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.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Penny Saved #3: Heating Water

This is so minor, but that's what saving a penny is all about; teeny tiny little things that eventually do add up.

I was making scones for breakfast the other day and wanted tea, so I considered stove top or microwave to heat my water.  Being more of a traditionalist, I poured water into my little kettle and set it on the stove.  Then it dawned on me.  Why turn on the stove when the over is already on and still empty as I worked the scone dough?  I grabbed one of my little enamel pots, put the tea water in it and placed it in the oven.  By the time the scones were ready to bake, the water ready for tea!  One less burner on, one more penny saved!

This is where I really wish I had a Vermont Bun Baker.  One stove, one source of energy consumption would heat the house and cook and bake and heat water!  Some day, perhaps.  Some day.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Wuss About the Cold

The crisp, Autumn air came early this year.  Many fires around the area have already been lit.  The smell of woodsmoke, like incense, wafts through the air.  We're relying on sunlight through west facing windows and an electric fireplace to keep us warm in the mornings and evenings.

As I venture out every morning to tend to the animals I remember something about myself.  I am a wuss about the cold.  I could tolerate the cold somewhat before, but since I got pregnant with my 3rd child, I have been hopelessly intolerant of the cold.  It is painful and all-consuming to me.  If my bones get cold, only a long hot shower and bundling up tight helps.  I have times where every inch of me is shivering under covers, with a hat on in bed.

But, my animals need my care and I hope that I can acclimate my body as I go outside every day to tend to them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Considering Solar Lights

The back corner of my local Target store had a box of two solar lights for a drastic clearance price.  I bought the box and it sat in my kitchen for two months.  I finally installed one near the pig and goat pens and one on the chicken hut.  And I love them!  They don't last terribly long into the night, but are perfect when we're still doing chores past sunset.

Those little lights got me thinking about how I could harness the sun's energy for my little house.  There are a lot of solar energy incentives these days, but Mr. Scott isn't fully convinced at totally converting our house to solar.  But that doesn't mean I can't do something on a smaller scale indoors.

I came across THIS article for a bit of inspiration.

Also, we have a garage/driveway light that burned out years ago and we never replaced it because it cost a lot to run it.  But I found THIS solar light and I'm seriously considering it.

In addition to those ideas, I'm wondering if I could rig up a solar light for inside the barn.  Right now, I just use a flashlight for evening milkings.

What other ways can we harness the sun's energy on a micro scale?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Another Freebie: Magnetic Paper Towel Holder

While I use a lot of cloth products in the home, sometimes paper towels come in handy, anyway.  Since we moved into this little cottage 9 years ago, the paper towels either were shoved into a drawer in the kitchen, or got tossed about the counter top, always in the way, falling over, and so on.  I tried eliminating having paper towels at all and I was moderately successful at it for a while.  But, paper towels are back in my life and back on my counter top.

With space limited in my small kitchen, I wanted something I could mount under my cabinet.  Unfortunately, finding cabinet mounted pt holders is hard enough.  Add in the complication that my cabinets are 1950's enameled metal, and I need something magnetized...even harder to find!

I held off for all these years and finally had enough this week.  I'm on an organization spree and I wanted that pt holder!  I found what I was looking for online, but I had the choice between $20 plus shipping and get it sooner, or $5.00 and free shipping and not getting it until next month.  Neither seemed reasonable to me.  So, in my quest to get what I want NOW and not pay a dime for it, I scoured the shed, garage, basement and junk drawer and found everything I needed right here to make my own magnetic pt holder:  scrap wood, dowel, finishing nails, semi gloss white spray paint.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Considering Beans and Ration/Depression Cookbooks

Times of lean and times of plenty occur throughout life as well as times of examining the health and well being of one's family.

I believe in a well-balanced, omnivore diet based on what is available locally, what our ancestry tells us, and what is on sale.  *wink*

As we seek ways to burn smaller holes in our wallets and keep our health, I consider the humble bean.  I'm sure we could sustain ourselves quite nicely on a day or two a week of beans.  But, cooking them in delicious ways escapes me.

I seek answers to the bean question and other frugal meal solutions in old Depression Era cookbooks and World War 2 Ration cookbooks.

If you have a recipe or suggestion, please share in the comments.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Our First Egg!

