right on the money. Sometimes, it takes them four or five tries to figure out how to get back inside the run - and it's a 6' opening.

Well, I never said the bird feeder and bird bath were off limits, did I?

This is our original chicken tractor. Made out of wood from pallets and a few repurposed 2x4s. It's covered in plastic chicken fencing (NOT a good idea - it breaks easily). It does have a door on one end. We put the flock in here during the day, covered with the tarp as the direct sun was pretty hot. Now that we have the coop & run, this has been delegated to the rabbits and guinea pig to hang out in. It's light weight and easy to move. It was designed to fit over a raised bed but actually stays on the yard. We are going to build an enclosure on one end so that the rabbit can have permanent residence in it. Or, we might use it to raise a small flock of meat birds. Hmmm, we'll see.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

267 pounds down ~ 9,733 to go

For this last week, I sent a large bag of misc clothes to D.A.V. I also freecycled a few things. I sent 7 books out thru And we paid down $250 on some debt.

If you're working on debt reduction, I highly advise Dave Ramsey. Get the books from the library, listen to him via internet or just check out his website. He has various ideas ~ not all will work for everybody, but something might spark you. I personally like the giant poster of debt reduction. It's a big spreadsheet that I bought at the school supply store. The debts are listed on the left side and we designated each square to be 'worth' $50. So, we'll highlight as many squares as needed to represent the debt owed. Then, as it's paid (we do the snowball method too), we black out the squares to show the debt going down. It's a very visual reminder of where we stand. I have a smaller sheet for the immediate debt, the full sheet is for the long range debt.

We also have one for savings that we color in as our savings grows. My only caution is if you have people over, they may stand around and read your charts. This bugs me like you can not imagine. So, now I take them down if we're expecting company.

The "Have-More" Plan

A few weeks ago, I was reading the comments section of Tiny Farm Blog and a Sharon posted 2 links to books free to download. I clicked on The Have More Plan by Ed and Carolyn Robinson and decided to go ahead and print it too. It has so many wonderful things I wish I'd known before getting started. In general, it's a homesteading primer. It has how to lay out your homestead, a really nice barn plan that houses a milk cow or goats, chickens, rabbits and storage too. A well thought out kitchen plan. Fish ponds and fruit orchards. It has good ideas on just about everything you could need in your homestead.
I enjoyed the "quaintness" of the prices listed throughout.
I do see the cyclic nature of the back to the land movement. I think the gap in the cycle is closing though.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Who Loves Compost?!

Jerry built me these 2 compost bins that are 5' x 5'. A bit bigger than what I had intended, but they work well. The chickens spend a great deal of their time scratching and pecking and even the horse neighbor stops by to sniff.

Before chickens, it took about a year for us to turn garbage into compost. Now, it's right about a month. I clean the chicken's coop out every other week and add it to the bins. It breaks down faster than I ever thought it could. We are considering doing away with the bins and just heaping it into the garden.

We have a friend that has dozens of rabbits, but doesn't compost or garden, so her bunny poo is heading our way too. And, driving down the road, I saw 3 bags of leaves dumped in a ditch that I snagged. Into the compost it went.

At this rate, we'll have to start giving it away or selling it!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Stop the Draft In Your Laundry Room

When we moved into this house, it was the fall. That first winter, if you stood in the kitchen, your hair would move due to the excessive amount of air coming in thru the backdoor casing, window & dryer vent. (Our laundry room is just off the kitchen.)

We fixed the window & door, but didn't know what to do about the vent. Then, we went to one of our favorite internet sites, searched and found this: replace your dryer vent. I ordered the vent, it was about $25 with shipping & handling.

When it arrived, Jerry took the old vent cover off and found quite a bit of lint for something that was so drafty. I had been keeping the door of our dryer shut and really could have used it as a second fridge it was so darn cold inside.

Anyway, it didn't take him too long to install it. Handyman skills don't come naturally to him but he said it was pretty easy, even with our uneven siding.
It works by having a floating part inside. When the dryer is on, heat forces the floating shuttle up, when the dryer is off, the shuttle is down and vent is sealed from air exchange & pests.

It's even paintable. And, cleaning lint out of it is pretty simple. Just twist off the cap.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Eggs Have Arrived!!

Last Thursday night, I was dropping D off at a friend's house when I got a text from Jerry saying he had found something in the chicken coop, and could I guess what it was.

I had just been saying how I hoped a snake or rat or other varmit wouldn't get in there (we leave it open during the day) so I didn't even consider it would be an egg.

The text came back in all caps "CONGRATS U HAVE EGG". I was so excited I started jumping up and down and laughing. Now, if you have raised chicks from a day old, only to watch them eat tons of chick food and wait, day after day to get that first egg, you totally know the feeling I had. It was so exciting!

