Monthly Archives: January 2016

Daily Life #6…will have to wait

Went to church this morning, with a pot luck afterward. Came home and immediately got involved with a craft project, and now it’s bed time. Pictures and such tomorrow. I’m tired!

Night!

Daily life #5 – Free Stuff and Crystals

I got to sleep in this morning! It was heavenly! And needed after several nights in a row of poor sleep due to not feeling well.

By the time I ate breakfast and finished my journal entry (which I started yesterday morning), showered and dressed, etc, it was time to take Scooter to the vet and do a bit of shopping. Later in the afternoon, I met a lady and took a floor mat she no longer wanted off her hands.

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Don't you just love my thrift store desk chair?

I love Freecycle! That or the free section on craigslist. I know there are even more free trading/swapping site out there. Have you ever used any? I highly recommend it. Not only is it a great way to find items you might need without having to buy new, but it’s a great way to get rid of items you know have a use, you just no longer want them. We’ve gotten quite a bit of good quality wood which we’ve used for several projects around the house.

And today I got a floor mat. I seriously would have bought one had I run across it on a store. And here I got it for free! (Well, I guess I had to spend a bit of money in gas to get it, but she lives near me, so it was minimal.)

This afternoon, I also checked on my wicks which had been soaking for 24 hours as the instructions said.

And I found this:

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The solution had crystallized! Weird, but cool. Not sure what happened. But I saw other instructions which said to soak for only 20 minutes. So I soaked another section of string for about an hour and it is drying right now. I left the crystal solution in there to see what it does if I leave it longer.

I plan to also try a few other options I have heard about and see what all makes a difference.

After dinner, I sat down with my garden journal and started planning my 2016 garden. As I said in my New Year post, I’m not going to be as ambitious this year, but I still want it to be organized. Basically. I was looking for what can be planted in a small space that either yields a lot on one plant (ie, a tomato plant), or is small enough that you can plant a lot in a small place (like lettuce). And of course it needs to be something we actually eat. And something I don’t have to tend to a lot.

When I have the finalized plan I will share it with you.

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Daily Life #4 – DIY Mason Jar Spout And Carpet Deodorizer Recipe

So I’ve seen this tip on Pinterest several times and today the planets aligned and I was able to make one for myself.

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And by planets aligning, I simply mean that I happened to have the need for one right when I had a nearly empty salt container.

I finally got around to vacuuming today and wanted to use my homemade carpet deodorizer (recipe below). But I tend to accidentally shake half the powder on the carpet when I try to shake it out without some sort of top on the jar. I thought about punching holes in a jar lid, but then I remembered this tip.

All I did was use a sharp knife to cut the top off the salt container, then put it on the jar in place in the lid. It worked remarkably well! It is the perfect size for a wide mouth jar. In order to use a regular mouth jar, just trace around a regular size lid and cut it down accordingly.

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So, the carpet deodorizer recipe. That also is super easy.
-Fill a quart size mason jar about 3/4 full with Washing Soda (not baking soda)
-Add 10-20 drops of your favorite essential oils (we like orange and clove or lavender and eucalyptus), put the lid on, and shake the jar to distribute the oils.
-Shake the deodorizer on your carpet 15-30 minutes prior to vacuuming (test on obscure area 1st).
-Vacuum as normal.

Notes:

-Do not use baking soda, it is too powdery and tends to leave a white residue, thus why the recipe calls for washing soda. It still absorbs the odors of stinky carpets but is more granular. It can be found in the laundry isle of most grocery stores.

-You can fill your mason jar full, but then you’d want to dump the soda into a bowl, add the oils, mix, and return to the jar. Otherwise the jar will be too full to shake to distribute the oils. I prefer to just do it as stated above so I don’t have another dish to wash.

-I find that I use about 1/4 of the jar (roughly 1 cup of the mixture) per application. Depending on the size of your house you may have to use more or less. This is where the salt container spout comes in handy as I found that without it, too much sprinkles out and I invariably ended up using over half my mix for one round!

