Saturday, January 31, 2015

Goals for 2015: January Progress

Hello Fellow Homesteaders!

Here's what progress we have made on our 2015 goals...

Goal #1. Get below 200 pounds by the end of the year... The birth of Baby Girl helped to jump start this goal. I am a weird person in that I lose weight when pregnant and gain it while breastfeeding. So annoying! I am gradually changing my diet, but it's tough right now as I am eating whatever is provided for us, healthy or not. I am eating less of it, though, and cutting the sugar intake down. (Not as much as I need to though b/c there have been some yummy desserts coming in also!)

Goal #2. Finish the garage... My Knight has been working hard on this with my dad's help. Most of the ceiling and walls are up.

Goal #3. (No change yet.) Start eating at the dinner table. Right now, the dining room is anything but. It's the craft/sewing/gardening/storage/chicken/mish mash room right now. We haven't eaten at the dinner table in months, maybe longer. Again, this will depend on the garage and what happens there.

Goal #4. (No change yet, but after I'm recovered from having Baby Girl, I hope to start on it.) Build a nicer and sturdier chicken pen. The eyesore of chicken wire and bird netting needs to go and I want to start getting cattle panels and create some chicken-friendly landscaping. This will go hand-in-hand with the decluttering I have been doing because I will sell things and make a few bucks here and there to help out along with the couple of cartons of eggs I sell every week. We are talking ones of dollars here, but they do add up over time. I think it's a resonable time frame for this.

Goal #5. Pay off the credit card for good and never let it acrue again... We made a large payment that got rid of 1/5 of it, so we are well on our way! Hopefully the tax return will knock most of it out if not all of it!
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Goal #6. (No change yet.) Get the van fixed. It has some weird electrical problems and we pray they can be fixed for less than an arm and leg.

Goal #7. (No change yet. With the destruction of the green house, this may be hindered.) Have a more productive garden. This is a flighty goal and very ambiguous, but I have higher hopes with the garden this year since we have chickens. I'm hoping the work the chickens are doing over the winter along with having their poo to use for fertilizer will help my garden along. Plus I am narrowing down what I grow and grow more of it instead of having so many different tidbits. My long-term goal is to be able to grow and preserve certain crops to last us all year. Also perhaps have enough to sell and/or trade for the items that I don't or can't grow.

Goal #8. (No change yet.) Goes along with #7...get a pressure canner and grow enough produce to need it! I do some water bath canning right now, but that limits me to just the high-acid foods. I'd like to be able to can things like potatoes, beans, peas, corn, etc. Not to mention grow enough to be able to do that.

Goal #9. (We have decided we need to cut this goal out this year. But, it is still in our future plans. We just don't feel it's realistic for us to be able to get this accomplished before the end of the year.) Get meat rabbits. Since we have very little space and city ordinance to comply with, we are very limited on our livestock options. We originally wanted to raise meat chickens, but after a lot of research and recommendations from folks who have raised both, we decided rabbits were more efficient for us. We'll still have chickens for eggs and eat the occasional rooster or un-laying hen, but they won't be primarily for meat. Now, this is a goal more directed at my Knight as he is all excited to have his own homesteading project and, to be honest, I am going to have to get over the "cute" factor of rabbits, so I will be less "hands-on" with this project.
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Goal #10. (No change yet.) Get my sewing machine up and running again and organize a usable sewing space. This goes along with goals 2 and 3, since all my sewing stuff is currently in the dining room.

Goal #11. (I have done a bit of work here. I got the mixer off the floor and the jars off the counter, but still have a long way to go.) Organize my kitchen, clear off the counters and create a storage space for small appliances and home-canned goods. This also goes along with goal 2. This MAY involve buying a microhood that we don't really NEED as our microwave and our vent hood both work very well, We will prayerfully see what God has in store for us this year in that regard.

Well, there you have it! It seems like not much has been done, but with a new baby, I still feel like we've done pretty well. Also, I hope that many of these things will have a snowball effect on the others. For instance, the garage getting done will affect all the organization goals and the credit card getting paid off will get the ball rolling on the goals that need money thrown at them. 

How are you doing on your goals for the year?

Homestead on!

Jen Hen

Monday, January 5, 2015

Homemade Christmas 2014

Hello Fellow Homesteaders!

Here is my much-requested list of home made items I made for the Christmas baskets I gave out this year. I couldn't post this until everyone had received their gifts on the off chance someone receiving them would read my blog.

I have been doing a lot of crocheting since that's been the easiest craft for me to do during this pregnancy. Here's my crochet article with links to the patterns I used. I ended up using two other patterns, one for mittens and another for a wavy beanie. I also made a matching cowl for Little Buddy. I just took a guess on how long and wide to make it. This isn't the best picture of his's bright red and black.

Then I made a soap saver and a matching C2C washcloth for everyone.

Then a funny poo ornament!

I had a collection of apple butter, jams, and jellies that I divided up.

A bit of candy in the form of hot chocolate spoons. Then I used up the rest of the almond bark to make peppermint bark.

Some more candy in the form of salted caramel. (Wouldn't you know I didn't get a picture!)

