Consider how the wildflowers grow....Luke 12:27 NIV
Living small in our 880 square foot cottage and micro farming on approximately an acre of land.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Penny Saved #2

My goal for this week's grocery shopping was to get enough for the week for under $100.  That isn't easy with a family of 6 and being as particular about quality foods as I can afford.  I managed with just under $94.00 and only crossed off one thing on my list and substituted another.  I crossed off baking cocoa.  I don't NEED it and I also have a canister of carob powder that could be put to use somehow.

Last year around Thanksgiving Aldi had a gallon of peanut oil for $10.  I grabbed it and was able to use and reuse it for 7 months.  I only have a little used oil left, Aldi no longer sells peanut oil this time of year, and the only other place I can get refined pure peanut oil sells it for nearly $5 for 12 oz.  So, I decided to browse the grocery store for an alternative.  I will not use soy, corn, vegetable or Crisco oils.  I checked out the SnowCap Lard, but it is hydrogenated and contains BHA.  So, over to the meat department I went and found suet for $1.69 lb.

I'm rendering the suet!
I got a quart out of only half the suet I purchased!
Here it is still warm in its liquid state.

Here it is solidified.
I have to tell you, it feels like heaven on the skin!
It's a bit weird to me to rub animal fat on my skin, but it is wonderful, really!
I'll make soap out of some of it sometime, and maybe a lotion, too.

I also purchased inexpensive slices of top round steak (one with a day-old coupon on it) and ground it up for ground beef.  It was cheaper than buying ground beef outright.

Lastly, we had a lovely afternoon downpour.  I decided to take advantage of it and washed my hair in it rather than running the well pump, pressure tank, softener and water heater.  I wish I had a Berkey.  I would have collected rain water and run it through a Berkey filter.

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tiny House Next Generation

My oldest watched the documentary, Tiny on Netflix with me the other evening.  He loved it and started coming up with plans for his own tiny house.  I told him how other young people have built or are building their own tiny homes and that is something he can work towards, too.  He started with sketches on paper, with the idea of using an enclosed trailer.  Then, when he was playing outside, I suggested he draw a floorplan on the driveway using sidewalk chalk.  He loved that idea and got right to work.  Two of his younger siblings joined him in his tiny house for the photo.  Upon suggesting he can make another floor plan after the rain comes, he responded, "No, Mom.  That's hard work!"  I think he'll draw another.  Tiny homes are hard to forget. :-)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Thinking Outside the Jones's Box

We are a larger than average family in a smaller than average house.  Therefore, conventional practices and cultural standards simply don't usually work for us.

Living in a rather small house, the bedrooms are not very big at all.  Daughter's bedroom is the smallest of all.  When we moved her out of the boys' room and into her room, we shoved a twin size bed along the wall, leaving just enough room for a side table, a narrow shelving unit and her dresser with a narrow walkway between the windows and her bed.  I had it in my head that she needed a twin size bed.

Consequently, the poor girl had little to no floor space for playing and moving about.  Too big for a toddler bed and too small for a twin and no floor space, the bed turned into a catch all and at night everything would avalanche to the floor.

I tried so many efforts to keep that room clean, but it just wasn't working.  Worse still, her toys and things would pour into the living room as she sought out space to play.  I was beside myself, and so was she.  The joy of having her own room was turning into an every day frustration.

Finally, I decided to stop trying to live up to conventional practices of giving her "real" furnishings, a real twin bed and whatever idealism was attached to it and pulled it out of her room, mattress and all.  Instead, I decided to revisit the cobbed-together daybed idea I used in there before she was born.

I grabbed a bunch of totes from storage that I knew we wouldn't be opening any time soon and thanked God I saved the platform from the old daybed and pulled it from the shed.  I added hubby's old feather ticking and an unused down comforter for a mattress and voila!  A charming bed AND floor space!

Here's it is in the picture before I put the bedding on.  Twin fits, though it needs extra tucking, which is no big deal.  It holds the ticking and comforter in proper place.

The smile on my daughter's face said it all.  She LOVES her new room and her new bed.  She calls it her "box bed."  Better yet, she's keeping it tidy!

The Tiny House Movement provides me with ideas for fitting all of us in such a small house, but better still, it provides me with the freedom from the conventional.  It's OK that my daughter doesn't have a traditional twin bed.  It's OK to make do with what you have and create something different.  It's OK that we live in a small house and it's OK if we STAY in this small house.

