Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Simple Pantry Building December 19, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 6:32 pm

I love making homemade soups and stews. Instead of making a small recipe for one meal, I make a stock pot of the soup or stew. It takes very little extra time to do this. I let it simmer all afternoon. After dinner, I ladle the leftovers into canning jars. These are processed in a pressure canner. By the time I have the dishes done and kitchen cleaned, the processing is nearly done.

I love doing this. Not only do we enjoy the meal when it is first made, but I have extra meals to stock in my pantry for another day. Tonight, I am going to be simmering a pot of dried beans on the wood stove over night. In the morning, I will rinse them and cover in fresh water. They will be cooked until nearly finished and drained again. Placed into jars along with a molasses & brown sugar based liquid, they will be pressure canned to make a version of “baked beans” that we love. Sometimes, I will add to the jars a few of the “Lil Smokies” beef sausages or browned ground meat. The meat adds even more flavor to the beans. Later this week, I will make some tomato soup to jar up.

I love canning for the pantry. It is so easy and the home canned versions of the soups and stews tastes so much better. It is a great value for your money. The baked beans, made with 2 pounds of dried white beans, makes about a dozen pint jars of beans. The cost for the entire batch is less than what you would pay for 2 cans of about a pint jar’s worth of the baked beans. We love that we know exactly what is put into our foods. Home preserving gives you that knowledge. You don’t have to worry about additives and unpronounceable ingredients. The ingredients in the home preserved foods are basic. If you garden, raise your own meat, or hunt the costs for stocking your pantry are greatly reduced.

Home canning equipment is an investment, but one that pays for itself very quickly. You are able to buy in bulk and not have to be concerned about waste or spoilage. There are plenty of free websites that teach home canning and food dehydration along with recipes. Your local cooperative extension service also will provide free information that is up to date.

It is worth looking into. Who knows, you may find that it is something that you want to try. The canners made today are much easier to use than the ones our Grandmothers used back in the day. With a little common sense, you will be safely preserving food for your family in no time!


My Treadle Sewing Machine December 16, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 4:56 pm

Yeah! Today I got my treadle sewing machine set up in my bedroom. Now, I just need to oil it well and it should be ready for sewing. I am so excited about this. I have missed not being able to sew as often as I like. It is a little thing, but so enjoyable.

My dear husband bought the sewing machine for me a couple of years ago. The previous owner had allowed it to rust in a shed in their yard for 10 years. Took 2 bottles of oil to get it working again, along with a new belt, needles, and restoring the wooden cabinet. Several months after bringing it home, I had the treadle machine ready to use. A couple of months later, I had the thread tension knob set correctly. LOL

Now, it quietly sits in my bedroom awaiting use. I had been keeping it in the living room so that I could use it during the day when the little ones are awake. I realized later that was not a good idea. Little hands kept finding my tension nut and playing with it. With it in the bedroom, there is a better chance that little hands will not help in adjusting the tension anymore. I have to oil it again and check the tension, but I will soon be able to sew at night or when the little ones are napping.

I have so much sewing to be done. With 2 young ones in the home, there is always some clothing needing to be sewn. I finally have the sewing patterns for our daughter. Now, I just need to buy the patterns for our son.


Doing Laundry by Hand

Filed under: Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 4:56 pm

Going to get my winter laundry area set up again. The days are getting too chilly to wash laundry outside. So, it is time to set up the washtubs on the side table again. My table is long enough that it holds 2 wash tubs and a laundry basket. The hand crank wringer is placed on the side of the wash tub in between the wash and rinse tubs. After I wash a piece of laundry, I run it through the wringer where it drops into the rinse tub. When the rinse tub starts getting full, I place the wringer onto the side of the rinse tub so that as I wring out the rinsed laundry, it will drop into the basket. I love it! So easy to manage this way. Much better than when I used to wring the laundry out by hand yeas ago. I have a wooden dowel drying rack that I am able to set up near the wood stove in the kitchen. Small items dry very well there. A couple of bath mats with rubber backing placed under the rack prevents water from making a mess on the floor under the rack.

In the winter, I have to place the laundry on the clothesline in early morning. If the temperature is cold enough, the laundry often will freeze on the line. On those days, I leave it in on the drying rack instead. Heavier items like my denim skirt may hang outside long enough to have the water stop dripping. Then, it is brought inside and draped over the drying rack to finish drying. I know some families that will hang their laundry in their basement in the winter or days with bad weather. One family has a large heating unit in their basement that puts out enough heat that their laundry dries just fine. The floor in the basement is such that the water drains out nicely.

