What’s Going On…

August was a pretty busy month for us. As we prepare for our move this coming Spring, I feel that the coming months will be just as busy.

We continue to declutter and organize, being mindful of exactly what we’re taking with us. What really matters to us the most. What brings us joy. What will we actually benefit from and use.

I’m thrilled that we’ve cleared out our rented storage unit. Most of the items that we were storing were building materials and tools that we will need once we move to the homestead, so we went ahead and moved those items to our storage shed on the property. Even though our stuff just went from one storage area to another, it still felt good to move it “home”. Not to mention, it feels good to be able to out that monthly payment amount into our savings account each month now.

There were also off season clothes, various kitchen items, and “projects” that we’d been holding on to. Once we’d been without it for a period of time, it was easy to decide what we were going to actually wear/use/complete and donate the rest. Those items have served us well and now they can be a blessing to someone else.

Since Labor Day was a long weekend, we spent it doing maintenance around the homestead. Clearing silt from the drainage ditch that runs along the road, cleared brush and moved some downed trees. Moving downed trees will be the theme of our life over the next year I’m certain. Thankfully, the weather was perfect. Low humidity and cooler temperatures.

I just loved the way the sun was shining through these trees.

A clearing is emerging!
The woods are calling, and I must go!
That SUN! Love!

And I had a visit from my little hummingbird buddy! He seems to thoroughly enjoy the butterfly bush I’ve planted.

While I didn’t get food preserved each and every day of August, I was able to add quite a few items to our storage. As mentioned in my previous post, I canned fruit cocktail, cherries in light syrup, potatoes, chicken breast, chili beans, carrots, pineapple, and homemade chicken broth and veggie broth. Oh! And I found the most AMAZING baked bean recipe for canning. I will definitely be making another batch to add to the pantry! Much to my delight, I was able to find a few deals on ground pork, turkey and beef, so I added that to our freezer. I also tried my hand at dehydrating for the first time. I started simple – just did some carrots. 3 pounds dehydrated to about 12 ounces in a jar. Dehydrating is going to be an amazing space saver. I can’t wait to try more things!

~Blessings!~

August Food Preservation Goals

In a recent video from one of my favorite Youtube channels, Three Rivers Homestead, Jessica is reorganizing her pantry and working on cycling out her inventory. There’s just something so beautiful about a well stocked pantry of home preserved food. A pantry, shelf or cabinet becomes a beautiful show piece and part of the home decor. I could binge watch any of these type videos for hours!

Jessica is also participating in the #everybitcountschallenge on her Instagram page. The goal is to preserve/can something each and every day of August. Wow! With her busy family and farm, that certainly is going to be a challenge. But I’m sure she’ll rise to it. 🙂

It got me to thinking about my own pantry and setting some goals for myself. I know my limitations with time and budget, so to try and get something preserved each day is just setting myself up for failure. I currently don’t have my own garden, so I’m relying on the grocery store, local farmers market and excess from friends gardens for my fresh veggies. But, because “every bit counts”, I can make some realistic goals for myself and add quite a bit of food storage over the next month.

Here’s what I’m planning.

Fruit Cocktail

My inspiration for this comes from the fact that cherries are in season! They look so delicious, but I couldn’t think of anything to do with them outside of a cherry pie, which neither of us would eat. I opened a jar of my home canned pineapple a few days ago and then it occurred to me that I could make fruit cocktail! A quick trip down the Youtube rabbit hole, and I found this recipe. Cherries, pineapple, grapes and pears canned in the natural juices, just like I do my pineapple. I’ll omit the peaches since we don’t care for those. For around $10, I’ll have 9 pints of delicious fruit cocktail made from fruits chosen at the ripeness we like them preserved with no extra sugar or preservatives!

Kidney Beans

While this is not one of the beans we eat as a side dish or entree, I do use them in my chili recipe. I’ll go ahead and can these in quart jars, since I usually use two cans. Sams Club has 4 pounds dry kidney beans for around $6, so I should be able to get 5-6 quarts on the shelf.

Carrots

Perfect as a side dish or adding to recipes. I can buy organic carrots in bulk and get around 9 pints for roughly $6.00.