Then some flavored salts...Bloody Mary saltLemon and Dill saltPorcini and Parmesan salt, and Rosemary salt. I improvised on the Bloody Mary Salt since I didn't have all the ingredients. I ended up using powdered tomatoes (that I dehydrated myself from my garden), red pepper, and ground dried celery (that I also dehydrated myself, but not from my garden.)

So no one gets overloaded with sweets all at once, I also made some sweets to enjoy later via coffee cup...the 1 minute brownie in a mug and the 3-2-1 cake.

Then to add to the bath and body products I included some coffee salt scruboatmeal cookie bath, and brown sugar scrub.

I also made some bath bombs and for the life of me, I can't find where I got the recipe, but it's very simple...1/2 cup baking soda, 4 drops essential oil, 4 drops lemon juice, 8 T witch hazel. Mix liquids in spray bottle and spray baking soda while stirring until it reaches the consistency of wet sand. Press into molds or shapes and let dry overnight or until completely dry.

Here is a His and Hers basket! I threw in a couple of other bath and body products in there and a couple of ornaments.

As you can see, I used up a lot of baby food jars. A couple months ago, I looked at my craft supplies to see what I had on hand and went from there. Plus I keep a stock of baking supplies so I checked on that as well. After that, I started looking up recipes and ideas. Really, the research takes longer than actually making them. The only things I bought recently for this was the cake mixes for the 3-2-1 cake and the peppermints for the peppermint bark. The rest I had on hand already. Normally I don't buy cake mixes and make my own, but for the simplicity I needed this year, I went with it. I also bought a flavor I don't readily know how to make myself.

As far as the labels go, I just did a web search for free printable labels and sorted through hoards of sites! You can buy the actual stickers for the size of labels you want, but I just printed them on plain paper then glued them on with craft glue. I didn't post any links to the labels because some of them were free offers but with other stipulations or copyrighted so I didn't want to risk being in violation with anyone. But, trust me, it's easy to find them...there are tons out there! The biggest problem you'll have is trying to narrow them!

I hope you all enjoyed your holiday season and perhaps this will give you a headstart on ideas for next year or for gifts through out the year. Have a great New Year!

Happy crafting!

Jen Hen

Shared on Idlewild Alaska Homestead Blog Hop 12

Saturday, January 3, 2015

First Update of the New Year

Hello Fellow Homesteaders!

I didn't make a New Year's resolution or goal to write more posts this year, but I am going to try to do so anyway. Being 18 days away from my due date, it is nice to have a bit of energy these last couple days, so I took a stroll outside and did some chores. Even though it's cloudy, it feels nice out there. Cool but not freezing.

I cleaned up the coop a bit after collecting an egg. It certainly makes your heart skip a beat when you come back indoors from working and realize you had an egg in your pocket the whole time! I know I'm not the only chicken keeper who's done this. Here's my teeny bantam egg from Petunia. They are as cute as she is!

The chickens are all working the garden beds wonderfully! I throw snacks down for them from time to time to help their progress along.

The General is doing his job of keeping a watchful eye over the girls. He may be the second to smallest chicken I have, but he acts like a king! Handsome little guy.

My Rhode Island Reds are the best layers of the bunch. Good thing too, because you can see how meaty they are compared to little Petunia down there to the right. Some chickens are pets, but the RIR I got will be a meat source when the time comes. They are a good dual-purpose breed that are both cold and heat hardy alike. They have done well and I've been very happy with them. Plus once they started laying, they became very docile and friendly. The couple of times we've had one escape, they have been super easy to catch. I would like to breed them with a RIR rooster, but have been leery about this as I've read the roosters of that breed can tend to be mean. Can't have that around my little ones! But perhaps I will buy some straight-run RIR chicks and see what I end up with out of that bunch. Even if I don't keep a RIR rooster around, he'll make a good dinner!

As I've been cleaning out the coop, I've been putting some of their poo on the straw bales to help condition them. You can tell the obvious difference between last year's bale and the two I just acquired this fall. One person's trash is another person's treasure! Under the leaves in the middle I have some spuds that I planted last fall. I had read about winter potatoes and thought I would try it.

Under this patch of leaves is the garlic I planted this fall. Not sure how long it's been like this but...

Look at that! It's sprouting already! Not sure if that's a good thing or not as this is the first year I actually got them into the ground in time. These were planted into the ground, then covered with compost, then covered with partially decomposed leaves, so they have travel quite a ways to see the sun.

Here is what is left of last year's compost. I will put the rest of this on my mini Hugel Kultur garden in the spring before I plant it.

And here is the current compost pile. Most of my kitchen waste goes in there as well as chicken manure. Every so often I put in a layer of leaves I saved from last fall for the brown matter. I leave it open in the winter so moisture can get to it. When it starts to get warm out, I'll cover it and let the heat build up so it can break down faster.

Here is my sad-looking Hugel Kultur pile. So far just sticks and manure, but eventually it will be filled in for spring planting. I'm excited to try out this method for the first time.

In the summer chicken pen, some oats have already sprouted and wilted. I put most of our fall leaves in the pen. I hope it can grow up quite a bit before I put the chickens back in there.

Well, that was all the excitement I had for the day. It's wonderful to be counting down the days to planting season! Not to mention Baby Girl's arrival. Who knows what the next few weeks will bring with me having a newborn in the middle of it all, but I'm ready for you 2015! Bring it on!

Happy Homesteading!

Jen Hen