Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Super Easy & Quick Crochet Hat Pattern December 30, 2012

Filed under: family,sewing,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 3:41 am
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I fell in love with this pattern during the holiday. I was looking for a fast & easy pattern to work up for my youngest kids and 2 of my grandsons. Maggie’s Crochet has a wonderful YouTube tutorial of her pattern at

I made the first hat in a couple of hours. It was a very fast and easy project. I love her directions and the size chart provided on the above link. Well worth printing out for later reference.


Crochet Blankets – Fast & Easy December 18, 2012

Filed under: old fashioned,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 6:19 pm
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I mentioned in a previous post that I can crochet a blanket in a week’s time. The actual “pattern” can likely be made faster if you have the extra time and less distractions than I seem to have. I crochet mainly in the evenings after the kids are in bed. So, if I crochet about an hour or two each night, I can have a blanket done in a week.

The size I make is good for my kids’ twin beds. There is no true pattern, per se. I use 2-3 threads at a time, depending on how heavy I want the blanket to be. If using 2 threads, you would need 8 skeins of yarn if buying the typical size. If using the large pound size skeins, I buy 4. I usually end up with part of a skein left over for each thread used, but I end up using it on something else.

I use the larger plastic crochet hook, size P is my favorite. I measure the top of the bed I am making it for. If you want to have it overhang at all, include that measurement. I generally make them about 70 inches long and 46 inches wide.

Using 2 threads at a time, crochet a chain 70 inches long. I am not including number of stitches because your hook size will alter that. Once you reach the desired length, add 2 more chains. Starting in the 2nd stitch from hook, I do a half-double crochet stitch in each chain across the row. At the end, chain 2, then repeat the pattern of a half-double crochet in each stitch across. Continue this pattern until you reach the width you are wanting. I usually and up with about 64 rows. Weave in your ends. To finish it, you can add fringe to the short ends or crochet a pretty edging around the entire blanket.

Doing the half-double crochet for this makes a very heavy blanket. I am currently working on one for my son who always kicks his blankets off at night. I had one of these for him when he used a crib and it was the only blanket he couldn’t easy remove in his sleep. If you are wanting a lighter blanket, simply use a single crochet or double crochet to make the blanket.

That’s it. No real pattern needed for this one, but it does work up really fast. Even a beginner can make this blanket without much trouble. If you look on YouTube, there are many crochet tutorials that demonstrate how to make the various stitches. It is easy to learn and can be quite fun.


Lighting Without Electricity

Filed under: homesteading,off grid,old fashioned,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 4:38 pm
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In response to a question I received, here is an explanation of how we light our home. We have 3 lighting sources at this time.

1. For the kids (ages 4 & 6) we have the battery operated Coleman lanterns. These use 4 D-cell batteries, but will give up to 188 hours of lighting on one set of batteries. We chose these for safety reasons. We didn’t want them to have access to the oil lamps.

2. Oil lamps are our main lighting source. Instead of lamp oil, we purchase kerosene at a fuel station. A quart of lamp oil costs $6 at the local stores, while the kerosene costs $5.29/gallon. Quite a big difference in the budget. The kerosene burns just as well as the lamp oil, the only difference is that the kerosene will smoke more if you have the wick too high. There are little deflectors that rest above the oil lamp chimney which you can buy to prevent any soot from getting on the ceiling or wall. These are good to have whether you use lamp oil or kerosene.

3. We have a Coleman propane lantern. It is the type that you attach the small propane bottle to the bottle of. When we use it, the lighting is as bright as electric lights, but the propane can only lasts 6 hours. At a price of about $2.50 per bottle (twin pak at Walmart is $5), this lighting is not cost effective. We don’t use it very often. Actually, only use it about twice a month at the most.

The lighting that we are planning for is to install gas lighting. You can still buy through mail order the wall sconce lights that are fueled with propane. They contain the silk mantels, just like the camping lanterns use. These are very safe to use if installed properly. Many Amish homes use this form of lighting. The lights are bright as electricity.

We had tried candles, but found that not only were they a fire hazard we didn’t want to risk around little ones, but the price was not cost effective. We spent way too much on them.