Where the clothing is able to dry is not much of an issue. I am just enjoying the fact that I can still do laundry by hand even when it is cold outdoors. I enjoy washing the laundry by hand. With kids, I end up washing at list a little bit each day to stay on top of it. That is fine though. It is a matter of routine. By washing laundry each day, I don’t have much to do at any given time.

We have an old Maytag wringer washer that I will use one day. Mainly for the larger items like bedding. It has an old lawn mower engine to power it. Using it only for larger items, will work great. If I ever want to wash all of the laundry that way, I will. For now though, hand washing is more fun. Maybe I will desire to use the machine when I am older……much older!


My “Little House” Daughter December 14, 2011

Filed under: sewing,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 12:36 am

I am not one for buying fancy or expensive things for the holiday gifts. It makes no sense to me. I can think of so many ways that the money can go towards pantry building or other family needs instead of a toy or other gift that will be a temporary source of entertainment. We prefer giving gifts that are useful or family oriented. This year, our young daughter asked for only 1 special gift. She asked me to make her a doll. So, I am looking through my fabrics and choosing the materials I will use to make it for her. I have an old McCalls doll pattern and a pattern pack of dresses for the doll. I have been waiting to make this one. I knew that she would want one eventually. She is nearly 6 years old and love the Little House books. I found a pattern for a dress & pinafore similar to that worn by the little girls on the Little House television show. That will be a surprise for her. She has asked for a dress like Laura wore in the books. The doll dress pattern pack has a similar dress/pinafore set also. I am going to be able to make a matching dress and pinafore for our daughter and her doll.

We are doing Little House themed unit studies based on the books. I found them at Homeschoolshare. Instead of making lapbooks, I have used a comb binding machine to bind a book of nearly 35 pages. Each page is a different activity based upon a passage we have read in the book that day. We started with the “Little House in the Big Woods” story and will take the series of books in the order.


Winter Musings December 6, 2011

Filed under: simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 3:36 am

The night winds are crisp tonight. Inside, the fire in the cookstove is crackling. On the back of the wood stove sits a large kettle that is kept filled with water. It is wonderful having that steady supply of hot water. The kettle also replaces the moisture in the air that the wood stove can remove.

Sitting near the stove, I can often be found doing email or some form of needlework. I am learning to knit and I find myself enjoying sitting near the stove to do this. There is a peace in my spirit as I sit and knit. It renews me and relaxes me before going to bed each night. I cannot imagine a better way to spend my evening after the little ones are in bed.

I have been slowly getting the holiday gifts finished. In a house full of family, it is hard to find the time to do it without others knowing what you are working on. The answer for me is to just go ahead and make the things and not tell who they are for. The little ones’ gifts are made when they are sleeping or out with the older kids. The older ones simply ignore what I am doing.

Soon, the seed catalogs will start arriving. After the holidays, I will be reading through those. I can’t wait.


Re-Purposing Kids Tank Tops December 4, 2011

Filed under: green living,sewing,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 7:20 pm

If you have extra sleeveless tops from summer for your kids, there is a fun way to re-purpose them into something they (or you) can use year round. Lay the shirt flat on a surface and pin the bottom closed with straight pins. Sew the shirt bottom closed about 1/4 inch from the edge. Remove the pins.

Turn the shirt inside out and smooth out flat again. Pin the bottom once again. This time, sew a seam about 1/2 inch from the bottom. This will completely encase the first seam. This makes a very secure french seam of double stitching. Turn the shirt to the right side again. Voila’ You have a fun tote bag!



How I Stay Warm December 1, 2011

Filed under: homesteading,off grid,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 10:49 pm

I mostly dress in long skirts. It is not uncommon for me to be asked how I manage to stay warm in the winter. We heat mainly with a wood stove, but also have a propane heater as a back-up heat source. When I spent my first winter in a long skirt, I was always cold. It seemed that I could never get warm enough. Experience has changed that. Now, I can be toasty warm even in that same skirt. Here is how I do it.

The main answer was to layer up. This is critical for me. I have learned to dress in layers that provide warmth, yet allow free movement so I am not feeling like the kids going outside in that old “Christmas Story” movie. You know the scene, mom dresses the little boy up and he walks around with his arms open wide because he can’t move them? Yeah, that kid. Dressing in layers always made me feel that way. I have discovered how to do it smart though.

I go for comfort, so my first layer is a camisole and shortened flannel sleep pants or flannel bloomers. I bought a pattern from Buckaroo Bobbins called “Frillies” that contains 2 styles of camisoles, a petticoat, and 2 styles of bloomers. I love the pattern! Made in a soft flannel fabric, the camisole is very warm and comfortable.

