Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Christmas, Already??? September 14, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 6:36 pm

Leave it to a kid. Today, we had a nice cool rainy day. Perfect for baking cookies. So, we got out the baking supplies and made up a batch of the Amish Sugar Cookies. These are a type that bake up all puffy and soft. Just right for a little girl who has a wiggly front tooth! As we were making the cookies, she sat there munching on one with her cup of tea. After a moment, she said, “Momma, it is getting cooler now. When can we start making Christmas cookies?” sigh

Last weekend, my darling husband was humming Christmas carols. Now, our daughter is wanting to start making Christmas cookies. Are they in a hurry or something? LOL I looked at the calendar and decided that maybe it is time to start planning the baking. I prefer to have all ingredients in the pantry well stocked before the baking commences. Nothing gets me riled more than having to make a quick trip to the over-priced little grocery store 10 miles from home to get a much needed ingredient at the last minute. Unfortunately, that store is the closest to home.

So, with that in mind, I am going through my recipes and making a list of things needed for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. All the recipes for the meals as well as the baked goods. From those, a master list of ingredients will be written up. I look at the amount of flour I will be using to do all this baking and realize it may be a good thing that I have that Sam’s Club card. They are the cheapest on the large bags of flour & sugar. I buy yeast there also. The yeast comes in a twin pack of (2) 1 pound packages of the dry active yeast. For our family, that is a 1 year supply of yeast. Thankfully, it only costs about $4.00 for the twin pack, a savings of $198.00 when compared to the same volume of yeast if I bought the little jars or packets at the grocery store as most people do. That one item’s savings is far more than the cost of our membership. But I digress.

As I go through the recipes, I am finding the old favorites as well as a couple of new ones that I would like to try. I have a family filled with “cookie monsters” who raid the cookies as fast as I can get them out of the oven. I keep forgetting each year to buy plastic containers to store the cookies and other baked goods in. Planning ahead now will give me the chance to get the containers and have them ready. I especially want to have a couple for Joe to take on the truck with him so that he can have baked goodies while he is gone.

Is anyone else beginning their holiday baking plans?

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Simplicity with Technology? September 7, 2012

Filed under: green living,old fashioned,ramblings,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 4:59 am

I had a rather interesting question come up recently. I was asked in an email how I can consider our lifestyle to be one of simplicity when we have Internet at home, along with cell phones.

When compared to most families in our country, we DO live a much more simplistic lifestyle. No, we do not go as far with it as the Old Order Amish, for example. We do take on some of the attitude.

Among the Amish, any technology used has to pass a test. Does it truly benefit the family/community without interfering in their family/community relationships? Is it something that is necessary or is it simply a personal want?

We look at many of our technology decisions in a similar way. We homeschool our children and need the Internet resources to aid us in providing them a good education. Without Internet at home, I have to travel a minimum of 10 miles from home to access the WiFi at the library in town. While 10 miles doesn’t seem that much, the fuel cost does add up. We also use the Internet to stay in touch with family and friends that lives out of state. Having Internet at home does simplify our life in a big way. I can get online at night or when the children are playing and my household tasks are completed. I don’t have to pack the kids up into the jeep to drive them to town.

Having a cell phone is a blessing. Living where we do, if you have a vehicle breakdown, the cell phone can make a big difference. It also allows Joe to be able to contact me from the road no matter where I am. It does not take anything away from our family relationships. In contrast, it actually helps when Joe is gone. We can stay in touch far easier.

The key issue for me is that the technology not be allowed to rule over us. Don’t let the technology become so important that your relationships take a back seat to technology.

Take a realistic view of whatever technology you are wanting to purchase. Is it necessary? If you took the time to save up the money to obtain that computer, or other technology-related item, would you still have long-term use for that item when you finally have saved enough to buy it?

Technology isn’t the issue. It is what you do with it and whether or not you allow it to rearrange your priorities in an unhealthful way.

 

New Spin on Old Refrigeration September 5, 2012

Filed under: food preservation,green living,homesteading,off grid — ourprairiehome @ 2:13 pm

A couple of generations ago, refrigeration of foods was very different that what we are used to today. Instead of a refrigerator, those lucky enough to have refrigeration used an icebox or an actual ice house. The icebox was a cabinet into which a block of ice was placed. Milk and other perishables were kept cold by that ice block. Having such an icebox was considered a luxury when they first came about. For those with an ice house, the ice house often was an underground room, similar to a basement. This helped to insulate and keep the ice frozen through a summer. Ice was harvested from a nearby lake or river, cut into large blocks with a saw, and taken to the ice house. The ice gathered through the winter had to last the summer. General stores often had such an ice house for selling the ice blocks to customers. The ice often was delivered to the home.

If you were to look inside our refrigerator today, you would find almond milk, kool-aid, cheese, butter, eggs, and yogurt. That is exactly what we have in it right now. The entire contents of the refrigerator could easily fit on the top shelf. It seems like such a waste of space. We bartered years ago for this old propane refrigerator. It works, but we simply don’t need all that space. The only time we do need the extra space is when meat is on sale and I make a bulk purchase or when the holiday roll around and I need a place to store the turkey. Other than that, the refrigerator is nearly empty. I don’t make enough food at meals to provide a lot of leftovers. What little is left typically is not enough for one person, so we add it to the dog’s dish when we feed him. The only time we have a lot left over is when I am purposely making large amounts so that I can home can the extra portions to stock into the pantry.