Using the battery operated lanterns for the kids, the oil lamps, and the propane camp style lantern, our monthly lighting cost averages about $35 per month.


Blessings of the Old Ways December 17, 2012

Filed under: cooking,family,homesteading,off grid,old fashioned,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 4:31 am
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This past weekend, we had an interesting development on the homestead. The gas stove went out. Now, while this does mean that I am without an oven now, it isn’t all a bad thing. Thanks to our pursuing a simpler lifestyle, this is only a minor hiccup and not a major issue. For quite a while now, my husband and I have sought out alternative ways to accomplish our goals. One example being that we have 3 ways to prepare meals. The idea is to always have a back-up plan in case something happens. The current situation with the stove is a prime example.

If we only had the gas stove as a source for meal preparation, we would be in a bad way right now. It reminds me so much of the stories of what families go through after a storm knocks out power for several days or weeks. So many rely on electric stoves, water heaters, refrigeration, etc. If the power goes out, they are in a rough situation until power is restored.

Before going off-grid, we had an electric stove. It was great until a storm knocked out the power. Unfortunately, in our state, that is a common occurrence between spring thunderstorms and winter ice storms. We always have had the wood burning cookstove as a back-up means to cook however. That got us through many power outages back then.

Another means of cooking is an outdoor fire pit or grill. We don’t have a propane grill, but set up a grill with a wood fire. In summer, we cook over that quite often. We had purchased a patio fire pit for this purpose. The pit is a metal fire pit with a metal mesh screen. We found a replacement round grill that was designed for a large round charcoal grill at a discount store. This fits very well over the fire pit, turning it into a good place to BBQ.

The propane stove in our kitchen is my summer stove. I mainly use it in the warm months, unless I am baking or canning. The oven in our wood stove is smaller than modern ovens and is more tricky to use. I am determined to get it right though. The one problem that I have with the wood stove is that the heat doesn’t stay constant enough for canning. I do all of my canning on the gas stove for this reason.

In having the woodstove and a fire pit available as options, not having use of the gas stove is not a big deal. We always have the wood stove going to heat the front of the house anyways. Cooking on the wood stove is often faster than on the gas stove. It is also my “slow cooker” when needed. I can assemble a stew or homemade soup in the morning and allow it to simmer on the back of the stove all day. I love it.

All in all, this little hiccup of our stove is really not a problem at all. I feel very blessed that my beloved husband was home and able to disconnect the stove so that no propane could leak into the home. I am blessed that we have the alternative means to meal preparation and that I know how to use them. Actually, I enjoy it quite a lot. We will easily be able to manage until we are able to get the stove replaced. Situations like these are ones that we prepared for. I am so grateful that we have set our homestead up in such a way that these little bumps in the road are minimal. It is a relief to know that we are able to weather it without any true disruption to our lifestyle.


Chicken and Dumplings December 15, 2012

Filed under: cooking,old fashioned,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 7:48 pm
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This recipe is a great old standby in our home. We substitute turkey for the chicken after Thanksgiving. It is a great way to use up the leftover chicken from other meals. Simply remove the skin and debone the meat from the fried or roasted chicken and add it to the stew. In our family, we add potatoes or sliced carrots to the stew to make it a bit heartier. One thing to note is that the dumplings are more like a noodle than the balls of dough that many recipes use. Some regions refer to this type of recipe as having “slippery noodles” instead of dumplings.

Chicken and Dumplings

1 large whole chicken
2 potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery sliced
salt & pepper to taste

Place all ingredients into a stock pot and cover with water. Boil gently until meat is tender. Remove chicken and take meat from the bones. Return the meat to the stockpot.


2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 large egg

In a bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Put egg into a 1/2 cup measuring cup and finish filling the cup with buttermilk. Stir into flour mixture. Add a bit more buttermilk if needed to make a somewhat stiff dough.

To the gently boiling stew, add pinched off pieces of the dumpling dough. Gently boil for about 20 minutes or until dumplings are well cooked.

