Life on a little urban homestead in the making, with ideas for self-sufficiency, Permaculture, DIYing, organic gardening, food preservation, Chicken keeping, cookery, crafts, thrifting and more...

Dec 31, 2013

The Little Homestead Year In Review, Dark Days Meal, Fascinating 1920's Family Food Supply List

Happy New Year!

Vintage Farm Equipment Photo From 1920's

The Little Homestead Year In Review-
We're having a quiet evening tonite, as usual. We're not into the boozing, partying New Year's thing. Haven't been for years. When the kids were still home, I'd make a special dinner and a midnight dessert. Well, maybe 11:30, for the youngest. We'd watch the ball drop, shoot off some firecrackers and off to bed. Now, with the two of us, we just relax, have dinner, watch the show then- it's off to bed to sleep in. No hangover, no cleanup! I'm taking down the Christmas stuff today, and the tree tomorrow, another tradition. New Year's Day ends fresh, clean, and decluttered (for me). On the year's when I went back to work the next day, it was all taken care of. This year I go back on the 6th, what a treat! And so it goes... We added fresh bedding to the coop today too, so the girls will have a clean New Years as well. Anya is loving us both being home this last week. She loves to snuggle.

Life seems to have lots of twists and turns.  I have lots to do, all the time. I work full time, and am grateful I have summer, winter and spring breaks. I get a lot done then. Still, it seems there's always more. You never ARRIVE. I like the famous quote by Lao Tzu- A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving. It's a good reminder to me that's it's not always about doing. You have to stop and smell the proverbial roses, and just BE. Hopefully on death's doorstep (someday) I won't be thinking about all the stuff I didn't get done, but about the people I have loved and who have loved me. I include my pets :) And hens. The places I've gone, and the things I've learned with a little wisdom thrown in. Hopefully.

So here's a look back at....

What we (Dave and/or I) got done this last year-

*Rebuilt the coop, a big project, this spring. Came out great!
*Planted more foods and a pear tree
*Tried new varieties of veggies, to find what works best
*Harvested a great crop of apples, nectarines, Choke cherries and summer veggies
*Looked at how we can grow more food in the front yard. Come spring we'll re-do a perennial flower bed.
*Looked at expanding our backyard plot, will increase space a lot! Since we had our big tree trimmed a couple of years ago, we have a LOT more sun. More sun= more food we can grow!
*Got a good deal on new replacement for dead AC/Furnace
*Offered a part time job of the blue (very high pay) that funded the above. Only a few hours a month, and on call.
*Did a fair amount of food preservation, despite being gimpy.
*Caught up on thrifting after surgery!
*Letting go of more stuff, good to do. I will not be a hoarder/over decorator! I've seen some homes where every square inch is covered with stuff. That makes me claustrophobic, and makes me think of unhappy people trying to shop their way out of a bad situation.
*I'm trying more alternative things for various medical stuff. Acupuncture for my asthma is next. Kefir Water, (you can make you own)  and Kombucha are up and coming. They may both help my food allergies and acid reflux. A friend got some locally and swears by it for her tummy issues. More is in the media all the time about how w need more healthy flora in our stomachs to help with all kinds of issues.

The Chinese Garden in Portland

Various good things that happened-

*Eldest daughter got married to a great guy! Wedding came out great, even on a frugal budget.
*It snowed, several times. I love snow. I even had 1 "snow day"!
*Both cars working great! One's paid for :)
*I have medical insurance that covered most of my surgery, awesome!
*Went to Portland, Oregon to see family, missed the terrible weather by one day! It was all ice and snow the  day after we go home.
*Shopped at Traders Joe's and Ikea while in Portland. What a treat!
*Trader Joe's was built in Boise, and is about to open. I love their healthy foods at low prices.
*Visited the gorgeous Chinese Garden in Portland too.
*Realized how lucky I am to have a job, that I love. My new boss seems great, that was a big worry.
*Went to my first Highlands Games and Celtic Festival in years and years.
*Too much medical stuff for me this year, OY. Glad that's over!

Anya making sure I kept my foot propped up

The not so good-

*I had so many plans for the summer- then overdue foot surgery. I watched TV like a mutant slug, not able to get out much. At least I had a wheelie cart thingy for 1 good foot! Then a LONG recovery period, with concrete floors at work covered by thin carpet, ugh. I'm hoping I won't have to have the other foot worked on, doing some alternative stuff.
*The lower back really suffered, then recovered from limping for so long (a year).  PT fixed that over time. That hurt.
*Then sciatica last month, ugh. Luckily I had the sense to get some acupuncture, all gone! 
*Two rounds of a cold/cough this winter. Doc got me on a nasal spray for allergies that nipped this round in the bud! Who knew!
*Lost another hen
*Winter came early, so the garden suffered a bit. Couldn't do the major pruning with a major cold snap, then snow.
*Thank god for hubs, or the wheels would have come off the cart. Being limited physically not only sucks, but your other half has to try and pick up all the slack. If things still don't get done, life goes on. You just have to suck it up.