We were surprised to check on the chickens midday and find a little white orb sitting next to their little summer coop.  I don't know which of my girls laid the egg, so I am keeping a close eye on them to see who nestles into that spot regularly.  They do have nesting boxes, but apparently, out of doors laying is preferable to this one.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Book Review: One Woman Farm by Jenna Woginrich

My eyes scanned the titles on the bindings of the books on the shelves in the gift store at Farmers' Museum in Cooperstown, NY.  They made a sudden stop at this one and I snatched it off the shelf like I was going to steal it.  A quick thumb-through and I knew I wanted to read this book.

Let's start with first impressions.  The title caught my eye immediately because between Mr. Scott's career and illnesses, I largely run the micro farm on my own.  The fact that a woman is running a farm entirely on her own (that she didn't grow up in) intrigued me and I hoped to glean inspiration and support from the pages.  If she could do it, maybe I could, too!

I loved the format of the book, too.  It is done in journal form, following days and seasons bit by bit.  This makes it an easy, quick read; two things I need with my busy life.  The illustrations are charming, too, making it a relaxing, content book to read.

Now, on to the content, itself.  Ms. Woginrich has been criticized for being too romantic and idealistic about her farm life in this book.  ( reviews)  I, personally, found it a pleasure to read.  I was under no impression that this was supposed to be a non-fiction account or how-to book.  I knew it was prose and enjoyed the metaphors, related to some of them, even.  The perspective she shared was quite relatable.

Farm life is real.  Farm life is dirty, hard work, painful, exhausting, worrisome, sad.  It is all that.  But it is, beautiful, fresh, new, rewarding, strengthening, hopeful, joyful, too.  Ms. Woginrich shares that wide-eyed side.  She chooses to see that and share that in her prose.  She is living her dream, so why not describe it in a dream-like way?

I also related to Ms. Woginrich's desire to have many irons in the fire.  So much has been lost over time and technology.  I understand her desire to get back to basics....things that were taught from birth and just naturally done in days gone by are now "hobbies" and "past-times," "irons in the fire" and "unnecessary in today's world."  But, to have that ability, to learn that new thing, to try, fail and try again is GOOD.  So, as a read about her new ventures in the book, I cheered her on and hoped for the best.  I, myself tackled a few new to me things this year and I wasn't sure I'd be successful.  The thought that I might fail was humbling, but, I accepted it, shared that reality, grit my teeth and did it anyway.  Reading Ms. Woginrich doing the same was a boon to me.

There were two specific moments in the book that really had me on my feet.  The first was when I discovered that she has a Vermont Bun Baker stove.  I. WANT. ONE!  Reading this bit early on the in the book literally had me scouring the internet for the author.  I found her on facebook, introduced myself and just had to tell her how excited I was to read that she has a VBB.  The second was when I realized she lives just two counties from me, in the same county one of my brothers lives in!  I hope some day we can shake hands.  I'd love to tour her farm, see her little house (another relatable fact), and admire her Vermont Bun Baker.

So, if you want a gentle read, a true story, a beautiful, charming place to escape to, and a bit of inspiration, I suggest you read One Woman Farm: My life shared with sheep, pigs, chickens, goats, and a fine fiddle by Jenna Woginrich.  You can also visit her blog HERE.

*I obtained permission from the author to do this review.  I am doing this review because I wanted to.  I am not receiving nor did I seek out compensation for doing this review.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Planning for Next Spring: Growing Animal Feed

I had a thought the other day as I was picking grasses and clover around my garden for the rabbits and goats to snack on.  My property used to be part of a farm field and thus our lawn is mostly rye, timothy and clover.  Plus, we don't use chemicals on it, so it's great stuff for our animals.  Why not grow some more of our own animal feed?

Ok, we don't have much land.  We have a yard, not a field.  Plus, I'm not so sure the neighbors or zoning board would look well up turning our entire property in a hay field.  But, what's not to say I can't do a little something.

The least I want to do is border my garden in clover (or goat lollipops, as I call them these days).  Heck, I'm part way there, as I have it growing wild in spots around the garden, anyway.

If Mr. Scott agrees, there's a space of lawn between the garden and the edge of our property that borders the farm field that I could till up and plant a little crop of hay in.  (Or just let it grow since it is pretty much hay grass anyway.)  It wouldn't get us much, but it would be something to supplement.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

No More Boiling Tomatoes!!

I've been canning for nearly 3 decades, now and for all that time, when it came to putting up tomatoes, I would set a pot of water to simmer on the stove, put the tomatoes in a few at a time, spoon them out to cool and then peel them.  Oh, the long, tedious task it is when you have a peck of tomatoes or more!

