Tag Archives: Urban Homesteading

Daily Life #14 – Candles

February 8th

I made candles!

Yes, I have made candles in the past. The waaaaaaay past. Like, I was a kid and it was a school project.

And as I mentioned last week, I wanted to try making candles from scratch, including the wicks. So today’s project was to finish the wicks, and get the candles made so that I can do the burn test tomorrow.

Over the last week or two, I’ve been soaking and drying string in several different solutions. Today I dipped them in wax, let them dry, cut them to size, made little feet for them out of aluminum foil (worked with mixed results), put them in labeled jars, and poured in the hot wax.

image

Waxing the wicks

image

Homemade wick with homemade stand

A couple of these little feet fell off the string when they came in contact with the hot wax being poured into the jar. I have and idea of how to fix it next time.

image

Homemade candles - I used the aluminum foil to hold the wicks in the middle of the candle.

It’s a good thing to put down some sort of protection on the counter, because candle making is messy!

I’m excited to see how they do tomorrow. When I get the results of the burn tests I will post a full report.

As for today, we enjoyed some rare sunshine and warm weather. So nice to get outside and soak up some vitamin D.

image

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

Advertisements

Daily Life #11 – DIY paracord belt and signs of spring!

I finished my belt!

image

And O.M.Gosh, my fingertips hurt from gripping the p-cord over and over and over as I weaved the thing!

image

Weaving, weaving, weaving

Overall, I’m very pleased with how it turned out. As you can see from the first picture, I ended up using two different colors because we didn’t have enough of just one. But I think the two tone effect is cool. Besides, people hardly ever see my belt since I never tuck in my shirts.

So, out goes the very worn bracelet.

image

Well, maybe I’ll keep it for those days when I’m not wearing a belt. šŸ™‚

Oh, and here’s a picture that shows the instructions of how to make a belt or bracelet using the weave I used.

Today I went for my walk, but it took twice as long to go the same distance. I kept getting distracted by all the signs of spring just around the corner.

image

image

image

And I walked through the neighborhood park which has the wild onions growing and picked some for our dinner.

image

They are still small, but very flavorful.

Our house designer emailed us the house plans today. We are so very close to being able to submit the plans for our building permit. So Hubby and I spent a substantial amount of time going over everything, making changes were needed, and fueling our dreams.

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 #9 – Failure is always an option.

First of all, hello to our new followers! I’m so honored that you are here! If you’re new to reading this blog, you can learn a bit about our journey by reading our About page.

So this is Day 9 of my daily life posts. If you’re just tuning in, you can read all of them, or at least go back and read about why I’m doing thisĀ month of daily life posts.

And that reminds me; why did I start on January 26th? That seems like an odd time to start a project. Why not January 1st? Or even wait a few more days and start on February 1st? Well, I would have loved to start on January 1st, but I didn’t think of it till the 26th. šŸ™‚ And as for waiting, normally I would have. In fact, I normally would have waited until spring, when my life was a bit more exciting.

But Hubby and I had just watched the movie Julie & Julia.Ā I was inspired by the main character, Julie, who started her project (to cook all the recipes in one of Julia Child’s cookbooks in one year) on a mid-August day. She didn’t wait till it seemed like an obvious time to start something so momentous. She just went for it. And so did I. šŸ™‚

So anyway, Day 9.

Hmmm…let’s see, aside from the usual of cooking, cleaning, and caring for the family, what all did I do?

Ah, that’s right, I did my hair.

Why mention this on a homesteading blog?

Well, just because I’m a homesteader doesn’t mean that I don’t care about my appearance. I like to look nice as much as most people.

Sure, there are days when my hair goes up in a bun and my flyaway bangs get pinned back, or I throw on a hat. But often I like to “do” my hair.

The pictures below were taken a couple years ago when my hair was a bit longer than it currently is, but shows a good contrast between my “Hermione hair” as my man calls it, and how I like to style it on a regular basis.

kdk_2319 (Small)

Before, with my hair like Hermione Granger from Harry Potter – I had gone to a party where we dressed 80’s style, thus the off-the-shoulder shirt. But then. those are coming back in style, aren’t they?

kdk_2324 (Small)

After, with my wild hair tamed down (much easier to keep that way in the dry air of Nevada rather than the humid air of Oregon!)

