Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Home Canning Pumpkin September 30, 2012

Filed under: food preservation,homesteading,pantry building — ourprairiehome @ 7:34 pm

Going to the store and finding large displays of pumpkins brings canning to my thoughts. I usually wait until pumpkin prices are lower, right before Halloween. I don’t bother with buying the small pie pumpkins. If I want that type, I grow them myself. I have found that many of your large jack-o-lantern type pumpkins taste very good also. They may lack a bit of the sweetness or the smaller pie pumpkins, but the flavor is still great for eating as squash or in a pie.

I looked online to get the most recent instructions for processing pumpkins in a pressure canner. You can read them here. To prepare the pumpkins, you wash the pumpkins well. Cut the pumpkin in half and clean out the seed cavity. Save the seeds for roasting!

Cut the pumpkin into 1 inch wide wedges. Peel the pumpkin and cut each wedge into 1 inch cubes. Boil for 2 minutes. Fill each jar with the pumpkin, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Cover with cooking liquid or water. Add lids and rings to the canning jars. Process according to the chart on the website link above.


A Life of Order September 27, 2012

Filed under: homesteading,old fashioned,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 3:14 am

I am quick to admit that this is one topic that I have wanted to blog about for some time. When you think of living a life of order, what comes to mind?

For some, having a routine is what gives order to their lives. It is a part of it for me also. Having a schedule to work from helps to insure that all the necessary tasks are completed efficiently. It gives us a guiding compass to keep us on track throughout our day.

Another form of living a life of order may be in the way we maintain our home. I am not speaking of the level of cleanliness but of the amount of surplus within the home. In our home, I am looking at everything and gauging whether to keep, donate, or toss the items according to how functional it is. Is it something that is truly needed? How often is the item used in a month’s time? In the case of things like my kitchen utensils & hand-crank gadgets, do a have a single item that performs multiple functions which eliminates the need for several single-function items?

Currently, I am preparing the first room to be remodeled. I am packing away books and photos that are hanging on the walls. As go through the books, I am being very critical in what will be kept and what will be donated. At the same time, I am packing up a portion of the kitchen. There are items in the kitchen that haven’t been needed for a year or longer. Those are being set aside for donation. I am weeding the kitchen utensils and gadgets down to those I use on a regular basis only. The only exception may be the collection of metal cookie cutters that I have.

Bit by bit, I am getting the last bit of remaining excess out of the house. I have been so proud of our daughter. They had a horrendous amount of toys… enough to fill several toy chests. Most were given to them over the years by relatives who love going to yard sales. From that entire mass of toys, we picked out the ones that our son enjoys and put them into a plastic tote that fits under his bed. Our daughter did the same. All of the other toys were sorted t either be donated or throw away. Tonight, our daughter told me how happy she is to only have the toys she liked best. Now it doesn’t take nearly as long for the bedroom to be cleaned after they have been playing. She also takes far better care of what she has chosen to keep.

I have 2 large boxes of quilting fabric and craft supplies that were given to me. The quilting fabric is mainly baby print, which I don’t use as much now. I am going to save back a shoebox sized container of those fabrics. That will give me enough to make a couple of baby quilt tops. The rest will be given to a fellow quilter. The crafting supplies are a type that I have never used before, so will pass those along also. I want to only keep the barest minimum of crafting supplies on hand.

My mind keeps going back to Katie & Levi’s home. Being Old Order Amish, their home was very minimally furnished. Each item had a specific purpose. There was no clutter in their home at all. It was, in my mind, the epitome of a home in order. I want that for our home. Once it is fully remodeled, I do not want clutter in sight.

I am finding way too often that if the house has clutter, I do not function well. I need the peace that the minimalist approach brings.


New Bible Study Idea September 26, 2012

Filed under: faith — ourprairiehome @ 12:15 am

Recently, on a homeschooling board, one of the ladies shared this idea and I loved it. I am now doing this as a part of my own Bible study.

I chose a book of the Bible that I wanted to study in depth. I chose the book of Colossians since that is the book I was already preparing to study.

I have a notebook and am writing the scripture in the notebook. It is basically copywork, writing it exactly as it is written in the Bible. After writing, I pray about what the scriptures are saying to me. I journal my thoughts about that scripture and what it is saying to me at that time.