Micro is GOOD!  That's not to say Macro is bad, but there's nothing wrong with letting the Jones's be the Jones's and letting the Scott's be the Scott's.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Simple Foods

One thing about watching Wartime Farm again is I get encouraged to stretch and simplify meals.  As it stands, we are eating more and more like depression era farmers than modern Americans.  With 6 people to feed 3 meals a day the grocery bill can get quite high.  Two years ago, I was spending around $300 per week on groceries and supplies. Now, I do all I can to keep it under $150...and that is HARD.  

One thing I am trying to avoid is supplementing with pasta.  Yes, we are eating more of it (we have an italian dish once a week and about twice a month I make homemade macaroni and cheese) but I don't want to have it much more than two times per week.  Potatoes are too pricey, neither is rice.  There's also homemade spatzel, and biscuits.  A bag of frozen cauliflower works as a good "starch" dish, too.  

I stretch meat as far as I possibly can, learning to buy and cook cheaper cuts.  I, myself am eating a smaller portion of meat and supplementing that protein loss with eggs.

I'm reconsidering the use of beans and rice for a meal.  At least one vegetarian meal per week wouldn't hurt anyone.  I can make my own soft taco shells and voila!

Being a vintage enthusiast, I have several vintage cookbooks which tout economy.  There are some great ideas in them, but, unfortunately, what was cheap meat back then is more expensive today, like veal.  Veal was cheap meat from needless culled calves.  Now, it's a delicacy.  With Paleo and more natural diets becoming more and more popular, I can't even get chicken feet for free anymore.  

I am also hindered by the sensitive eyes and tastebuds.  I am not a fan of casseroles (and neither is the rest of my family for that matter).  At least half of my children are not fans of soup (I'm working on that one).  Pot pies, while hubby and I love them, the children are not thrilled.  

We have success with meat and gravies with a side of biscuits or potatoes and a veg.  My kids will eat anything in "hotdog" form, so I'd like to get a sausage stuffer and make my own sausages.

A watermelon is fairly inexpensive this time of year and makes a great, refreshing side dish for at least two meals.

I've also noticed that deep frying anything makes it more filling.  I use peanut oil, which is hard to come by around here, but it is soooo good and so easily reusable!  One gallon lasts me half a year.

Picking off the land and making from scratch also stretches a food budget.  Drinking more water instead of juice, tea, coffee or milk helps, too.  (I don't limit my children's milk, though).

Baked goods or air popped popcorn for snacks go a lot farther than prepackaged snacks.  Plus, you can sneak fruits and/or vegetables into a lot of baked goods.

I daresay a homemade apple pie has more nutritional value than a Poptart!

I look forward to a time where grocery shopping is almost needless.

How do you make a meal stretch and save on groceries?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Successful Strawberry Forage

After some pretty strong rains and time delays, I was afraid I missed the peak of the wild strawberries.  I had already gone out for an hour one evening and picked just under a quart.  I was finally able to break free and find an hour back in that horse pasture.  I picked just over a quart for nearly two quarts of delicious wild strawberries total!

The evening was spent hulling my latest forage and laying the tiny berries out on a tray to freeze before transferring to a freezer bag.  I occupied that task by watching BBC's Wartime Farm Episode 1 again.  Now, I'm jealous of the rosehips Ruth and her father found.  Someday, I hope to have grand rosehips.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Escape Artist

With pigs, it's not a matter of IF they escape, but WHEN.  This was one of my biggest worries about having a pig.  Would he get into the garden?  Would he terrorize the neighborhood?  How would he be with the children?  Would I be able to get him back in the pen?

Yesterday, I arrived home with the children after the oldest's piano lesson and heard the phone ringing.  It went to the machine before I got to it and I heard my neighbor's voice telling me that the pig was loose and was by the road.  I quickly ran outside and found him down back near his pen.  When he heard me, he came running to me like a puppy dog.  It was a glorious moment of freedom with grunty pig and squealing children running around the yard while I grabbed some food to help encourage pig back home.  In no time at all, pig happily returned to his pen and ate.

Somehow, he had unlatched the gate.

So, I made sure the gate held fast and returned to the house for the evening.  Before bedtime, I had some compost to dispose of and trekked down back.  Pig was dozing in his hut, but his gate was unlatched!  So, I grabbed a rope and tied it shut after relatching the gate.

This morning, I was in the bedroom folding laundry and I heard the familiar grunts of our pig.  This time, they sounded questioning and awfully close.  Sure enough, he was loose again and near the back door, looking for me (or food...we're pretty much one in the same).