Canning Idea – I love to can up the de-boned chicken in broth with onions and carrots. Then, to make the chicken and dumplings, I only have to add the dumplings to the stew. It makes a fast and easy meal.


Colonial to Depression Era Cooking

Filed under: gardening,homesteading,old fashioned,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 4:28 am

Have you ever taken a look online or in old cookbooks to see what type of foods people ate during the period between the Colonial days and the Great Depression era? The difference from the way we eat today is amazing. The families focused there diet on 3 primary factors: what was in season, what was easily obtained through hunting and fishing, and what could be easily stored.

I have been looking at these recipes and have come to the realization that they are just as sound today as they were back then. Families are spoiled today. There is such a variety that we feel bored with having to limit our choices. Should we continue to allow that attitude?

I am convinced that the generations before us had it right. They grew their produce, hunted, fished and raised their own meat, gathered berries and nuts from local sources, raised their own dairy cows to give them their milk, butter and cheese. They raised poultry for eggs and meat. They were so far ahead of most people today in their lifestyle. Today, society has become dependent on grocery stores and other resources for food. Each year, there are news stories of food recalls due to health issues. So much of this can be avoided by raising your own. If you live in a city, there are options. You can raise a small patio garden in containers. If you know someone who lives in a more rural area near you, maybe they would allow you to share in their garden if you help with the work in tending it. Find a trusted local farm to purchase produce from. The options are there for anyone willing to try.

The best option for those outside of a city is to utilize your resources and raise a garden of your own. I have been looking through and preparing my seed order from Baker’s Creek Seed Company in Missouri. I love buying seed from them. It is all open pollinated and they do not sell anything that is GMO.

By January, I hope to have the order placed so that we have plenty of time to prepare. I like to start the seeds ahead of time and transplant as much as possible to shorten the growing time in the ground. With drought conditions and hot temperatures, that is important to having a successful garden. In February I will begin starting to grow sweet potato slips. They should be ready to put into the ground by late April after the frost danger has passed.

I am looking forward to our garden. It will be our first year with a garden similar to what earlier generations may have had.


Pantry Blessings December 6, 2012

Over the past couple of weeks, I have realized that our pantry is much better stocked than I had considered it to be. I have been sorting through my recipes and separating out the ones that are best for the style of meals we enjoy. Mostly good ol’ farm cookin. When I read through old recipes in cookbooks that are from the Depression era, Colonial times, and even those used by families in the mountain areas known as the Osarks, I find a commonality between them. The recipes are simple, use few ingredients, and are based upon what they grow locally and in season. How far we have come in our society from this way of eating!

It makes no sense to eat foods out of season when prices are highest. So, I am changing things around so that we are only eating fresh produce that is still in season. I also am buying it at a local farm where I can also buy fresh eggs. The eggs are nearly half the price of store bought, yet are more recently gathered when compared to the stores. I am looking for a similar resource for farm milk also.

As I have been going through the recipes, I found that with the assortment of dried beans, lentils, rice, flour, sweetenings, and other basic pantry items, along with the canned vegetables, we have enough food stored that at this point, I have only needed to buy the milk, eggs, butter, cheese, and occasionally some meat. What a blessing!

On YouTube, I found that there are very well made instructional videos that demonstrate cheese making, including how to make your own cheese press. I am planning to make the cheese press as soon as I have the ability to do so. Then, I will be starting to make some cheddar cheese. I was especially excited to see the instructions on YouTube for making your own starter from cultured buttermilk. If that works, then I will have a steady supply of starter. If I don’t make my own starter, then I will simply purchase it by mail order from Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

So many plans, but I am taking it slowly. I am gathering as many self-reliance recipes and instructions as I can so that I can begin honing the skills. I don’t know how much I will have true need for the skills, but I want to know them anyways. You never know when they will come in handy. Our daughter is eager to learn cheesemaking with me. It will be fun to teach her how to do it.

I am excited about the idea of building a pantry that is simpler and will contain many of the foods that we always seem to have to purchase. Once Joe is able to work closer to home, we will be able to get more done on the homestead. We will be able to turn it into a little family sustaining farm.