-I use this powder every other or every third time I vacuum, depending on how stinky the pets and kids have been. 🙂

I really like that this carpet deodorizer is all natural. No weird chemicals to worry about around my family.

So aside from vacuuming my house (finally!), and in between the daily tasks of taking care of the family, I started researching how to make candles from scratch. An article I read recently got my gears turning and Hubs and I got to talking about all those skills which we have a theoretical knowledge of, but have never actually tried. Like candle making. Did you know that you are supposed to treat wicks with something like boric acid in order to make them burn properly? I had no idea, and my minimalist side is wondering if it really  makes a difference. So my plan is to try a couple different types of wicks and see what the results are.

So in a couple days hopefully I’ll have a post all about making candles. 🙂

Princess Girl and I also got around to mounting the puzzle we finished a couple weeks ago.

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I cut a piece of cardboard the same size as the puzzle, we covered it in Elmers glue, then slid the puzzle onto it and slathered a bit more glue on the top. Then, when it had dried a bit, we covered it in plastic and put a box on top to keep it from bowing. Princess Girl is going to hang it in her room when it is finished.

And that’s how this homesteader spent her day.

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Planting Dreams

This is another post from our time before we moved to Oregon. I found it buried on my computer. I remembered writing it, I just could never find it. It’s the continuing story of our apple trees on the homestead (for the beginning, read here).

We finally got our trees planted! After buying them, they sat in their buckets, attached to our EZ-Up shade shelter for waaaay too long.

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It was hard to keep them watered enough with the heat and wind. And they got stressed fairly badly. The horrid windstorms we had which ripped our shade pavilion apart also ripped the apples off the trees. The last time I saw the trees, there was only one little clump left (and now we won’t get to even partake of those few since we moved, if they even survive – sad face). So, before we knew we were moving, we finally made the time to plant them so they wouldn’t die. We have so many dreams attached to those trees.

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Flower Girl “helping” dig.

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The Hubby and my dad taking turns digging the lower hole.

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I know how to handle a shovel, for sure!

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The lower tree is planted.

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The girls helping tamp down the compost in the upper hole.

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Princess Girl actually helping to shovel dirt into the newly planted tree.

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Staking the tree so it won’t blow down (look how little she looks!)

A lot of the leaves, especially on one of them, were turning brown and crunchy and I was concerned that maybe they had gotten too stressed.

But I’ve learned through my gardening years not to give up on anything too quickly. And sure enough, just before we left for our fateful visit to the Northwest, I took these pictures of the new growth happening. I was so happy to see those signs that they were going to be ok.

And then, not even one week later we decided we needed to move to the Northwest to care for family. When I got out of the car after that trip and saw my beautiful little trees, I wept. Who would be there to care for them? They aren’t nearly established enough to possibly even remotely survive on their own. But once again, family stepped in and saved the day. My mom says that she’s willing to go up a couple times a week to water them. That means hauling a 5 gallon container of water up to the property with her, lugging it out of the car, waiting while one tree is watered, more lugging to get to the other tree, more waiting, then heading home. We appreciate her so very much! And now those little trees can grow and thrive, even while we’re gone, and when we move back we’ll have full fledged apple trees. Thanks, Mom!

Update: Mom sent me a picture on 4/17/15 and the trees were blooming! It was so amazing to see that they had survived the rest of that summer and the winter.

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And they survived the whole summer of 2015, too! Mom and God watered them as needed. Though they did get a bit stressed, they made it through. Sounds like my own personal journey. 🙂 So far this winter (2015/16), they are getting plenty of moisture through rain and snow, so that’s a very good thing. And hopefully by this summer we’ll be moved back to care for them ourselves (hey, I can dream, can’t I?).

Oh, and I DID get to eat an apple from our tree!