This simple activity is bringing a deeper level of understanding to me. It makes them more of a focus throughout my day. By writing the words instead of simply reading them, they are more firmly being written upon my heart.

This method is a blessing to my scripture study. I hope that the idea will bless others also.


Solar Power Considerations September 23, 2012

Filed under: green living,off grid,old fashioned,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 11:24 pm

I have been wanting to begin writing more specific information in posts that explain how we are managing an off-grid lifestyle. Our way of doing things may not be everyone’s idea of the right way, but it is what works well for us.

When we first went off-grid, we went totally non-electric for about 2 years. While some may be shocked at the idea of a family choosing to go back that far into a simpler time, it was a blessing for us. I had grown up in Ohio where we had Old Order Amish neighbors. They, along with talking to my father & grandmother, taught me how to manage without electricity. I also remember winter storms that knocked out our electricity for an extended time. The worst storm had schools closed for a full month. Knowing what to do in times like those was essential.

The two years without any form of electricity was a great learning curve for me. i learned to run the household without any of the conveniences that are common in today’s homes. Laundry was done by hand. Our lives evolved around what was always known as “Farmer’s hours” when I was a kid. I rose early and we all were in bed early at night. We had a propane refrigerator that we had bartered for, as well as a gas stove converted to run on propane. Cell phone was charged using the plug in the car, as well as the laptop computer. I learned to always use the inverter in the car to charge the cell phone and laptop batteries whenever I had errands to run.

When we chose to get a small solar power system in place, I went to Lowe’s Home Improvement store. They had a small panels, about the size of a cookie sheet, which I purchased. I bought two of them. My son-in-law installed them while my husband was out on a trucking run. By themselves, these provide just enough power for my immediate needs. I can charge my cell phone and power the little mobile wifi unit we use for Internet access. My netbook can be charge during the day if the sun is shining brightly. Otherwise, I use an inverter in the jeep to charge the netbook using the jeep battery for the power source.

The time without electricity brought with it the very conservative attitude we have towards alternative energy usage. I am fully comfortable in using non-electric means to accomplish most tasks that need to be done. When we add the homemade wind generator, the extra energy will be great, but I still will do things as I have been. It will simply help to eliminate the use of so many batteries to listen to the news & weather on the radio.

We are planning to expand not just by adding the wind generator, but by adding a larger solar panel or two. Places like Harbor Freight sell ones that are sufficient for our needs. Adding deep cell batteries will make the system more efficient. Joe hopes to have enough power being produced to allow us to have a small stereo.

The main consideration we made was how much electricity are we realistically going to need? from there the planning was easy. I don’t mind the work. In fact, I enjoy it. As long as I stay on a good routine, I have no problem getting everything done. My stress levels are extremely low.

Next post, I will post a typical daily routine which I am keeping.


Teaching Hospitality September 20, 2012

Filed under: faith,old fashioned,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 2:28 am

Does anyone actually do this with their daughters anymore? It seems that girls learning about showing hospitality to others is becoming a lost art.

There was once a time when a young girl began learning about hospitality through watching her mother. Later, the mother would actually encourage opportunities for the daughter to practice the skill of showing hospitality. Today, I think we would be hard pressed to find even women in their 30’s who know what hospitality is.

Do we, as women, do anything to teach and foster in our daughters this character trait? When we look at the list of the fruits of the spirit, hospitality is among them.

Do we teach them that hospitality is more than just inviting someone over for dinner? Do we look for moments when we can show hospitality in action?

Society’s view of hospitality quickly turns into a time of showing off your best. You best cooking, best dishes, spotlessly clean home & kids, all of which is something that only brings glory to yourself. It is a case of “look what I have” and nothing to do with what Biblical hospitality is all about.

The Biblical hospitality is all about sharing what the Lord has given you and using it to bless others. Sharing a simple meal with a friend or even a stranger is an act of hospitality. It goes beyond food. What gifts and talents has the Lord blessed you with? Do you share those gifts with others in a way that brings glory to the Lord?