The next layer, is a petticoat and a 3/4 sleeve length t-shirt. The petticoat is made of linen for warmth. I used the Frillies pattern for this. I get the t-shirts at a thrift store. If needed, I buy long sleeved ones and shorten the sleeve length. If I find a long sleeved one in the men’s dept, it usually has the ribbing on the sleeves. That can be cut off and then stitched back on after you cut the sleeve to length.

The last layer is a denim or other heavy fabric skirt and a sweatshirt or sweater. If it is not too cold, I often will wear a flannel shirt instead of the fleece sweatshirt.

Our floors have a crawl space under them, so I often wear 2 pairs of socks with my shoes to keep my feet warm. It sounds like a lot of layers, but actually is not too bad. I buy shirts 1 size bigger than what I wear so that I have more movement. I find that the loose clothing keeps me plenty warm.

I sleep in a bedroom in the oldest portion of the home. Unlike the kids’ bedroom in the newer portion of the house, our bedroom is unheated except for a portable kerosene heater I use just long enough to take the chill off the air before going to bed. Both my husband and I sleep better in a chilly room. I warm the bed up very well just by making a slight change in bedding. I place 2 heavy fleece blanket under the quilts instead of using a top sheet. We sleep between the 2 fleece blankets. Not having to sleep between 2 cold sheets makes a huge difference.

Our daughter often likes to wear dresses like Momma. She wears sweatpants under her dressed to keep her legs warm or a thermal shirt & pant set. If playing outside, she wears both the thermals and sweatpants. There are days when she would rather wear pants and I have no problem with that. Then she dresses like her little brother with thermals under their clothes if needed. At night, they wear thermals under their night clothing for extra warmth. Along with their quilts, they stay nice and warm. They also have the benefit of having the heated bedroom.

Staying warm in an off-grid home isn’t hard if you plan correctly. It just takes some common sense thought ahead of time. By dressing in layers, you can save costs on your heating bill whether off-grid or not. Even if you don’t need the information for daily use, it may be helpful to have the ideas in case of power outages from winter storms.


Vegan Diet

Filed under: cooking,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 10:49 pm

After 2 days of being very sick to my stomach, in pain, and sleeping a lot I have to admit that I shouldn’t have strayed from my vegan diet. It is difficult. I have my eldest child and her family living with us until they get their job transfer. They love meat and eat it nearly daily. I think they were surprised at just how sick I became. It is hard begin vegan in a household of carnivores. You don’t realize just how much stuff has meat in it until you are in this situation. Problem is, my body doesn’t process animal proteins properly and they cause me to have stomach problems and chronic pain if I eat it too much. Basically, eating the meat products brought the animal proteins level up to a toxic level in my body. After 2 days, I am only just now able to start eating/nibbling on a muffin and drink a cup of herb tea. It will be another day or two before I am able to eat normally.

So, what do I do now? First on the list is a trip to the health food store for some tofu, quinoa, flax seed, and tea. A trip to the produce isle to get various vegetables to make a vegetable broth to home can also is on the list. The tofu and quinoa are excellent sources of vegetable proteins. Water added to flax seed will become a gel that is an egg substitute. I already have a good supply of TVP, assorted grains, and vegetables. Next is the gathering up of some recipes that everyone may be willing to eat. UGH! Just say the word vegan around some people and they automatically will turn down food offered to them. Oh well. The kitchen is definitely going to be a 2-household kitchen. I will cook for myself and my 2 youngest kids. They will end up cooking their own meals so they can eat all the meat they want.

One of my youngest daughter’s favorite foods is Tofu Nuggets. Basically, it is the extra firm tofu cut into bite sized chunks. Dip in the gelled flax seed (instead of using egg) and then coated in seasoned bread crumbs. She prefers these to chicken nuggets! Just dip in whatever sauce you have on hand. A favorite meal is the nuggets with oven baked sweet potato wedges. Even Mr Picky, our autistic 3 yr old, eats these without a fuss. A major achievement, that is. He is very sensory sensitive and refuses to eat many foods.

I am going to look into raw diet options. I want foods that we can make ahead and take along with us when out running errands. There are very few places to eat that have vegan or vegetarian foods. One of the “joys” of living in a rural area of a ranching state. The only places to find vegan foods are at the health food stores that offer a hot deli in the large cities.

Guess it is time to find a vegan cookbook that is designed for kids. Need some fun recipes that they will be willing to eat.