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The girls and I went back a month after our move for my cousin’s wedding. The apple was small and tart, but oh, so delicious! We didn’t have any apples in 2015 since there was a late freeze that came through and froze all the blossoms off everything. No one got any fruit last year. But, that’s life in the high desert. Hubby and I have plans in our heads of how to protect our fruit trees in the future. But first we have to BE there in order to do the protecting. One step at a time!

Daily Life day #3 – just a normal day

Day 3 of my month of Daily Life posts. Not much happened. Today was one of those days I seemed to be busy all day, but didn’t get anything tangible accomplished like yesterday. I was planning on working some more outside, but I’m not feeling very well today.

I cooked three breakfasts at different times (mine at 7am, the girls’ at 8:30am, and Mom’s at 9:30am.)  Took care of Mom while Dad went to breakfast with friends and then worked outside in the yard. Let the chickens out of the run to roam. Started laundry (which reminds me, I need to go switch loads.) Ummm… I’m sure there was more between breakfast and lunch. After lunch I took Flower Girl for a walk around the block.

She’s finally learned to pedal her tricycle all by herself.

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Then it was home and some computer work. Helped Princess Girl with some of her school work. My wonderful Hubby made dinner, which was awesome. Then I laid on the couch and vegged with the girls and my man.

So you know, a normal, mundane type of day.

I should have done more actual work on the computer (you know, rather than Pinterest). I should have gotten up to vacuum since our vacuum was in the shop for several days and the carpets are nasty! I should have switched laundry around several more times and put clothes away. I should have documented some ideas I have for the homestead.

But it didn’t happen.

And I’m ok with that. It’s not every day I have a legitimate reason to take it easy. 

And I know that realistically not every day can be blog worthy (though I seem to be doing a pretty good job of turning it into one. 😉 )

But that’s life.

At least that’s my life.

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Daily Life #2 – Chicken Run Repairs

Earlier today I posted a picture on our Facebook page about doing something very homesteaderly today. I think I was inspired by yesterday’s post!

I finally went out and bought the supplies I needed to fix the chicken run roof.

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Yup, some clear corrugated roofing.

When we built the chicken run last year, we put up a cheap tarp to keep an area of the run dry (because it rains here ya know. A lot!). As you can imagine, after a year out in the elements, that tarp was rather worthless.

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So, I prepared my tools, strapped on my belt, and got to work.

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First I cut down the ratty old tarp.

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Then I measured, marked, and cut the plastic roofing.

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While I was working on that, Princess girl was being a great help by removing the nails from some boards I took out down from the chicken run.

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And yes, that is Flower Girl up in that tree. She has just discovered that she can climb it with no help.

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Look at that face!

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Meanwhile, back in the chicken run… I then screwed the cut panels in place, making sure to overlap the edges so that the rain won’t drip through. And, voila! new roof on the chicken run!

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This post is proof that you don’t need a bunch of fancy equipment to get work done around the homestead. My toolbelt is not a fancy or totally expensive one, but it gets the job done, and I’ve had it for years and not even absolutely necessary. The drill I used to screw the panels up is a simple little cordless thing, that we again have had for years. And if I didn’t have it, I could have used a hammer and nails. The only specialty tool I used was the tin snips, but again, I could have just used a sharp knife. I didn’t even have a ladder(because it was too big for the job and I didn’t want to drag it into the muddy, mucky chicken run)! I used a combination of a step stool and a sturdy plastic chair we had in the back yard.

With a little ingenuity and the willingness to get dirty, you can accomplish a lot.

And speaking of getting dirty, I decided that since I was already icky from working in there and because it needed to be done, I would clean out the coop and spruce things up.

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It looks so nice and bright with the clear panels. I’m looking forward to having dry space in the run again.

We already have to take measures to keep their food dry.

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We put their food in a tray to keep it off the soggy ground.

And give them sand to “bathe” in.