This is not to say that we cannot use our best in showing hospitality. A piece of wisdom that was once shared with me, I now share with you. When doing for others, whether they be strangers or people known to us, show compassion and love to them as you would show to the Lord.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:35-40 NIV


Remodel is Beginning September 17, 2012

Filed under: green living,homesteading,old fashioned,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 2:43 am

We staged the front room of the homestead for remodeling over the weekend. All that is left is to empty the bookcases and wash the walls down. We heat with wood, so the walls need the residues washed off. Most of the walls are fine, but it is always best to completely wash them all down to be sure that no residues are on them prior to priming & painting.

We took the measurements and figured up the square footage for buying the primer & paint as well as for the new ceiling & flooring. The homestead has the traditional 9 foot high ceilings. We are lowering the ceilings throughout the home to 8 foot. This will help a great deal in heating the home.

Once done, the front room will be our schoolroom/study. We already use it as such. It is important to us for the children to have a separate area designated to their studies. It also will save having to constantly have to clear the dining table every meal.

We set up a futon in the room and love it. It makes a nice spot to snuggle up with the kids for reading stories, especially at bedtime. I covered the futon with a beautiful quilt made in autumn colors. So fitting for the season. All I need to add now will be accent pillows on the ends of the futon.

Joe rearranged the children’s desks for me. They are now side by side. We are hoping that the new arrangement will help encourage our son to not have ambivalence towards using his desk. I am keeping my eye out for a small little wooden table or desk that I can place in the room for my own use. My large antique desk is far too big for the space. That desk is going to be used elsewhere in the home for Joe.

Our precious son had great difficulty dealing with the change in the room’s arrangement. Adding the futon really threw him for a loop. I am so glad that we will be working on the home slowly so that he has time to adjust to each change. That is one of the harder parts of autism. The change can feel terrifying to the child. Our son cried and was afraid to come into the room. He tried to get us to come out of it. Finally, by evening, I had him cuddled up on the futon with our daughter and I as I read them a bedtime story.

We are putting the propane heating back into the home. Years ago, prior to Joe buying the home, the home had propane heat. Along the way, previous owners removed the heaters and opted for wood stoves. While we still have the wood stove in the kitchen, which I heat with and cook on in the winter, we are putting propane heat back into the home simply for efficiency. They will make a nice backup system for overnight. I won’t have to be restocking a wood stove throughout the night.

I am excited. I have been through plenty of remodels in the past and know the work ahead of us. I see the end of the tunnel though. We have the paint swatches already and have picked out most of the items that we will be adding to the home. The most modern will be the kitchen and bath. The other rooms will be simply done with an eye for function. Overall, the homestead will be full of colors chosen with specific purposes. Calm color schemes in the study and bedrooms, bolder color in the kitchen/dining room. The bath will be given a look of bringing the outdoors inside.

I can’t wait to see the finished homestead!


Canning Night September 15, 2012

Filed under: food preservation,home canning,off grid,pantry building — ourprairiehome @ 4:08 am

Went shopping at the grocery store today and found they were having a truckload meat sale. Oh boy!!! I was needing to buy meat to can up for Joe to take on the truck so this was great timing.

I bought 4 large bags of boneless chicken breasts, a large package of ground beef, and a nice sized roast. The roast was cut up into small bite-size pieces to be used in beef stew. Cutting it up small allows more room in the jars for veggies. It also makes it easier to get out of the jar later on.

I precooked the stew meat in a little water to make a broth with. Then added it to the jars along with baby carrots. Joe adds potatoes when he cooks it. Broth added over the meat & carrots, then I processed the jars in the pressure canner.

I boiled the chicken breasts, again to make a broth to go with it. The chicken was then cut into chunks and placed in jars with it’s broth before processing in the pressure canner.

The ground beef is browned until nearly done. I then add a bit of chopped onion to it and finish browning. The meat is drained to remove as much fat as possible. I fill the jars loosely to about 3/4 full, then process in the pressure canner. Sometimes, I place the ground beef in a 1/2 pint sized jar mixed with a tomato sauce such as the type you would put over meatloaf, a sloppy joe mixture, make it as taco meat, or simply mix with a bit of spaghetti sauce before processing.

Overall, I am very pleased with the results. I did up part of the meat in pint jars for Joe to have on the truck and the rest is done up in quart jars to use in meals for the entire family. We have enough for 4 dozen meals all together. Not bad for an evening’s work.