Dark Days Challenge Meal- Out!
After I had to go to work for a couple of hours, Dave and I went and had a local lunch out, at a Basque place, Bar Gernika I had a wonderful local, free range, organic, spicy lamb grinder. Oh my! So good!!! I know- I didn't cook, I know, but hey it was local!

1920's USDA Food Supply Sheet

Fascinating 1920's Family Food Supply List-
If you REALLY read this it's fascinating. Look at the wording: "depended on .... and if made from whole grain, for mineral substances and vitamines" (typo I know). Fascinating, that even back then they knew the value of whole grains!

Another list- Interesting how limited the types of fruits and veggies there were. You ate what was local and in season, only.

Dec 28, 2013

Great Holiday Design Ideas! Fun Snow in Canning Jar Craft

All photos from Sugarpie Farmhouse - I have this same exact metal pan!

Gorgeous Holiday Designs!-
I stumbled on to this website, both holiday years have great displays and designs. I kind of wish I had her room, but then again I'd have to clean and maintain it! These are photos from- Sugarpie Farmhouse- Be Merry & Bright  Check out her ideas, lots there! I love all the white, simple and clean, throw in some vintage and she has a great look!!!

I might try and make that sign

These from- Sugarpie Farmhouse Christmas Home Tour 2013

Fun Snow in Canning Jar Craft-
I also found this cute idea, and also printed out the sign (link's there), cute! Vintage Christmas

 I will be making these soon! I love generic winter things up after Christmas is over. Bring some nature in...

Dec 27, 2013

Home Cured Salmon- Gravlax, Dark Days Meal, Recovered Chicken Chairs, Kerosene Heaters On A Budget, Our Christmas


Home Cured Salmon, Gravlax-
When I first heard about Scandinavian home-cured salmon (or Gravlax) a few years ago, I thought it would be too complicated. It's not! It's so easy, and delicious, you have to try it. Since I love smoked salmon, I thought this might be worth the try. I've posted the recipe, along with a wonderful mustard sauce to go with it (optional) here-

Recipe for gravlax-
1 lb. salmon (I buy wild caught frozen, pretty cheap), 4 TBL. sea salt (or kosher), 6 TBL. sugar (can use brown), 1 bunch fresh dill. Mix dry ingredients, pack onto both sides of the salmon (skin can be left on), sprinkle 1/2 the chopped dill on both sides, wrap tightly and put in baking dish. Drain the dish as needed for 3 days, turning daily. Unwrap, rinse, pat dry, slice thin, and enjoy! I serve with rye bread or crackers, lemon slices and mustard sauce.

Recipe for Mustard Sauce- 3 TBL. of the following- light brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, 1TBL. vegetable oil, 1 TBL. sour cream, 1-2 TBL fresh chopped dill. Whisk, and enjoy!

Here's how it goes-

Salt/Sugar mix

Dredged, covered with chopped, fresh dill and ready to wrap

Wrapped for the fridge, sat and drained for 3 days, then rinse well

Dark Days Meal-
Tonite it's homemade, frozen pesto with basil from the garden, local bread and salad.

Recovered Chicken Chairs-
This week I recovered 2 free chairs Dave brought home from work, that were headed for the dumpster. I bought fabric that has chickens! I thought about burlap, but since they're for the dining/living room I wanted a tighter weave. I was planning on painting the wood cream color, then distressing them. Sadly the planned paint job in the mild fall weather was cancelled, due to drastic temp changes. It was winter suddenly. I knew we'd need extra seating for the holidays, so I wiped them down, took off the brown vinyl cushions, and recovered them. I just used a staple gun, kept it taut, and away I went! Trimmed off the excess, flipped them back and Dave put the screws back in. Now that I have the time, we'll tighten up the chairs, with some wood glue and screws. I think I may leave the chair color alone. I did pre-plan: I bought twice the needed fabric in case of spills! I will treat the wood, and Dave is going to tighten up one leg. We were short on time. No paint for now. I kind of like the brown! What do you think: Cream and distressed or brown? I still have the paint!

Old ugly fake leather seats

Seat unscrewed and removed, thanks Dave!

Fabric stapled on, and screwed back on!

                                                         All photos from

Kerosene Heaters on A Budget-
Several people have posted on their blogs the need for some emergency heat. One often overlooked source is kerosene heaters. Kerosene can be bought in small 1 gallon tins, and store much more safely than gasoline, and propane. I have bought several over the years, and here's a great resource if you're interested- and here- Mini Kerosene Heaters for info about how to buy, and retrofit smaller heaters. I bought several kero "brooder heaters" on eBay cheap, bought new wicks and they work! I did some retrofitting like Miles, and turned one into a small pot heater, similar to his-

I also bought a Perfection room heater from a thrift store, like new- $20.00 Pretty close to the one above. I keep several gallons of kero in the garage, away from heat. We haven't needed them, but it's good to have them on hand, just in case. eBay also sells lots of kero camping stoves. All of these are relatively odor free, and much safer than propane indoors. Do your own research on the safety of using these in your own application. Safety first.  Kerosene Heater Safety  Kero prices may vary depending on where you live.