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I keep their water out in the open rather than under the cover. This serves two purposes. When I fill it and if they spill it, it doesn’t get the protected area all wet. Also, since it is exposed to the rain, God often fills it up for me. 🙂 By elevating it on a cinder block, the girls don’t fowl it nearly as often (pun intended). 😉

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Hubby and I are rather proud of our chicken run and coop. We hardly spent any money to put it together. And I realized that I’ve never really shown it off. The coop itself is a cabinet we bought at the Habitat for Humanity Re-store for $2.50. Yup, two dollars and fifty cents!

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As you can see from the above picture, I cut a hole in the bottom of one of the doors for the chickens to enter. Inside there are a series of levels and ladders and roosts for the hens to sleep.

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There is also a cut out at the middle level where they access the nest box, which is the brown box attached to the side.

We keep the food in a kitchen trash can with a lid. It is the perfect size for a 50lb bag of feed. We also keep a bale of straw wrapped in a tarp under the eve of the house.

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Other than the straw, cabinet, and nails and screws (and now the clear roofing panels) we didn’t spend anything to build our run and coop. It is nearly all recycled materials. Even one of the doors is an old screen door.

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So, now the coop and run are clean and dry once more.

Do you think the hens care?

Nope.

They are over in the compost corner.

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You do what you can with what you have. You start where you are. And nearly everyone, if they’ve got any land at all and it’s legal where they live, could find enough space in their life for a few chickens.

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

The daily life of an urban homesteader

I’ve been thinking about doing this post for a while now. But several things have stopped me. It never seemed to be the right time and I didn’t know if I was the right person. Half the time I feel like somewhat of a homesteading sham. I don’t live on a farm, and much of my life here in the suburbs is normal, mundane things that don’t have much to do with homesteading. Maybe that’s why I don’t post very often, because I don’t feel like I have very many homesteaderly-type things to write about. But here’s the deal, not everyone can be the type of homesteaders they want to be right away, maybe never. But that shouldn’t stop anyone from doing what they can with what they’ve got. I have a vision in my head of what a homesteader is and does and looks like. Don’t you?

Stop for a moment, if you will. Picture in your mind what is your ideal homestead situation. Mine looks something like this:

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Source unknown

The thing is, I don’t think I fit any of the “perfect homesteader” requirements in my own brain. Especially living here in our normal little house on our tiny little lot in our very suburban neighborhood. And yet, I still identify as a “homesteader”. No, I’m not where I want to be yet. But I am working to get there.

And that’s truly what the homestead journey is all about. It’s about doing more for yourself, being more sustainable, and living a healthier lifestyle,

It really is a journey and you start where you are and you move forward from there.

There’s a great quote out there by Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

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So here we are on our journey which we’ve been on for several years now. We started out in 2007 by planting our first garden. Our garden expanded every year and we branched out into raising animals. We got our first meat rabbits in 2012 and our first chickens in 2013. We purchased and moved onto our homestead land in 2014. Things were going great and we were on the fast track to being “real” homesteaders! And then we took what seemed a huge step backward just two months later when we moved to the suburbs in Oregon. The only thing worse I could think of is if we were in an apartment/condo with no yard. And yet we are still homesteaders. We make our own chicken bone broth and bacon lard. Though it is small we do have a garden. We have some chickens. We even butchered our own meat. Once. Our diet has taken a radical turn toward whole foods (not the grocery store!) and eating a more sustainable diet. We’ve started the process of building our own house. I’ve taught myself how to make soap, deodorant, carpet deodorizer, and various other cleaning and beauty products (which I will blog about one of these days). And I’ve dabbled in 3 season / year round gardening (two posts about that #1  #2). Sounds like numerous other “legitimate” homesteaders I know.

So, yes, even though I don’t fit my ideal vision of a homesteader, I am one.

And thus the idea for this blog assignment was born.

I am going to post every day (or as close to it as possible) for a month about my daily life.

I’m going to get real.

And along the way, I hope to debunk some myths people might be about what it takes to be a homesteader.