Potatoes

This is a vegetable that I’ve been on the fence about for a number of years. I’ve heard how terrible the texture of home canned potatoes is, how mushy they get, etc. and so that never appealed to me at all. But, the idea of being able to just grab a jar, heat them up and have mashed potatoes in less than 5 minutes does. I think the key is to choose waxy types -like yukon gold, or yellow or red potatoes – instead of baking types, like russets. Mashed potatoes is the way we eat potatoes most of the time anyway and waxy potatoes are typically what I buy simply because that’s our favorite type of potato. So I’m just gonna go for it and see what happens! The guesstimation is around 13 pounds for 9 pints. That should cost me around $7.00.

Chicken and Ground Beef

(No, not together of course!) While I would love to get a couple canner loads of each done in August, it’s really going to depend on the sale cycles. There was a really good deal on organic chicken a few weeks ago, so I’m hoping that will be coming back around soon. It is usually easier to find a good deal on quality ground beef rather than chicken in my area. Even on sale, it’s going to take me about $50 to get enough of each to fill 16 pints. But since each pint holds a pound, that will be a really good value in the long run. It will decrease our dependency on using the freezer and it will retain it’s quality longer than it would in the freezer.

Dehydrating

I have several things that I can dehydrate! They’re inexpensive and won’t take much hands on time. As follows: garlic, onions, green beans, corn, mushrooms, peppers, peas and kale. Shelf stable and ready to add to so many recipes!

In Closing

Well, there’s my basic list. I feel this is completely attainable and I will be so proud of it once I’ve completed it. I’m sure I’ll be motivated and inspired to add more to the list as I get going!

I hope you’re inspired to start a pantry or add to yours over the next few months as well. There are so many delicious fruits and veggies to choose from this time of year and I can’t wait to enjoy them into the months to come. The time and effort spent adding to our food storage pantry will all be worth it down the road with the time saved and the convenience of having a well stocked inventory.

Please be sure to check out the youtube links above and if interested, follow Three Rivers Homestead on Instagram and join the #everybitcountschallenge.

~ Blessings ~

An Introduction to Gray Water

WHAT IS GRAY WATER?

Gray water is household waste water from your bathroom sinks, tub and shower and dishwasher. It is also produced while camping by washing dishes, brushing your teeth, washing clothes and washing your body. In either scenario, careful consideration should be made with regards to the products used and disposing of the gray water responsibly.

GRAY WATER AROUND THE HOME

If you are fortunate enough to live in an area that allows gray water, considering installing one in your home would have many benefits. (Gray water laws differ from state to state, and in some areas it is entirely illegal. Be sure to check your local ordinances and laws.)

There are many uses for recycled gray water, from washing your clothes to irrigating your garden. And because you’re decreasing your usage of fresh water, you would save money on your water bill. Not to mention reducing the demand and wasting of the public water supply.

While installing a gray water system does involve a bit of know how and the ability to perform manual labor, it is not necessarily too complex, nor too expensive. The decision to do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you will depend largely on your actual water usage and the laws of your area. If you have the ability to live off grid and use a composting toilet, then the laws of your area more than likely allow for a gray water system as long as it meets certain criteria.

Gray water cannot simply be piped to your garden. It does have to go through a collection and filtration process. It cannot be stored either, as the bacteria in it will use up all the oxygen making it anaerobic and turning it septic.

IRRIGATING WITH GRAY WATER

These are just a few guidelines to follow when using gray water for irrigation of grasses, ornamentals, trees, fruits and vegetables.

  • Gray water should only be applied to the soil, never to any above ground portion of a plant.
  • Root crops that will be eaten raw should not be irrigated using gray water.
  • Gray water is alkaline. Do not use it on any plants that thrive in acidic soil.
  • Use only on well established plants, not seedlings or young plants.
  • Only apply it to flat areas where runoff is not an issue.