Then, I read about roasting the tomatoes, instead.  Yeah, I've heard about this before, but for some reason it never stuck.  But, as I lay in bed one morning thinking about it, I realized I could do a LOT of tomatoes at once!  And I bet it changes the flavor a bit, too, to something delectable.

So, I tried it.  I was able to fill my largest roasting pan with tomatoes from my garden, popped it in the oven at 300 and let it roast away while I did some homeschooling with my children.  Soon, it smelled heavenly, and the tomato skins were soft and split and ready to come off once cooled.

So much easier and faster.

And the flavor did become more robust!

And I'm making sauce:

Roast tomatoes to loosen skins.
Remove skins.
Drain tomatoes in a sieve or colander.
Puree tomatoes in blender or food processor.
Run puree through a hand mill food processor.  This removes the seeds.
Place in a crockpot with your seasoning on high, uncovered until the sauce thickens to your desired consistency.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Day of Freebies

I had a shopping list of things that needed to be purchased for projects to be done around the micro farm.

Then I paid the mortgage bill and looked at our bank statement.

Let's just say thank God I got the grocery shopping done BEFORE paying the mortgage.

As crazy as it may sound to many people, I actually pray that God would give me the creativity to make do.  We would love to have a working farm someday, but we can't achieve that dream by blowing Mr. Scott's current paycheck on the micro farm we have.

So, here are today's freebies:

The biggest project was making a gate for the side of the barn that houses the breeding rabbits, feed and hay.  The goats, being very goaty, figured out how to bypass the accordion baby gate I had there.  I was going to build a gate out of wood, fencing, hinges and some sort of latch system, but the shopping list for it started adding up fast.  

So, I wandered our property brainstorming when I came across the headboard to the old crib.  I picked it up and thought, "I bet this is exactly the right width!"  And sure enough, it was!!  I cut off some of the leg so the goats wouldn't figure out how to sneak under.  Then I drilled holes in the left side to weave baling twine in for hinges.  I knotted the hinges to the inside of the gate so the goats couldn't chew on them.  Then, I hammered a fencing staple inside the door frame, added a spare latch to the chain I had on hand and voila!  A (hopefully) goat-proof gate for free!  I like that the crib slats are vertical, which keeps the goats from finding footholds.

The other goat project was recommended by their owner.  I needed to install a leash in the milking area to keep the nervous goat from bolting every milking.  Since she is in so much milk, it takes a while to milk her and she gets bored and just wants to leave long before she's milked out. And when she wants to leave, she doesn't care who's in the way.  Let's just say I have a bruise on my bicept from her running me over while milking her.

So, while this doesn't prevent her from dancing all over the place, shifting and trying to get away, she can't actually run down the corridor (which is too narrow for her to turn around in....she's a good sized goat, for goodness sake).

This lead was made from an unused plant hook I had in my bedroom ceiling.  I squeezed the hook part closed with pliers into an eyelet.  I used baling twine (love that stuff) looped through an extra leash latch I had on hand.  Another freebie!

Laundry is a never-ending task, of course, but I was running low on detergent and what I have on hand I discovered I am allergic to.  So, I poured some borax I had on hand, some baking soda, a scoop of an oxygen detergent I had on hand, grated half a bar of my homemade goat's milk soap, added water and some scented oils and made my own laundry detergent.  Freebie!

Lastly, I removed the air conditioners and put the storm windows back on.  That required needing window cleaner.  Well, my dear daughter asked to wash windows for me a week ago and ended up using almost all of what was left in the bottle of Method.  So, I grabbed the rubbing alcohol and vinegar, added some water and made my own window cleaner.  Freebie #4!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Chicken Coop Dilemma

You'll notice on the sidebar that we are asking for donations in exchange for ad space in order to help us fund raise for a larger, winter coop for our chickens.

We had the money all lined up for the winter coop.  The plans were made and the unforeseen and unfortunate happened.  Mr. Scott wound up ill and hospitalized.  4 ER visits, 1 night in ICU, 7 days in the hospital,  and 1 month out of work with no pay.  On top of that, we had unexpected and odd vehicle repairs.  Needless to say our chicken coop money was evaporated.  Winter is approaching early this year, it seems.  Our birds NEED a better home for the winter.  

So, we are reaching out for assistance, but not just hand outs.  In return, we offer you advertising not only here on this growing blog, but also on our facebook page and my (Kate's) personal facebook page.

We also humbly appreciate any donation amount.  