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So for my first day in my Daily Life posts, here’s me on my daily walk (I try to get out at least 5 times a week). I really didn’t want to post this pic since my hair is all crazy because it’s humid outside (it’s the Pacific Northwest go figure). But this is me being real. Thus, a picture showing overweight me with my flyaway hair.

So do I look like your vision of a homesteader? I don’t to me. Other than the flannel of course. 😉 In my mind, homesteaders are skinny because they eat right and get lots of exercise. You know, somewhat like Shaye Elliot over at the Elliott Homestead. I mean have you seen her? They just moved their farm and are in the midst of a total home renovation on the new place. And she’s, like, 6 months pregnant!

One day I would love to be skinny and totally in shape (and have great hair). But that’s not where I am on my journey. And I may never be. But that doesn’t stop me from doing what I can now to further my journey in homesteading. So I go for walks in order to stay in shape at least a little so that one day, when we are living and working on the homestead, I might have the strength to survive it.

Because homesteading isn’t about the way we look or the piece of land we live on or the number of animals we have. It’s about the choices we make along the journey to become the people we want to be.

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

My Flower Princess

Flower Girl is growing up so quickly! At three years old, she is very independent, always wanting to do things on her own and her way.

But that might have something to do with the fact that she has quite a lot of responsibility for a three year old.

Such as carrying in the eggs.

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Or picking out her own outfit.

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Or helping fix her own lunch.

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Yes, that’s right, I’m teaching my three year old how to use the stove (and please ignore how dirty the stove is!).

But don’t worry, we are careful.

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Notice how my hand is shielding hers?

So yeah, she’s growing up fast.

And while I sometimes lament the passing of her baby years, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Plans

We are scrambling in the planning stage of building our house on the homestead in Nevada. We learned last week that in the county we are building in, we HAVE to build a garage! We were planning to wait for later to build a large garage/shop. Now we’ll be building a small garage along with the house and we’ll build the large one later. Just one more expense. Well, you can’t have too many outbuildings, right? 🙂

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I talked to the power company this week to see just how much it would cost to bring in power. We were going off the assumption that it would be just the same or even cheaper to do solar than to bring in power. But our information was about a decade old. So we’ve been doing our research and turns out we were correct. Whew! At least that was as we expected.

This week I’ve been calling the building department and the health department and the planning department and every other department they might have to get the final information we need. Hopefully in the next couple of days we will be able to dig our test trench for our septic system and once we have the results from that we can submit our plans for our permit. But in order to make that happen, I have to coordinate schedules with my dad in Reno so I can rent a backhoe, have it delivered to the property, he can dig the trench, we can order the inspection, and then back fill the trench.

Oy, I’m going crazy. Things would be so much simpler if we lived there. But it is what it is. And it is actually an exciting time. Things are actually happening!

Next time I’m feeling overwhelmed, I just need to remember that. It IS exciting. And we are so blessed to be able to build our own house. And one day in the not-too-distant future, we’ll be living in that house on our very own homestead. Exciting indeed!

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Bacon Lard

I’m nearly out of bacon lard and need to make some more, so I figured it was a opportune time to write a tutorial on just how I do that.

Just a word about using lard: if you are vegetarian or subscribe to the low-fat-everything-is-healthy-for-you way of eating, then this is not a post for you. If you’d like to learn more about the philosophy I believe when it comes to using saturated fats for our family’s diet, read this article, it sums up my beliefs quite well.

Now, I’ll be the first to say that the lard which comes from processed bacon is not the healthiest fat on the planet. But I use it because 1.) saturated fats are not the evil fats they have been made out to be, and 2.) (most importantly) it’s free! As with almost everything in this world, moderation is key. I suppose it would be more healthy if we used healthier bacon (yes, there is such a thing.) But we haven’t made that switch yet. One of these days…

So, what is bacon lard anyway, and how do you make it?