Anya, post kids

Our Christmas-
We had our 3 girls, new son in law (love him!), and fiance over for our traditional breakfast, then opened presents. Hung out chatted. Our one daughter, on her own, stayed the day. We watched White Christmas on DVD  (before my time, still love it!), she loved it! I roasted a duck with lingonberry sauce for dinner. Yukon gold mashed potatoes, sauteed spinach and chocolate tart for dessert. Ah the joys of a good meal at the end of the day!

Our new downsized tree after gifts, fits much better in the room than the old one

Anya peeking out

Some fun goodies

Santa on skates

Michelle's grade school project reindeer she made, and those furry paws?

Michelle and Anya chilling, cropped to protect her privacy :)  
She's reading Tami's wedding photo book we got as a gift

My funny gift-

Dave put together an Anya ornament!!!

 I bought these 1/2 off the day after Christmas- Smith and Hawken Gardening ornaments, porcelain, from Target, aren't they cute! I hoped they wouldn't be all gone! I also donated more decorations also. Buy some, get rid of some, that's my motto. Simplify, simplify!

My fun, little USB powered color changing snowman. I put him on the kitchen window and used an extra cell phone charger (with USB adapter unplugged) to plug into the normal power. Works great!

Some of our cards displayed

Dec 23, 2013

Happy Yule, Independence Days Challenge, He's Back.... Decking The Halls @ Our Little Homestead

Happy Yule!

If you live on a farm, don't forget to put out some porridge in the barn for the Tomtens

1. Plant Something- Paper white narcissus, for inside

2. Harvest Something- Just eggs for now

3. Preserve/Store Something- Making Gravlax later today, simple and tasty. This will be for later in the week. 
Recipe for gravlax
1 lb. salmon (I buy wild caught frozen, pretty cheap), 4 TBL. sea salt (or kosher), 6 TBL. sugar (can use brown), 1 bunch fresh dill. Mix dry ingredients, pack onto both sides of the salmon (skin can be left on), sprinkle 1/2 the chopped dill on both sides, wrap tightly and put in baking dish. Drain the dish as needed for 3 days, turning daily. Unwrap, rinse, pat dry, slice thin, and enjoy! I serve with rye bread or crackers, lemon slices and mustard sauce. 
Recipe for Mustard Sauce- 3 TBL. of the following- light brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, 1TBL. vegetable oil, 1 TBL. sour cream, 1-2 TBL fresh chopped dill. Whisk, and enjoy! 

4. Manage Reserves- Get a Good Deal/Barter/Stock Up/Prep- Winter baking stuff on sale, Christmas lights and new snowman on sale for outside our front door. The old one was falling apart. LED lights are so much brighter and use a LOT less energy. They also last forever! Getting some breads and salmon today at the grocery outlet.

5. Eat the Food- Try New Foods/Recipe- Making a duck for Christmas dinner, with a new Lingon berry sauce recipe I'm inventing!

6. Build Community Food Systems- Buying local when I can. We ate out at a local, family owned restaurant last week, with scratch made pastas, yum!

7. Recycle/Re-Use- Donated a lot of winter decor, we're downsizing. I try to scale down more every year. I don't like the cluttered look. It's also stuff to store, when we're not using it! Got rid of our BIG Christmas tree that ate up way too much space. Donated it. We bought a brand new display one at a thrift store. A local nursery had gone out of business, and donated a lot of leftovers. It's tall, slim and fits much better in our small living room. A whopping $10.00! I fluffed it and will decorate today.

 8. Skill Up- I figured out I could use my little tea pot to brew a pot with the new Keurig machine. I used the Luzianne iced tea cup 3 times, and it came out nice and strong. Cheap and effective! It's so fast too, compared to heating up the kettle on the stove. I made Irish Breakfast tea this morning- emptied the tea into the new My K Cup filter, ran thru 2 times, nice and strong. You really can brew almost anything with this!  

 9. Regenerate What is Lost/Salvage Something- I will be re-covering 2 free chairs Dave brought home from work, that were headed for the dumpster. I bought fabric that is poultry related:)  Will post pics when done...

He's Back....
I looked out 2 days ago, after the snow, and saw our little Kestrel was back. After he left I looked at the picked clean leftovers. It looks like he took down a ground dove. Surprised me as he's not that much bigger, just a LOT faster! Since we have so many city birds here, this doesn't bother me like it might some other people. Sparrows, finches, etc., have lots of young every year. We'd be overrun, or they'd starve, if a predator didn't bring some down. 

Decking The Halls @ Our Little Homestead
Another peek at our stuff-

Hand carved wood barred rock ornament from Cost Plus, love it!
Scandinavian wood carving also from Cost Plus, $9.00. I loved it too much to not bring it home :)

My old favorite paper snowflake lantern

My 2 thrifted snowmen that always make me smile

In the dining room, another way to display cards

Anya dozing, thanking abut warmer days?

 I raked out a spot so the girls could come out

The snow's melting today, it's above 40!

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