So, we had a jolly romp back down to the pen, me with a bag of almonds in hand.  He was a bit more reluctant to return and squealed his discontent.  Once freedom is tasted, it is hard to go back to confinement.  But, foraging for the nuts I threw in his pen and getting him his breakfast put him in a better mood.  This time I tied the gate twice.

We're going to have to get a chain.

And thank God he didn't get into the garden or cause an accident.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Handywoman and Harvesting

In an effort to keep dampness at bay in the basement (and not run fans and the dehumidifier constantly), I decided the one window I actually have both frames for needed a screen.  A quick rummage through the stacks of the original rotting storm windows and screens for this cottage and I found a frame so rotted it was forever unusable for our windows.

 However, the screen was still intact and could easily be cut to size.

 It's not the prettiest screen, having seen spray paint (hence the void where the cross piece lay) and weather, but it is a sturdy ol' screen and certainly keeps the breezes blowing through the basement.

The raised bed was in desperate need of a weeding and clean up.  I harvested the last of the radishes and spinach there and thinned the turnips.

I gave the pig the greens and thinned bits, but he wouldn't eat them!  I thought it would be great fattening him up on my garden waste, saving money on feed, but he won't have any of it!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Of Potatoes and Cottage Gardens

After several days of almost non stop rain and now the budding seasonal warmth, my garden is growing.  More seeds have finally sprouted, along with weeds, weeds weeds.  Two plants are proving stubborn growers this year:  wax beans and potatoes.  I've given up on the wax beans after planting them twice, so I just planted extra bush beans.  The potatoes, however, I've only gotten two plants out of the three rows to surface.  If I don't see any more greenery soon, I'll fill in those rows with beets, beans, peas and any other spare seed that might work there and fill our pantry and freezer for the winter.  I'll just have to purchase my potatoes from a local farm.

Yesterday, the children and I went on a homeschool field trip to the Beaver Sprite.  Dorothy Richards lived there and was known as the Beaver Woman, a self-taught expert on Beavers.  I was endeared to her little vintage cottage in the woods.  Surrounding the cedar shakes were cottage gardens in various stages of growth and bloom.  It made me consider what I could do around the foundation and corners of my little cottage.  Mr. Scott isn't a fan of foundation plantings, but maybe we could compromise.

I've already decided that I want peonies and a honeysuckle vine next year.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Berries At Dusk

I was invited to come whenever I pleased to a horse pasture nearby to forage for wild strawberries.  It rained for 4 days straight and I was afraid the harvest was ruined.  Nonetheless, after I tucked the children in bed and left them with daddy, I drove down the lane, deep beyond the main road, and found them.  

I took an hour at dusk and quarter filled my small stock pot with the tiny, tart berries.

They are tart this year.

It was chilly.  Much more like October than mid-June. 
I had to wear my light fleece jacket.
It's green and must have attracted all the little hopping bugs because I was perpetually shooing them off. 

Besides the bugs, the horses came over to neigh hello while I foraged.
But, the left when the skunk made his presence known.
I would have left, too, but after scanning the field for nearby Pepe and not seeing him, I decided he was far enough away to not be a bother.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Soapy Canning Jars

With new shop vac in tow, Mr. Scott headed to the basement to tackle spider webs and dust bunnies.  We ended up partnering up and cleaning out about a 1/4 of the basement...part of that being my pantry.  Many moons ago, I went gung ho canning, but between picky toddlers, pregnancies with terrible morning sickness, and Mr. Scott being gone a lot for that pesky career, I had a lot of old, uneaten and mouse-trampled jars of food.  Some of them even lost their seal and went moldy.  So, I decided to contribute to our compost pile and start afresh.

Therefore, my favorite chore of the day was washing the jars out of doors.  Here they are lined up in their sudsy glory right before being turned over for a good rinse with the water hose (and subsequent rainfall).

I wish I caught a picture of this, but before they were washed out, a chipmunk took advantage of the residue and leavings, licking out jellies and sauces from the edges of the jars.  He precariously balanced on the slippery rims and helped himself to the buffet.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Early June Happenings...BABIES

It is a cool and gloomy, rainy day today making it a perfect time to sit down and consider how our early June has gone.

I LOVE our pig.  Ok, ok, before I get lectured about getting attached, fact is I'm gonna like the pig and you can't stop me from liking the pig.  Also, my liking the pig isn't going to stop it from winding up in our freezer.  The pig has a purpose:  to be well cared for by us and then bless us with nourishment.  I am grateful to God for the pig and grateful to pig for himself.  So, I just couldn't help taking another picture of him.

But, the biggest news is BABIES!  Our rabbit gave birth!  I don't know how many she has, yet.  I'm leaving them alone for now, other than several visual inspections during the day to see how they are faring.  There is one spotted one who is quite feisty.

