Category Archives: Homesteading

Mulching the Garden for Free

Bermuda grass in my flower beds is relentless.  I hate to admit it but the last few years it was so out of control I was embarrassed for anyone to see my flower beds.  This year I was determined to get rid of it or at least get it under control.  I prefer not to use the commonly used spray to eradicate Bermuda grass for reasons I won’t go into here but it was the only way I was going to stand a chance.

First, I used garden scissors to cut huge amounts of the offensive grass out of the beds so I could at least see the ground that it was covering.  Second, I sprayed the base of the grass as close to the ground as I could get it.  The final and very important step was to cover the ground with thick layers of mulch.

Here is were the frugal part comes in.  I had a load of wood chips delivered for free from a tree trimming company that was looking for a dump site.  I also acquired several bags of pine needles from a friend.  (Best part about that was I didn’t even have to rake and bag them myself.)  Additionally I picked up all the pine cones I could find and obtained a few pieces of used brick that was going to the dump from a construction site.

The pine needles and pine cones were used in one section of the flower bed.  The wood chips were used in another.  I partially buried sections of brick amongst the wood chips for a decorative effect and while the Bermuda grass might manage to come up through all that mulch,  I dare it to come up through that brick.

I have to admit there is still some grass in my flower beds but for the first time in several years I can enjoy my flower beds instead of feeling disgust at how bad they looked.  As an added benefit the mulch also helps hold in moisture which results in a less frequent need to water.

Thanks for reading.  Have a frugal day.

 

 

Foraging for Dinner

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I love being able to go outside and “pick supper”.  Selection varies from night to night and season to season but it sure beats going to the  grocery store.  You can’t get much fresher than “just picked”.  Last night we had fresh picked asparagus sautéed in butter with mushrooms and carrots along with a salad filled with freshly picked lettuce.  No pictures of that though we ate it all up before I thought about it.

Tonight we had crappie caught by my Dad out of our pond, wild onions which were great in the hushpuppies and an infusion of peppermint tea. All organic, chemical free and loaded with nutrients.  Wild onions are full of minerals and peppermint has many known health benefits including improving digestion.

I spent the afternoon digging up garlic and onion chives as well as peppermint to plant in containers so that I can have fresh herbs indoors next winter.  The chives are fabulous  in salads and on baked potatoes.  The peppermint tea is useful for helping fight off  winter colds.  My tomatoes, bell cayenne, jalopeno, and habanero peppers are ready to plant as soon as the weather cooperates.  I couldn’t resist planting a few cucumber seeds but I brought them inside to germinate.  A few days head start will allow me to have fresh cucumbers just a little bit earlier.

Hopefully I have inspired you to start growing your own food if you aren’t already doing so.  Let me know how it goes.

 

 

Easy Peasy Ranchero Soup

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Ranchero Soup is a cross between chili and vegetable soup and one of my favorite soups. It is a great choice for the frugally minded.   You can add a lot of left overs that will otherwise end up being thrown out.  When I made this one I used left over corn, home canned chili beans, lentils and left over broth in addition to the ground beef and a bag of mixed vegetables.  The end result was it cost next to nothing and tasted great.

Now about that left over broth. Whenever I cook vegetables I freeze the left over broth.  I also add that handful of vegetables that is too small to do anything else with.   I keep quart containers in the freezer and just keep adding left over broth and vegetables until it is full.  No need to worry about what type of vegetable broth it is. Just mix them all together.    I do the same with left over beef and chicken broth, however, I do keep them separate from each other.

This is the basic recipe but anyone that knows me knows that for me recipes are guidelines and I tend to deviate from the basic recipe a little every time I fix something.

Ranchero Soup

Brown 1 # ground beef, season with cumin, onion powder and chili powder Sautee ½ C diced onions with meat after browning is complete.

Add meat and onions to

  • 2 cans Ranch Style or Chili Beans
  • 1 package frozen mixed vegetables
  • 6 C chicken or beef broth
  • ¼ c chopped celery
  • 1 to 1 ½ t cumin
  • 1 t onion powder
  • 1 ½ t chili powder 

Bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes

 

Easy Peasy Healthier Biscuits

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If you read my last post you know that I love pancakes.  Biscuits are another favorite of mine.  My Mom used to make what she called “yam cakes” which was basically a biscuit that had yams or sweet potatoes in it.  A few years back I got a hankering for those yam cakes and called Mom to ask for the recipe.  Long story short, she hadn’t made them in years and didn’t know where the recipe was.  Sooooo, I started experimenting until I came up with a recipe that worked and don’t tell Mom but it is better than the one she made.

If you try to eat healthy you will be pleased to know these biscuits have less fat, less flour, and milk than the typical biscuit recipe and the sweet potatoes add fiber.  If you love fall foods you will love this one. It is loaded with cinnamon, all spice, and pumpkin pie spice.  These biscuits are  good with jelly or honey.   My favorite topping on them is homemade  cinnamon spiced pear honey.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Mix

  • 1 1/4 C flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • ½ t salt
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • ½ t allspice
  • ½ t pumpkin pie spice

Cut in 3 T butter until mixture is crumbly. Then cut in 1 ¼ C mashed sweet potatoes.  You can use canned or home grown.

Add ¼ c milk all at once and stir until mixture comes together. Place on lightly floured board and knead 10 times. Roll out or just pat it flat on floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with biscuit cutter or the opening of a pint sized jar and place on cookie sheet. (I like to stack 2 together for a thicker biscuit) Bake @ 450 for 12 minutes or until golden and puffed.