CREATING GRAY WATER DURING CAMPING

Some people may not think of “camping” as a way to create gray water. But think about it – when camping, you’re washing your hands, brushing your teeth, cleaning dishes and possibly washing your clothes. Camping or living off grid produce much of the same waste. In each case, we are responsible for dealing with said waste in a way that is not harmful to humans, wildlife or the soil itself. Soil is a living being, full of microbial organisms, worms and bugs that all exist in natures balance. Anything we do to the soil, or pour onto the soil, can affect that balance. We must be mindful and careful!

We love camping. Because our style of camping is “primitive” or “roughing it”, we are very mindful of the amount of trash we generate, conservation of our water supply and the cleanliness of our area. This includes the creation and disposal of our gray water.

When cooking, we don’t cook foods that are excessively greasy or require grease for cooking (like frying). Food residue is scraped thoroughly from our dishes, pans and cooking utensils and disposed of by being tossed into the campfire or put in the trash, thereby creating “quality” gray water. We use minimal amounts of soap for dish washing as well as body washing, and the products that we use are safe for the environment. Gray water, whether at your home or campsite, should never be poured directly into any natural body of water, such as a stream, creek, or pond.

PRODUCTS SAFE FOR GRAY WATER

As with food, just because a product states “natural” or “organic” on the label, you still need to look at the list of ingredients. While some products are perfectly safe and eco-friendly for household or bodily cleansing using a septic or sewer system, they could be harmful if used in a gray water system.

For a gray water system, look for cleaning products (both household and body) that are “biodegradable” and “biocompatible” products.

Ingredients to avoid:

• sodium and ingredients with the word “sodium” or “salt” in them
• boron/borax (toxic to plants)
• sodium perborate
• petroleum distillate
• anti-bacterial soaps and cleaners
• ”whiteners” and “softeners”
• chromium oxide
• artificial colors, FD&C colors
• synthetic fragrance
• artificial preservatives
• parabens (methyl, propyl, butyl, and ethyl)
• chlorine bleach / sodium hypochlorite (household bleach) Hydrogen peroxide is a safe alternative

Green Goo offers all natural, plant based products, for first aid and health and beauty free from harmful ingredients. Be sure to still read the label if considering for use with gray water.

Here are a sampling of brands that are safe for gray water systems.

BATH

LAUNDRY

  • Ecos
  • Dropps
  • Oasis

KITCHEN

GENERAL CLEANING

For simplicity, Castille soap can be used to make just about every product needed for cleaning your house, washing your body and hair and even doing dishes.

I hope you find this information informative and helpful. I’m not an expert by any means, but I’ve researched and practiced gray water usage and disposal for a number of years. The act of having to carefully consider the products that I’m using and being responsible for the disposal of my own waste (trash and water) is all part of living intentionally and purposefully.

~ Blessings ~

Moving Forward And Looking Back

This coming Spring, my husband and I will step into the next phase and chapter of our lives. We will be moving from our tiny apartment in the suburbs to our rural homestead, downsizing even further and simplifying our lives even more.

Several years ago we partnered with some dear friends to embark on this journey with. We share the same ideas, dreams and goals of living a simpler life. A sustainable, more self sufficient and purposeful life. A slower life.

We’ve used weekends and vacations to clear land and build a few structures. It’s been tough trying to cram as much productivity as possible into such short intervals. They’re truly is only so much that can be accomplished by two people in a limited amount of time. Unexpected health issues caused us to have to stop work completely for about a year to allow for recovery. We had to overcome some financial set backs as well, and adjust to our “new normal”. But in spite of this, we’ve continued to move forward, never losing sight of the end goal. We’ve had to accept that even slow progress is still progress.

Our friends are quite a bit farther along than we are. They completed construction of their house and moved to the property last year. We’re all looking forward to being together full time so some real progress can be made on the development of systems and structures. We all still have a few more years to work before we can retire, but it will certainly be easier to accomplish things once we’re settled.

Three years ago, after both our boys officially moved out, we did some major decluttering and downsizing into a 700 square foot apartment. We simply did not need a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, 2,000 square foot house. We decided we could go ahead and start the great purge, further preparing for moving to our retirement homestead. With less expenses, we’ve been able to put more money aside, allowing us to cash flow several homestead projects. I will tell you though – we had a LOT of stuff. More than we ever realized. It was painful and overwhelming at times. We honestly spent the better part of a year donating, dumping, giving and sorting before we moved.