It is the season of the clover!  Red clover is good for the ladies, so here I have it ready for an infusion with borage flowers and red raspberry leaves.

Otherwise, my youngest and I picked a mason jar full of red and white clover for clover jelly!

My oldest is a butterfly hunter, now.  This swallowtail found it's way into our kitchen porch.  We released it, of course.  

The garden continues to grow, though we could use some hotter weather to really get things going.  Hopefully, after this rain we'll get some good sunny days and watch everything shoot up.

In the meantime, the children are certainly getting their vitamins D.  That is the real vitamin D from the sunshine and vitamin DIRT!  Just look at that bathtub after my two middle children had their baths!  

Friday, June 6, 2014

Canning Stock and a Pig!

Last year I bought a turkey around Thanksgiving and that bird sat in my freezer with no occasion for to be cooked.  So, I decided to defrost that bird and divide it into meals.  I ground the breast up to make Italian meatloaf.  The leftover meatloaf has been cut and turned into meatballs (meatsquares?) which stretched two meals.  The legs and wings were grilled and devoured, but the bones and leftover bits of meat were made into a hearty stock.  The remaining carcass was boiled into stock, the leftover bits of meat removed.  I was able to get EXACTLY 7 quarts of stock!  I pressure canned it and voila!  Stock for fall and wintertime!

My wonderful husband finished the pigpen today and was able to go get our big.  This little boy will be ready in time for Christmas dinner.  Yes, I'm having a hard time not getting attached to him already, but we got him for quality pork for our family and that's what he'll be.  He's already enjoying rutting up the pigpen, pigging out on the leftover hay we gleaned from the mowed hay field next door, and my first batch of swill, and an apple.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Our Garden

Rain and cold weather held off earlier plantings, but we did manage to get the garden in before Memorial Day (our area's unofficial get-your-garden-in-by date).

Starting from the left of the photo we have:

wax beans
bush beans
acorn squash
spaghetti squash
patty pan squash
two types of zucchini
yellow summer squash
3 rows of potatoes (from store bought spuds, so hoping they come up)
3 rows of carrots
bunching onions
sweet peppers

Also in that main garden plot is mullein, horseradish and rhubarb along with some weedy perennials such as milkweed.

Then, we have the 4 square herb garden.  Let's see if I can remember all that I have in there:

winter and summer savory
lemon grass
lemon verbena
self heal
something else I forgot what I planted
and one tiny currant bush that simply won't grow much, but puts out a few currants and is cute as a button

In the raised beds I have:


Not see in the photo is the pond we filled in.  My daughter wanted her own garden, so we threw in some old perennial and cosmos seed packets I had laying around as well as sunflowers and luffa sponge seeds.

Around the yard we have blueberries, service berries, red and black raspberries, peppermint, one lone struggling lavender plant survived, bush cherries, beach plums,
crabapple and a peach tree.

Foraging around the property, we have plenty of dandelion, plantain, wild cherries, hickory nuts, acorns, clover and alfalfa.

That's pretty much most of what we have on our property.  I'm sure I forgot a thing or two, but there's the fruit and vegetable side of our micro farm.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Look Back At May

I forget just how busy this time of year is!  I can't believe May is gone and June is here!

Here's what we've been up to on the Micro Farm:

Hubby found a used rototiller for a really good price and grabbed it.  It does a great job and we were finally able to put in the rest of the garden before Memorial Day.

Our female rabbit did not seem to be pregnant as we originally thought, so we're hoping the reunion with the male results in babies by the end of this month.

Our children had a big picnic birthday bash, since they are all Spring babies.

Hubby's got the pig pen up, the shelter set, the trough ready...all we need is the gate attached, a water pan and the pig!

Our church is giving us their old shed since they were just going to throw it away, anyway.  It'll become the barn down back!!  Huzzah!  We just have to figure out how to get it from church to homestead.  Thankfully, some other church members are working on that issue.  I'm trying not to worry about it, but I'll be happy when it is settled in the bottom of our property.

Harvesting is starting to pick up.  The first run of radishes have been pickled, beets planted in their stead and another row of radishes planted in another location, just because.  Spinach is thriving, lettuce got replanted since none of the original seeds came up.  Strawberries are blossoming and starting to form fruit.  Rhubarb is pretty much done....mmmm....strawberry rhubarb cobbler.

I had to net up the strawberries because the wild turkey were coming in and scratching up the young plants.

Homeschooling is pretty much over with other than some wrap-ups.