We have 10 hens, most of which should lay brown eggs. But it was a white egg. So, I suspected it was the Leghorns. On Friday, it was warm, sunny and just a wonderful day. D and I were outside watching the chix when one of them started making quite a racket in the coop. We looked and sure enough, she was getting ready to lay. So, I actually saw her lay egg #2. Saturday, no egg, but Sunday, another egg. So, we are up to 3 eggs. I thought it was too early for them to be laying, they're only 17.5 weeks old, but hey, I think I have an overachiever in the bunch. And, it was the the smallest chicken in the flock that laid first.

After she laid on Friday, I watched both roos go into the nest and mimic her... which was pretty funny. None of the other hens seemed interested at all.

Now, if Jerry would just get the nesting boxes done, they would have a proper place to lay.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lighten The Load Challenge

You may have seen the challenge over at The Sustainable Backyard. I'm joining in too. This will be my first challenge to undertake and I'm excited.

The concept is simple enough. Set a goal to reduce your clutter. Clutter can be debts, excess body weight, clutter in your house etc. For each pound you get rid of, you get to remove a point. Each $1 of debt reduced is equal to 1 pound.

My goal is huge, but necessary. I won't go into details of exactly why I set my goal so high, but it's attainable if I stay focused. My goal is to reduce 10,000 pounds of clutter this year.

Want to join in? Post a comment on Anajz's blog and you're in.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Local Eating

I meant to share this a while back.

When our Farmer's Market closed for the winter (they're shut down from Oct to April) I had to find a source for meat. I went to and found a wonderful source for pork and beef. I can buy it in small quantities and it's GREAT!!

My 3 youngest peeps went with me this past Saturday to Faye Farms in Udall KS. Heather & Mark were so nice and friendly. They showed us the 2 week old piglets and the month old pigs. I was in awe at the size of the mamas ~ 600 pounds! We also saw the calves, some of which are for sale. (If I could figure out the room needed for a cow to pasture, then I'd know if we could get a family milk cow ~ but aren't they supposed to stay in a herd?!) Oh, and their chickens! What a hoot!! We already love the flock we have and we got to see Black Astralops & Mad Hatters both of which we now want. Why are chickens so addictive?! They told us about their turkeys and chicken meat birds for sale. Plus we saw grouse and even a peacock. Sadly, they can't sell milk to us ~ their milk co-op rules don't allow that. But, I think we found a milk source in Clearwater.

We bought hamburger as well as pork chops plus some pork sausage and 2 dozen eggs. I showed our chickens the eggs, but they don't appear to care that I'm getting eggs from other hens. LOL Jerry declared the sausage the best ever ~ he is from Iowa and it reminded him of his farm life.

We definitely will be back to shop for more. We're now on the list for a whole hog in May and will more than likely be able to get a side of beef too. Gotta get more freezer space!

Also, on the local site, I found a homesteader that does sell produce from her garden which has me thinking about that option (selling the surplus) because when I checked into the Farmer's Market, I found that there was a bit of paperwork and approvals had to be met before you could sell there. I don't think we'll be at the production level to really warrant selling at a market, but we might be able to do it on a smaller scale.

The other site I like to browse is Another great source for local fresh veggies & fruits. I have been to several of the growers and found them all to be top notch.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

$7 Breadbox

"Hey Mom, where's the bread?"

"In the breadbox"

"The WHAT?"

"Breadbox... that green box on the counter that says BREAD on the front of it."

muttering heard: "who knew there was a box just for bread. MOST people keep their bread in the sack from the store."

Yep, I've been out treasure hunting again. One of my fave antique stores was having an end of season sale with most things being 20% off. So, off I went dragging my oldest son with me. Ok, he went willingly, but only because we were going to the movies later.

This store is huge! It's in an old bowling alley, game center, skating rink warehouse type building. I can't even tell how many booths are in there, lets just say hundreds.

I have been hunting for a bread box for a while now as storing homemade bread in plastic containers doesn't let the bread breathe... and it shortens it's lifespan (IMO)

The first one we spotted was red and $25. Not in great shape but I liked the color and size. I have funky cupboards that hang down low, so not a lot can fit under them... not my bread machine, or the Kitchenaid mixer. Geesh, the papertowel holder barely fits. The next one was wooden, $30. The 3rd one was all rusty, $15. We saw several more, but too banged up, too expensive, or just not right.

Then, I spotted this one on a low shelf behind some other things. Priced at $9 but with the holiday discount, it was just $7. Woo Hoo!! What a find!! And, I do love the color green! Goes great with the super dated green & yellow wall paper (soon to be painted over!).

Where do you keep your bread?!

Refried Bean Bread

This recipe comes from Dec/Jan 2009 issue of Healthy Cooking mag. It's a TOH spin off.

I'm not a bean fan. As a matter of fact, I only eat one kind of bean, the green bean. I don't even like jelly beans! When I read the recipe, I thought, no way can you use an entire can of refried beans in a bread and not have a bean flavor. Well, yes you can!

Southwest Surprise Bread

2 pkgs active dry yeast

2 cups warm 2% milk (110 to 115 degrees)

1 can (16 oz) fat free refried beans

2 TBS sugar

2 TBS butter, melted

2 tsp salt

5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour (I did half white, half wheat)

1. Dissolve yeast into milk. Add beans, sugar, butter & salt. Mix well. Add 2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Add in rest of flour to form a firm dough. (Well, mine wasn't firm, but I didn't want to overflour it either.)

2. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth & elastic - 6 to 8 min. Place in a bowl coated with cooking spray, turning once to coat the top. Cover and let rise until doubled, about an hour.

With our cooler indoor temps, the warmest spot in the house is in the slightly preheated oven.

3. Punch dough down. Divide in half. Shape into loaves. Place into oiled loaf pans. Let rise 2nd time, about 30 min.

5. Bake at 350* for 40-45 min until golden brown. Remove from wire racks to cool.

It does make a softer bread and while there are bits of beans in it, there really isn't a bean taste to it. Yeah! I do like the fiber though - 1 slice is 104 calories, 1 g fat, 1 g fiber, 4 g protein. That's if each loaf is 16 slices each.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Better OFF by Eric Brende

I admit that the cover really drew me in ~ I do love fields of waving golden wheat!

The book is well written and easily engages you from the first page. Eric Brende, the author and MIT grad, and his wife, Mary, choose to live in a Minimite community, unplugged from everything. The book gives you a brief backdrop for the decision and then devotes the rest of the pages to the actual living a very rural, off grid experiment. The book covers the farming cycle from planting through harvest.

Minimites are an old Amish order. According to the book jacket, even Amish groups consider them to be so primitive that they are antiquated. Interestingly, the author rents a house without running water, but eventually, the owner convinces them to try to install running water. It's a very elaborate process to get water uphill using a self pumping ram, not electricity. Even Minimists enjoy indoor running water.

What I like the best was that nothing was left out. Every detail was covered (to the point that I'm now seriously considering buying an Amish wringer washer) so that the reader could actually implement the lessons learned and shared. I also liked that the author shared technical information in a straight-forward way.

The book shared quite a bit of self discovery such as when the author was tired and hungry and got into a fight with his wife over being hungry and wanting to eat. Neither one were very adept at cooking and without refridgeration, 3 meals a day had to be made completely from scratch. There was no way to store leftovers (well, they hadn't considered it yet.) What followed was a discovery of a local cookbook and better ways to store food. It reminds me of the phrase, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."

As I read the book, I referred often to the hand drawn map included. I found myself wanting to know a lot more, about the people and how they lived and what they thought of modern day "improvements". I would love to be able to purchase some of the Amish made tools that seem to be better made and longer lasting and of course, see the gardens & barns in person. I appreciate how things are built and I'd love to see some of the structures that they built.

I also like reading about the various gardening, livestock and community ideas that are presented. There are Amish and Mennonite communities within an hour of Wichita, but I don't suppose I could just show up and hang out for a day or two, learning from them, so this book was a great insight to a simpler life.

I won't be shutting off our utilities anytime soon, but the book reminded me of the cost involved in having conveniences, and it's obviously not just monetary. This book is a keeper ~ so while I'll return the libraries copy, I'll definitely be getting one for myself.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009 Goals

I don't usually set goals on Jan 1st - instead, I update as I go. However, now that I'm in Homesteading mode, I think that setting goals now will make the process smoother during the year.

Our chicken coop is the perfect example. We bought the chickens knowing we'd have to build a coop. It took us weeks to figure out how to build it and where to find cheap/no cost materials. Then several more weeks to make it while the chicks spent time in the chicken tractor. Today, Jerry is outside STILL working on the coop. Sigh. Luckily, the chickens don't seem to mind the work in progress. Hopefully, the nesting boxes will be done today! Lesson learned ~ most large building projects can't be completed in a weekend by us.

  1. Remove overgrown Cottonwood trees to make way for peach trees.

  2. Start seeds indoors for the garden.

  3. Purchase & plant Raspberry bushes and more peach trees.

  4. Paint shed & chicken coop.

  5. Rain barrels installed on house, chicken coop & shed. (Need gutters on shed & coop.)

  6. Plan the garden based on consumption needs (fresh eating & canning) instead of wileyniley.

  7. Wash the 400 canning jars bought off Craigslist ~ a few at a time.

  8. Continue our Dave Ramsey inspired financial plan.

  9. Spackle the kitchen & laundry room walls where I attempted to remove wallpaper 3 years ago. Paint both rooms.

  10. Put trim back up in the kitchen ~ removed 3 years ago when new floor was installed.

  11. Remove overgrown bushes by back patio for a small kitchen garden.

  12. Relocate large, overgrown flower bed as it's spot is better suited for veggies.

  13. Expand my canning recipes. We love the salsa, spaghetti sauce, chicken stock, peaches, apple & pear recipes. But, there's a lot more we could do.

  14. Learn to make cheese ~ and find a local source for fresh milk.

  15. Go in on a bulk meat purchase - pig & cow. Jerry is talking about building a smoke house. Hmmmmm Is that a LARGE project, honey?! We better start it now.

  16. Help Cole finish building his bee hives to be installed on a friends farm.

I think that's about as grand as I can imagine for 2009. How about you?