However, in the spirit of reducing (my time, the energy used, etc), I try to find the fastest, easiest way that works for my hair with as little hair product as possible. And now that it’s growing out, that means straightening it, no hair mousse needed like when I let it go curly. Yes, I am blessed with hair I don’t have to wash every day, and it’s cooperative enough that unless I get caught in the rain, I can straighten it one day, and not have to mess with it (other than brushing) for 3-4 days afterward. So I spend 20 minutes on my hair once or twice a week to get it looking how I like it. Then all the other days, it’s usually less than a minute. Can’t get much easier than that!

Ok, let’s see, what else did I do all day?

Princess girl and I went on our Bible Study Date. It’s a weekly date that we have. She wants to have more in-depth study time, and I know that if I don’t make it a “date”, the chance of it getting pushed under the rug in lieu of “more important things” like dishes and laundry (heavy sarcasm there) is all too likely.

And, I started working on a belt. This is where the “failure” part comes in. I found instructions online of how to make a paracord belt. I figured it was high time I give it a try. I want a new belt, and I like the idea of having lots of paracord on me. I typically wear a survival bracelet, but I want to change things up.

So, I worked and worked while watching TV with the family. It took me 3/4 of the belt to finally really get the weave right so that it was consistently looking good. And then I ran out of paracord. And still a good 6 inches left till it was the right length. Grrrrrr!

So I ripped it all out and I will start over tomorrow with a different color that we have more of. So, yes, my first attempt at making a belt out of paracord failed. But as Adam from Mythbusters likes to say, “Failure is always an option.” Because even though it didn’t work out the first time, I learned a lot in the process.

And that’s a great attitude to have for a homesteader. FailureĀ is going to happen. Whether it’s that your tomatoes didn’t do so well this year, or the litter of rabbit kits all died from heat exposure (please don’t ask me how I know šŸ˜¦ ), you are going to fail somewhere, sometime in your journey. The question is, what do you do with that? Do you give up? Or do you collect the data and analyze what happened and do better next time? It’s all up to you.

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:

0_69803_36451c5d_XL (1)

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.”

Do the best you can - CR sunset (Small)

So here we are on our journeyĀ which we’ve been onĀ 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 2012Ā andĀ 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.Ā And yet we are still homesteaders. WeĀ 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 thatĀ #1Ā Ā #2).Ā Sounds like numerous other “legitimate” homesteaders I know.

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

wp-1453846512858 (Small)

 

 

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. šŸ˜‰ In my mind, homesteaders are skinny because they eat right and get lots of exercise. You know, somewhat like Shaye Elliot over atĀ the Elliott Homestead. I mean have you seen her? They justĀ 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 canĀ now to further my journey in homesteading.Ā So I go for walks in order toĀ stay in shape at least a little so that one day, when weĀ 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

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,Ā 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. šŸ™‚

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 likeĀ 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.

20151007_105634_resized

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

Cleaning process? You “clean” your lard?

Yep. Yep I do.

20151007_105726_resized

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…

20151113_105316_resized

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.

20151113_110332_resized

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.

20151113_214701_resized

scoopable-solid again

20151113_214751_resized

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.

20151114_181548_resized

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).

20151114_182121_resized

Clean lard

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

20151114_182937_resized

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 justĀ stick it in the fridge once it’s cooled off a bitĀ (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.

20151121_121609_resized

If this happens,Ā 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.)

20151121_121643_resized

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 (notĀ 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 becomeĀ 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,Ā 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.

Happy New Year

I know, I know.

I’m a little late with my holiday greetings. But as I said in my family newsletter (which I just sent out a few days ago), better late than never, right?

I’ve been doing a lot of reflection the past couple of weeks, as is typical this time of year. And also looking toward the future of this year. Are any of you already planning for your spring and summer gardens? Now’s the time to order your seeds and in some cases, get them started indoors.

I just read this online article (How to Pick Your Vegetable Seeds Without Going Crazy) and it’s got me dreaming!

But alas, my biggest decision this year is that I am scaling way back on my plans for our garden. Any when you have a tiny plot anyway, “scaling way back” means that I don’t plan to do much of any gardening this year.