 

Easy Peasy Water Conservation

I have been reading a lot about the wide spread drought lately.  Oklahoma has been hit hard as have many other states, most notably, California.  Experts are predicting that California will be out of water in 12-24 months unless something is done. California is the number one food and agricultural producer in the United States.  If there is limited or no water our food costs will skyrocket.

I am no expert in what large scale system changes might be needed to fix the problem but I do know that if just one fourth of American citizens would save one gallon of water a day it would equate to approximately 75 million gallons of water a day.  There are approximately 38 million people in the state of California.  If just half would save one gallon of water a day that would equate to 19 million gallons of water a day.  That would definitely make an impact.

For those of us in drought stricken areas, one of the easiest ways to conserve water is to collect the water that is going down the drain while waiting for bath water or dishwater to get hot.  In our house it takes about 2 gallons of water before the shower has hot water.  I collect it in a jug or bucket and use it to water the garden.  It could also be used for flushing the toilet, mopping floors, rinsing the tub after it has been washed, or watering pets/livestock.

I realize my 2 gallons of water I save a day isn’t much but if everyone in a drought stricken region would do the same it would make a difference.  It doesn’t take much effort or time. You are just standing there waiting on the water to get hot anyway.

Anyone out there want to give this a try?  What other ways do you conserve water?

Starting the Summer Garden Indoors

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When starting seeds for the  summer garden I planted seeds in cardboard egg cartons.  These are free. I love free and can be cut into sections and be planted directly into  a larger pot or into the garden.  Since I start so early I  transfer the plants to a larger pot and then later into the garden.

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Next I put the egg cartons in a plastic container and cover it with a clear sack from the dry cleaners,  in a clear plastic disposable lettuce container with a lid or a clear shoe box storage container. It needs to be covered to keep the moisture in and create a greenhouse effect.  Even covered it will probably need to be watered occasionally. I use an repurposed dish soap container to water.  It is gentle on the young sprouts and less likely to knock them down than pouring water on them. Next I put them on top of the freezer where the defrost cycle keeps it nice and warm.  That way I don’t have to spend money on a warming pad or electricity to run it.  Most seeds do not need light to sprout.

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Once they are sprouted I move them to the light box the wonderful hubby built for me out of lumbar scraps (gotta be frugal).  It can be seen in the above photo. It is enclosed on the top and three sides. I lined it with foil to  help reflect more light.   It is open on the front for watering and to allow ambient light in.  When the plants are small I place the containers on a box to bring them closer to the light. As they grow I go to a smaller box.  Once they are big enough I move them to a wire shelving unit with a fluorescent light attached and set it In a south window so the plants also get sunlight.  Once the box is empty I move the next batch of sprouts into it.

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These are lettuce and tomatoes I started in January.  I will be able to move them to the unheated greenhouse in a few weeks.

Growing Sprouts to Reduce Chicken Feed Cost

Most people who raise chickens do so because they want farm fresh eggs.  If you are like us, you sell the surplus eggs hoping to recoup some of your feed cost.   A year ago I started growing oat sprouts and while it is extra work it has been worth it.  Not only are we covering the feed cost of our hens, we have made enough to cover the cost of 48 chicks that we purchased in November  and their feed. They should start to lay eggs in about a month or so and we can start saving for the next batch of chicks.

So if you are still reading, I will assume you want to know how it is done.  I have a six day cycle that I will explain step by step below.  On day one I start with four cups of oats and by day six I have approximately 20 cups of sprouts. The photos depict a five day cycle. I have bumped it to six so I will have sprouts for the chicks now that they are old enough to start eating them.

You will need two buckets and six containers with holes drilled in the bottom.  I used shoebox size storage containers and plastic meat containers.  I drilled (well the hubby did) approximately 10 holes in the bottoms of the each container. For day one I used a water garden planter that has holes all over it so it would work like a strainer.

DSC_0259 - CopyThis picture shows volume before and after soaking.

DSC_0262This picture shows the progression of growth. The yogurt container in the container on the left compares day 1 and day 5.

DSC_0261It will form a solid mat if you don’t stir it daily.

DSC_0264Ready to take out to the hens.

Day 1     Place 4 cups of whole oat feed in a 6-8 cup container with holes.

Put the container in a larger container (I use a gallon ice cream bucket) without holes and fill with water.

Soak over night. Each day you will need to soak a new batch of oats.

Day 2   Drain the water and transfer the oats to the shoebox storage container.

Day 3 Rinse the oats and stir. Drain the second batch of oats that you are soaking.

Day 4   Rinse the oats in each shoebox container and drain the batch that is soaking.

Continue to repeat this process every day and by day six you will have approximately 20 cups of home-grown sprouts for your girls. As long as you keep the process going you will have a batch ready everyday. It is not necessary to stir the oats. However, if you don’t, it will make a thick mat. I stir our sprouts because the hens eat it better that way. It is necessary to water each tray every day. I keep mine covered with a plastic trash bag and only rinse once a day. If you don’t keep it covered you will need to rinse twice a day.

We still feed them laying pellets just not as many. They prefer the sprouts over the laying pellets.  The egg production did not decline with the change. If anything if picked up.  If you give it a try let me know how it goes.

As an added note. I keep a drain strainer in place to keep the oats from going down the drain.  They don’t need light to grow and you could get a clogged drain in a matter of days if you don’t use a strainer.