Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Winter Preps – Already? April 30, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 2:54 pm

Spring is trying to ease it’s way into summer. Okay…..on some days the temps make me think it is trying to bulldoze it’s way into summer. Either way, it may seem a bit odd to be thinking of winter preps for next winter season. In reality, it is the perfect time to take stock of your resources as they are packed away.

Rising costs in heating a home can be a problem. There are simple things that can help ease that financial burden. One of the simplest of the easiest ways to help cut costs is to use quilts. This technique has been around for many generations. We do it in our home and have great results.

First, is to find quilts at a yard sale, thrift store, or other retail store. If you buy a new one, get a large one that can be cut down the middle to give you more for your money! A queen size quilt is wide enough to cover 2 standard sized windows. A quilt is hung up in the window to act as a heavy curtain as well as an insulating window covering. To turn a quilt into a window covering, add a pocket or casing along the top of the quilt’s backing to slide a rod through. A wide quilt, such as a queen size, can be cut in half down the center, giving you two pieces wide enough to cover most standard width windows.

Another place that we use heavy blankets or quilts is in doorways. Hanging a drapery rod (the dowel types are best) along the top of the doorway works well. Hang the quilt just as you would over a window. These will help keep the heat in the areas that you need it. We used these especially when we heated only with wood stoves. We hung the quilts on windows and in the entry to the pantry, which had no door. The heat from the wood stove stayed in the front room, children’s bedroom, and kitchen. My bedroom, which is in the very back of the house, has a quilt in the doorway that is it’s only door. In the coldest of winter nights when I used a kerosene heater to take the nip out of the air, the quilt kept the heat in the room. It worked so well that I could heat the room for about 2 hours and shut the heater off completely. The room was very warm to start with, but by morning it was only a little chilly. I slept comfortably all night long.

This time of year is when you see the quilts and other heavy blankets being sold. Often, you can find them on clearance shelves. If you plan to make them, starting now gives you ample time to get several made before cold winds begin to blow again. Recycle old blankets or fleece to be used as the middle layer of the quilts. Add a pretty fabric and you can have beautiful window quilts in very little time. They don’t have to be made fancy, only functional. A tied quilt works just as well as a machine or hand quilted one.

When finding fleece on clearance, consider buying extra to use as a covering over a bed sheet. Many a night, prior to using the kerosene heater in my bedroom, I have slept in between 2 fleece blankets. They kept me very warm and I never had to get in between 2 cold bed sheets. I layered more blankets on top, but sleeping in between the 2 layers of fleece really made the biggest difference. I could very comfortably sleep in a completely unheated bedroom on the coldest nights without any problems.

As you go to yard sales or second-hand stores, keep a thought towards next winter. By thoughtfully planning the preparations now, you will find yourself more than ready for winter when the time comes.


Homemade Mouthwash Recipe April 28, 2012

Filed under: green living,old fashioned,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 4:34 pm

I really hate the strong taste of commercial mouthwash products.  It concerns me also that you have to be very careful of children using them.  This lead me to making my own.

The recipe is a very easy one and takes minimal ingredients.  Best part is that with children, you can customize the flavors to make it something that they would enjoy using.

The basics of the recipe are as follows:

1 cup of water

4 tsp. of baking soda

a few drops of flavoring of your choice


For my own, I like using either a mint or clove essential oil in the mouthwash.  the combination of baking soda and cloves give my mouth a wonderfully clean feeling.

If making it  for a child, you may consider using a fruit flavoring.  At a pharmacy, you may be able to purchase a bit of the flavorings, such as bubblegum, that they add to children’ liquid meds to make them taste better for the little ones.

I make each person their own mouthwash and put it into recycled drink bottles such as the ones with the sports cap.



Cherry Tomatoes in a Hanging Planter April 26, 2012

Filed under: gardening,green living,homesteading,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 6:09 pm

We love the small cherry or grape tomatoes.  In summer, they are used often for snacking as well as in salads.  There are the “upside down” planters made for tomatoes that you can find in the stores, but here is the low cost way that I do it.

  Materials Needed:

hanging planter with natural mesh lining

pony pack of 6 cherry tomato plants

potting mix



To make the planter, I first made a inch long tear in the bottom of the planter and 5 more spaced evenly around the sides.  Gently push the root ball of the little plants through each hole from the outside towards the inside of the planter “bowl.”    I pulled the roots and stems through until the first set of leaves was touching the outside of the planter.  This will result in all that stem becoming part of the plant’s root system.

After arranging all 6 plants through the holes, I filled the planter bowl with potting mix.  Give the plants a good watering and hang in a sunny location on your porch.  I placed ours under the eaves on the south side of our porch which gets a lot of light in the summer.

Hanging the cherry tomatoes in a planter like this is very easy and far less expensive than using the store bought versions.  The wire frame of the planter can be reused each year, with only the liner being replaced as necessary.

Trying this method can give even the urban dwellers an option on how to grow fresh tomatoes even in an apartment building as long as you have a sunny porch or balcony.



Routines & Simplicity April 25, 2012

Filed under: homesteading,old fashioned,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 5:03 pm

Back in the old days, women had certain chores that they would do on specific days of the week.  The common verse is as follows:

Monday: Wash Day

Tuesday: Ironing Day

Wednesday: Sewing Day

Thursday: Market Day

Friday: Cleaning Day

Saturday: Baking Day

Sunday: Day of Rest

When I take a look at our rural lifestyle, I see so much wisdom in that little verse.  Back in the old days, families didn’t have the conveniences that we have today.  No washing machines, dryers, or other appliances to make their work easier.  They grew nearly all the foods that they ate.  What they didn’t grow or raise themselves they go by way of hunting or the rare trip to a general store.