The reason why is actually pretty exciting. We are hoping to be in the process of actually building our house this summer. Which means frequent trips between Oregon and Nevada. And as I learned last year, my garden doesn’t do so well if I’m not around to care for it. Imagine that. šŸ™‚

So, I’ll probably throw some carrot seeds in the ground and call it good. Those were what did the best and we ate the most of last year. And I love that they are frost tolerant and you can leave them in the ground all season and just go out and grab some as you need them.

It kills me not to really be making plans for the garden. But the trade off is worth it as we make progress onĀ our house.

A couple days ago was a fairly mild day here in the Portland area, overcast but dry and not too cold. So I used the opportunity to get outside and do some yard work.

Almost done! And it's a good thing, too, because the debris can is almost full!

Almost done! And it’s a good thing, too, because the debris can is almost full!

I scooped up the walnut leaves and put them in the yard debris can. Yes, we have a compost pile, but not the right set up to cook the toxins out of walnut leaves.

Just after New Years, we had snow here. It was a rare treat for us in the Pacific Northwest. Normally, any time there’s snow here, it’s covered in ice. This was a light, fluffy, “dry” snow. At the beginning of the day it wouldn’t even compact into snowballs. The girls and I spent 3 hours playing outside.

Our back yard looked quite different with a thin layer of snow.

 

And then, that night, a freezing rain came in, covering everything in a layer of ice.

For this girl from the desert, ice storms are pretty magical. It is surreal to see ice coating everything. However, I am glad no one in our family had to go anywhere. One of those times I am thankful that my man works from home.

The hens don't mind a bit of snow.

The hens don’t mind a bit of snow.

We had a bit of sad news recently. One of our hens (“Pepper”) was killed by a predator of some sort. Considering it was during the middle of the day in broad daylight, we think it was one of the many neighborhood cats.

Flower Girl with Pepper this past spring.

Flower Girl with Pepper this past spring.

Now we’re down to three hens, one of which doesn’t lay very many eggs per year and none in the winterĀ (our English Game Hen). The other two, however, have laid fairly steadily this winter (after their molt), even without supplemental lighting (for more information on supplemental light in the chicken coop, see this great article from Jill at The Prairie Homestead). I would love to add to our little backyard flock, but then I think of how much we are hoping to be gone this summer. And I think of transporting them back to Nevada when we do finally go. And I think, three chickens is enough. For now. šŸ™‚

And in the mean time, we’re dreaming. We’re dreaming big!

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

Seamstresses in the making

Why, yes. I do let my nearly-three-year-old play with my sewing pins.

image

Just as I let her sister before her when she was young. And now Princess Girl loves designing.

image

Sewing is a big part of a sustainable lifestyle. When purchased thriftily, buying fabric can be much cheaper than buying ready-made items if you have the know-how. But sewing is so much more useful than making your own clothing from scratch.

image

Mending a blanket.

Being able to repair those things which you already own is a first step toward living sustainably.

And you don’t need to tons of fancy gadgets and gizmos. A simple machine and a rudimentary knowledge of a few techniques will get you a long way. I myself have a rather simple machine.

image

I only ever use a couple of the available settings. But it serves me well.

If you have a machine but learning to use it is a daunting task, find a friend who can help you. (It’s hard to learn sewing from the internet unless you already know how to handle your particular machine since they are all a bit different.) As stated above, you don’t need to know how to use every setting on your machine. You basically just need to know how to thread it, how to load and refill the bobbin, how to do the straight stitch and zig zag stitch, and what the length, width, and tension dials do. You can do an awful lot of sewing with those basic skills. And as you practice more and become more comfortable, you can start learning all the other things your particular machine can do.

image

If you don’t have a sewing machine and can’t afford even a basic one, at least learn how to hand sew. Knowing a few easy stitches can be the difference between repairing that blanket and buying a new one, or paying someone to hem your pants or doing it yourself. And hand sewing is easy to learn from videos on the internet.

And remember, if children can learn to do it, you can, too!

Let’s hear you chime in. Do you think that sewing is an important skill to know? Do you know how? Wanting to learn?

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