I’m so glad you asked. ‘Cause I’m gonna tell you. 🙂

Whenever you make bacon, there’s all that grease left over, right? I know some people dump that grease into a grease pot and leave it on the counter and use it just like that. But, my modern food handling mind just can’t get past that. And I know people who simply pour their bacon grease in a container and keep it in the fridge and use it as needed. I don’t like that either because then you have all those little burned bits of bacon fond mixed in with the grease and an overpowering bacon flavor. I know, I know, there are those of you asking, “What’s wrong with that???”(My Hubby is included in your ranks, for sure!) But depending on what I’m using it for, I don’t want it to taste so much like bacon. And those little burned bits just make the grease look “dirty”. Turning your bacon grease into bacon “lard” makes it nice and clean and less bacony in flavor. It is a long, but very simple process. Most of the time you’re not doing anything but waiting for the grease to harden.

Ok, you you’ve just made your bacon and you want to clean the pan. What do you do with the grease? Well, you simply pour it into a container and put it in the fridge.

But wait! Didn’t I just say I don’t like doing that? No, I said I don’t like using that grease as-is. I do something extra with the grease to make it more like lard.

First of all, I like to strain my grease through a paper towel as I put it in the jar.

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This step is not totally necessary, but makes the cleaning process go faster.

Cleaning process? You “clean” your lard?

Yep. Yep I do.

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Anyway, once your container is full (or nearly so – this make take a while depending on how often you eat bacon), simply melt your grease…

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Yes, that’s bacon grease – with all the dirty bits still inside.

…I use the microwave.

Then you add the grease and about the same amount of water into a pot and put it on the stove to boil.

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Once it just starts to boil, turn it off and set it aside. You can put in some cold water to help it cool off faster. As I’m sure you know, oil and water do not mix. The lard (oil) will float to the top of the water, and the impurities which were in the grease (the dirty bits) will sink or be washed out by the water.

The next step is where the length comes in. You have to let this oil and water concoction cool enough that the fat will solidify. If the temps are cold enough outside, I often secure the lid on the pot, and put it outside in the cold. This makes the process go faster. However, if the temps outside are too high, I let it cool to room temperature, then stick it in the fridge, usually overnight.

Once the fat has solidified, scoop it out with a slotted spoon and put it into a bowl.

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scoopable-solid again

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Look how dirty the water is

Once you get all the chunks of fat out (I use a small mesh strainer to get all the little bits), you’ll be left with dirty water which you can pour down the drain.

I usually “wash” the grease a couple more times by following the above steps, until the water is clear underneath the solidified fat.

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Clear water

But you could certainly skip the subsequent washings if you wanted. I find that by filtering the grease through a paper towel first, it takes fewer “washings” to get the lard as clean as I like it.

Once it’s as clean as you want it, you scoop the grease into a bowl with a slotted spoon or mesh strainer (try to let as much water drip from it as possible).

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Clean lard

Melt the lard just until pourable and pour into mason jars*.

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Notice the color change from the first time I microwaved it near the top of the post.

I suppose there’s probably some way to process this so that it is shelf stable. But I have never researched it. I just stick it in the fridge once it’s cooled off a bit (or freezer if I have extra).

Note: once it has solidified, you might find that there is some water in the bottom of the jar.

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If this happens, slide a knife along the glass into the lard in two spots on opposite sides of each other. Then pour the water out one of the holes (the other hole is to allow air into the bottom cavity so the water flows easier.)

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If you prefer, you can heat the grease again so it melts and fills the holes back in.

*I always use wide mouth pint jars because they are the perfect size for our favorite spatula to fit in to scoop out a bit of lard (not an affiliate link – we just really like the style. In fact, we happened to find some at the dollar store!).

So there you have it. Now that your bacon grease has become lard, you can use it in much the same way you do regular lard. I do find it still has a bit of a bacon flavor/odor, but it is only objectionable to use it in things that are naturally bland themselves. I have even made soap with it!

I always feel so frugal when I use my bacon lard. I mean, it is basically free since you’re gonna eat the bacon anyway, right? So now you have something useful to do with the left over grease.