It was a wise woman who managed her home on a routine such as the poem suggests.  Having a specific day to do each major chore was vital in keeping te household running smoothly.

I look at that routine and have adopted a similar one for myself.  I am making adjustments as I go along to find the routine that best works for my family.  So far, it is helping quite a lot.  Once I get the routie set, I will post it.



A Living Fence April 15, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 5:42 pm

The weather lately is becoming even more reliable for gardening. I now have potting soil and plenty of little containers for starting seeds.
As soon as the raised beds are ready, I will have the little plants ready to transplant. In previous years, the last frost occurred in late
April. With the mild winter we had, our planting season began a month earlier than usual. Already some families have planted their root crops
and a few salad greens. It seems unusual to me to think that in mid-April I am already behind in my garden planting.

This year, we are doing our garden in a completely new way. We are switching to the method of raised beds. One reason being that
it will be far less work for me to maintain. I won’t have to bend down or get on my knees in the garden to weed or manage the plants. The
second reason is that we will have more control over the critters that like to use our garden as their personal buffet. We are recycling old
shipping crates and pallets to make the garden. The garden beds will be about waist high and lined with the leftover black weed barrier plastic
from last year. The plastic will hold in the dirt while still allowing the extra water to drain through.

I have a copy of Mel Bartholomew’s book, Square Foot Gardening, which I bought last summer. In the book, he gives his “recipe” for a no-weed soil planting mixture. It contains peat moss, vermiculite, and composted soil. The peat moss and vermiculite loosens the soil as well
as providing retaining moisture. This is a big concern if you live in a drought area. The composted soil provides nutrients the plants need. One of the best parts of his soil mixture is that it makes the gardening much easier to manage. You have a relatively weed-free garden. The only weeds that it may produce are those grown from seeds that may have blown into the raised bed on a windy day. I used the square foot gardening method years ago when I lived in an upper desert region. It was very successful. I had a much larger harvest than when I tried gardening in the traditional way. This year’s garden may be much smaller than I would have planted in the ground, but as we are able to add more raised beds, I will have an expanded garden area to use.

An extra benefit to this garden is that my husband is having it set up as a fence line along one side of the children’s play yard. We are going to
let each of them plant a few vegetables in their own little garden beds. Our youngest daughter and oldest grandson, who are both 6 yrs old, have each picked out a couple of favorite vegetables that they would like to plant. I am excited to watch them plant and tend their little garden areas. It will be fun to see them get excited about the plants blooming and producing the veggies.

Having this growing fence line is such a wonderful idea. My darling husband is such a clever man to think of it! We plan to plant cherry tomatoes and possibly some strawberries that the children can snack on if they get hungry while playing in the yard. Both our little girl and grandson love strawberries and cherry tomatoes. Who knows? We may end up having to plant a strawberry bed and a cherry tomato plant for each of the kids so that they all get enough to snack on.

I am amazed that the garden is only going to cost us the price of the nails and the soil mix. The recycled crates and pallets are free from a
lumber yard in a town about 25 miles from home. If you ask around, you may find old pallets that are being given away. Businesses that receive their order shipments on a pallet have to pay to have the old ones hauled off when they are done using them. If you ask, you may find that they are willing to give away the old pallets for free or ask only a very small price for them. The lumber yard that we got ours from gives
the old ones away but sells new pallets for $6.00 each. Prices depend on the business. You might find some through Craig’s List or the local newspaper.


Gardening on the Cheap April 11, 2012

Filed under: gardening,green living,homesteading,old fashioned — ourprairiehome @ 6:07 pm

I am finding that the old ways are often so much smarter than the modern.  Gardening in a good example.  In my Grandm’s generation they rarely bought new seed each year for their gardens.  They saved seeds each year from their garden to use in the next season’s plantings.

I purchase open pollinated organic seeds for my garden.  These seeds are very much like those previous generations used.  We plant only the foods that we eat regularly.  It makes no sense to plant a lot of cabbage, for example, if you only eat it once a month or so.

When I was growing up, we would use or can up for the pantry the harvest all throughout the summer.  The last picking, which is typically the smallest amount, would be allowed to go to seed.  Green beans and peas would fill the pods and be allowed to dry on the plant.  When brown and dry, the pods were picked and shelled to store for next season.  Melon seeds were saved when we ate the melons.  The same was done with tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and many others.

What it boils down to is that once you make that initial organic seed purchase, you can start saving seeds with that first planting and avoid having to buy seeds in the future.



Garden Idea April 5, 2012

Filed under: gardening,green living,homesteading — ourprairiehome @ 5:59 pm

I am developing a real enjoyment for YouTube.  I found that there is much to learn from that website.  A while back, a friend on Facebook sent me a link to a very unique raised bed garden made from old pallets.

The raised bed garden is entirely made from old pallets that you can often find for free at lumber yards or other locations.  The garden is waist high, yet thedepth of the planting box is adjustable to the depth you need.  Setting them up in a row as they do in the video can make a nice fence line.

I am considering setting up a raised bed garden like that in my back yard where the in ground garden used to be.  It will get full sun and should do well there.  I will start with only a few beds to see how they do.  If all goes well, I will add more each year until I have as many beds as I need for both my vegetables and herbs.