While I was on the truck with Joe a few weeks ago, we saw a very good option for us. Outside of a crafters’ mall, there were some wooden boxes, on legs that made them about counter height. With the lid opened, you could see that the box was made to hold a large ice chest. This gave us an answer to our refrigeration. We have 2 ice chests and are getting a 5-gallon capacity water cooler like those used by work crews. My dear husband is going to build us one of those ice chest cabinets to place into our kitchen. The largest ice chest will be great for our typical refrigeration needs. The second one will be used with dry ice whenever I need a freezer. The water cooler will be filled with ice and a bit of water to provide us with ice cold water to drink anytime.

The propane refrigerator will be placed outdoors. Eventually, it will be placed in an outdoor kitchen. When holidays are upon us or at any time when additional refrigeration is needed, the propane refrigerator will be available. Knowing how much the propane refrigerators cost, we won’t give it up entirely. I can’t wait to see the finished project. Joe wants to have it done before winter. We will be taking measurements and figuring up the amount of wood needed so that I can go and buy it as soon as I am able to do so. One feature that Joe is adding to the cabinet is a drain so that I can drain out the water from the cookers without having to lift them from the cabinet.

 

Simplicity in our Spending

Filed under: simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 2:13 pm

Oh, the crisp days of autumn, filled with cool days that just beckon for me to start baking again. Sigh…. I wonder what happened to what was looking like an early return of the cooler weather. It got so chilly at night that we actually were adding a quilt to the beds. Suddenly, we are back to the 100*+ temps during the day and nights don’t feel cool until about 4am. So, I think of cooler temps and enjoy the warm days while we have them. Soon enough, winter will arrive and come January, I will be dreaming of warmer days again. LOL Sometimes is seems that we are never satisfied.

Life is like that. We are content for a time, then start thinking we need to make changes or adjustments. Sometimes the change is good. One example being that every time I do a big de-cluttering spree, I feel great about what was accomplished. Within a couple of months however, I always find more that we have but do not really need. So, I start purging the house of excess all over again. That is good. I am clearing out the unnecessary things that are taking up precious storage space to make the home appear more spacious and inviting. It also keeps me aware of what is brought into the house. I really have to stop and think. Do we really need this? Is it a long-term use or is it something that is only temporary? There are many times something will seem a “need” at first, but we realize later that it was actually a “want” instead.

Most times that we make adjustments or changes it is a hazardous prospect. Say you are making a homemade stew. First you prepare the meat and start it cooking in a rich, flavorful broth. Then you begin to add your chopped up vegetables to the meat. As the stew slowly simmers on the stove, you begin to add herbs and seasonings. With each addition, you carefully taste the broth to see if the flavor is right. Then you make adjustments, adding a little of this or a pinch of that. The subtle changes in the flavor of the stew happens so gradually, that you don’t realize the amount of change that is happening. As many already know, the longer a stew simmers, the better the flavors blend. It takes on a totally new level of taste from the time you first add the seasonings until it has simmered all afternoon. Then there is that moment when you think that if you just add a touch of one more seasoning, the stew would be perfect. You add that seasoning and give the broth a taste. You then come to the reality that you should have left the stew the way it was before adding that last bit of seasoning. What was once a very rich and tasty stew has been ruined by that last addition.

Our lives mirror this analogy so often. Society has the opinion that you judge a person by the amount of possessions they have. Not only the amount, but do they own the right brands and are the items the newest versions available! It starts out innocent enough. You see everyone enjoying a particular thing and it looks so fun. In some cases, the gadget may be one that is meant to simplify your life. You get that gadget and it does make things easier. You think to yourself, this is great! Then, the next “must have” item comes along. So many people seem to have it that you are made to feel left out by not owning it. So, you go out and buy it. So, it continues. Each time you get a new item, something else comes along that is even better. Next thing you know, you are in the trap. A vicious circle of trying to keep up with what society deems to be essential. Suddenly, the day comes when you look around and see so much stuff and wonder how it all happened. Where did the spending and collecting of stuff become such a problem? There comes a point when we have to conscientiously make the decision to get off the merry-go-round. We must start making choices based upon what we really need instead of what others think we need.

Making the decision is not a one-time deal. It is something that we have to decide each and every time we go shopping. Having a list helps. Make the list ahead of time, then review it carefully later before you leave. Are the items on the list truly necessary? If it is a gadget, can you think of anyway to get the same tasks done without that particular item? If you are upgrading your computer, for example, is it for good reason or only because you don’t have the patience to wait for the slower processor to function? Are you buying new clothing because your current wardrobe is no longer serviceable or because you simply want your clothing to be new looking?

I am not saying that having new is a bad thing. I am only bringing attention to our motivation for it.