It had been 30 years since we’d lived in an apartment and we weren’t too sure we would be able to adapt to it, but reminding ourselves it was only temporary. Surprisingly, we’ve actually enjoyed it. We live in a great community and have a rather private unit. It was the most sensible thing to to do at the time we did it. Still, it was bittersweet.

We’d lived in our house for 10 years. That’s a lot of birthdays, graduations, holidays and memories. And as excited as hubby and I were to begin the “next phase” of our lives, there was also a sadness for the closure of the first chapter. We were officially empty nesters.

In that driveway and garage, my boys had learned everything from how to change a bicycle tire to swapping out a car motor and rebuilding a transmission. There’d been countless motorcycles and autos parked there with visiting friends and family.

We only locked our doors if we left, and it was not uncommon for one of our “borrowed” children to stick their head in yelling “Hey mom! Dad! You home?” I was always cooking and baking, making sure anyone who passed through left with a full belly. I still haven’t mastered cooking for two. I think I’m down to cooking for about four, so it’s a good thing we don’t mind leftovers.

We hosted all night computer game parties, the living room covered up with pre-teens and teenagers all engrossed in the latest quest while fueling up with pizza, cookies and soft drinks. Anyone who needed a place to crash was always welcome. It was never difficult to get help with house projects or yard work – there was always an extra set of hands that could come help out willingly.

There were countless neighborhood cats that passed through our home as well. Some only stopping to catch a quick bite of the food I left out for them. Others, happily lounging on my bench swing waiting for me to come out and give a chin scratch. A couple considered themselves members of our family. There were pets that passed away during those 10 years, so their memories are with us all still too.

That yard was where I had my first flock of chickens. There was always some kind of gardening experiment going on in various parts of the yard. A worm bin, a compost pile. Raised beds and container gardens. Twelve foot high sunflowers and eight foot high okra plants. Our wonderful neighbor and I solving all the worlds problems in discussions over the fence. I shared the bounty of my vegetable garden with her each summer; she shared the bounty of her flower bulbs in fall when she thinned out her plants. Her beautiful daylilies are growing at my homestead right now!

Our oldest son learned to drive stick shift in that neighborhood. Our youngest followed a couple years later. There was always some sort of automobile tinkering project going on in the driveway and garage.

I guess one of the things you don’t realize is just how quiet things get once the kids move out. That beautiful background noise of laughter and chatter. It just becomes such a part of your daily life that once it’s gone, you feel incredibly lonely without it. I was quite depressed those first few months after the boys were gone.

There is joy in knowing that we did our job as parents as best we could with what we had. I like to say my boys are amazing in spite of us. And we were – are – very close. We’re usually all together each Sunday – our two sons, daughter in law and granddaughter. We can sit and talk with these now adult children the same way we could when they were kids. They always knew they could come to us with anything. We were consistent, we were stable, we were safe and they knew they were loved.

So, we enter another bittersweet phase of our lives. Our homestead is about 2 hours in one direction, our youngest and his family are moving about 2 hours in another direction and our oldest is moving out of the state about 5 hours in yet another direction! Guess we’re all finally leaving the nest. So while getting together every Sunday is probably not going to be manageable, we’ll get together as often as possible. We’ll be the grandparents with the farm for the grandkids to come visit!

Even though I love our little apartment and it makes all the financial and practical sense in the world, I am so ready to get moved onto our homestead!

I miss my clothesline and the smell of laundry dried by the sun and a gentle summer breeze. 

I miss my hands being in the dirt and being surrounded by grass and flowers. Gardening is extremely therapeutic for me. The smell of dirt. The wonder at the miracle of a plant growing from seed. Seeing what flourishes and what was a complete waste of time. The birds singing, the bugs buzzing, the sun and fresh air all work together and help me sort out my thoughts. I’ve solved many problems while on my knees pulling weeds, picking beans or digging with a shovel.

New ideas ignite.

Solutions are found.

Clarity, focus and peace attained.

I’m at peace with where our lives are and where we are headed. On to the third quarter!

~Blessings!~