Thank you!

Considering Goat's Milk

This was morning milking from two Alpine goats!
I couldn't be more thrilled with all this goodness!

With so much milk, some is bound to not get used before it goes off.  And when it does go off, it makes the fluffiest, flakiest, tastiest baking powder biscuits ever!

I also had 2 gallons sitting in the fridge that I made into mozzarella cheese, a bowl full of ricotta cheese and enough whey for dinner and breakfast the next morning for the pig.  

Friday, September 12, 2014

Is It Too Much?

I'm going to be honest and candid today.

Because I think I ought to be on such a blog.

I'm not about portraying just the comfortable ideal.

I'd rather be real.

Quite often, I do wonder if all this is too much.  I enjoy the animals and the garden, I really do!  A friend watching me with the animals remarked later how she could see the joy I have tending them.  Fact is, I can do it.  I can handle it....them.  But couple that with everything else and I wonder if I am making myself stronger, or heading for burn out.

Then, I remind myself, it is the busiest time of year.  There's harvest, the animals, winter preparations, homeschooling, and our unique life situations such as illnesses and auto repairs.  I've had a lot thrust upon me that no one could have planned for or foreseen.  

So, part of the garden lays unharvested and I feel that guilty twinge of

Am I doing enough?

Could I work harder?


Am I failing at this?

Will I be able to sustain our micro farm (mostly single-handedly) and be able to care for my children, my husband.....myself?

They love the animals and help where they can.  It is a good learning experience.  They've been champions and hubby is impressed with me.

But, I honestly have prayed that if it is taking away from my family, I am willing to sell out and stop.  Regroup, refocus, maybe try again another time.

But, I don't have the answer.

What I do have are animals depending on me and a harvest wrapping up.
I have weak days.

I have strong days.

I have today.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Goats of a Different Color

Best picture I could get.  They wouldn't stand still!

The goat fairy godmother came and changed my non-milking and almost-dry Oberhasli goats into two milk-full Alpines!  I'm getting nearly a gallon a day out of these two.

I've really come to enjoy milking goats and actually find myself looking forward to it morning and evening.  Despite these two being a much more....energetic...than the Oberhasli, and not used to being milked freestall (they're trained for milk stands), and being so full of milk that my hands are getting quite the workout, I can't help but love milking them.  It is a quiet time of day and I am forced to be patient and gentle, yet firm and deliberate.  I can't stop and I can't give up.  I have to milk on.  I HAVE to do it.  No ifs ands or buts about it (although one of them did butt me this morning during milking).

I've only had them for two days and I look forward to them calming down and getting used to our routine.  No more stepped in pails, or jumping over me to get away, or breaking down the dividing fence in the barn to get to the hay on the other side.  (I reinforced it well this morning).

Maybe I am a goat-girl after all.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Late Nights, Early Mornings, Stinky House Harvest

I'm relishing (no pun intended) my times late into the night and in the wee hours of the morning pickling, canning, preserving, freezing and fermenting.  Any 2-4 hours I can grab to put up our harvest is taken opportunity of.  Those late nights and early mornings offer me surefire times where I can work in undisturbed quiet.

Our garden harvest isn't magnificent, like those in Amish novels, where canning is an August through October marathon and shelves bow under the weight of a thousand filled mason jars.  But, it is a welcomed abundance.  To feed our family through a winter, I would need a garden at the very least twice as large.  Regardless, every little bit is welcomed and produce donations from family and neighbor gardeners as well as inexpensive roadside purchases helps fills our shelves and gives us a taste of that sense of security and accomplishment our foreparents felt.

While I've frozen foods and water bath canned for decades now, pressure canning is a more recent feat, having started doing it only 5 or 6 years ago.  This year, though, my newest venture is fermenting.  The local produce stand cradled large, tight heads of beautiful green cabbages for a mere $2.00 each.  I grabbed a jolly one, brought it home, pulled out Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Reader's Digest Back to Basics, and sliced into that thick head.  After hours of sitting and pounding, I finally got enough juices out of that cabbage to weight it, cover it and set it on my dinging room hutch.  My kitchen gets too hot and cluttered to keep it still and safe.  As a result, the occasional waft of fermentation reaches our noses.  From a distance, it can be as stinky as a distant dirty diaper or rotting mouse carcass, but venture close to the bowl, place nose to towel and sniff and it is delicious sauerkraut, no doubt about it.  Here's hoping it stays that way and fermentation completes without spoilage.