Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Recipes for Essential Oil Blends | Nourishing Treasures March 9, 2016

Filed under: green living,home remedy,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 11:03 pm
Tags: , , ,

http://www.nourishingtreasures.com/index.php/recipes-for-essential-oil-blends/

I found this website today and it is the largest resource that I have found so far with recipes for mixing your own essential oil blends.

I use essential oils daily for myself and the kids.  Little Miss loves the lavender blends at night to help her sleep more soundly and fall asleep easier.  Pookie sleeps better and also can be calmed during over-stimulation with the oils as well.  Some blends, like those with peppermint, are good aroma therapy when I have a stuffy nose.

Hopefully, the list will be beneficial to some of you as well.

Advertisements
 

Doing Laundry Off the Grid March 6, 2016

Filed under: green living,homesteading,off grid,Uncategorized — ourprairiehome @ 11:50 pm
Tags: , ,

Lately, I have noticed a lot of interest in how to save money when doing laundry. When I mention washing by hand, the instant reaction is “That’s too much work!” Well, I guess it can be if you are not prepared for it. Here are some of the reasons why I think people are reluctant to give it a try.

First, they only wash laundry when it is piled up. If you wait until you have to scale Mt. Wash-more to do your laundry, it can seem overwhelming. I know this from experience. I let it go for just over a week when I had pneumonia one year and was amazed at how daunting a task it had become.

Second, people are spoiled with their machines. I readily admit that in winter, I wash laundry at a laundromat. It is faster to dry that way. I have handwashed laundry in winter months and found that the clothes didn’t dry enough outside on the line. I had to hang the slightly damp clothing in the house near a wood stove to finish drying. In summer though, the laundry actually gets done faster and easier than hauling it 10 miles from home to the laundromat. Once I have a LP gas dryer though, the laundry can be done at home in winter again.

Third, people don’t prepare for the task ahead of time. There is nothing that causes your back to hurt faster than trying to wash laundry by hand in the bathtub. Again, I speak from experience. When I first began doing laundry by hand 7 years ago, I used the bathtub as my wash basin. It served the purpose, but my back sure felt the strain. My knees felt it also as I knelt by the tub to do all that washing!

So, why do I still do laundry by hand? That is easy. I have found a way to do it that works well and is very convenient. It saves me money each month. It also is fun. Whether or not you aspire to doing your laundry by hand or not, it is a great skill to have. You never know when your laundry machines will stop working. What if you have to replace your washing machine and don’t have the funds to do it? What about power outages? You never know when storms will take out the power lines. It happens often from winter storms, tornadoes, or other natural disasters. What about going camping as a family? You may find a time where you need to wash laundry while camping. Having a clothesline and a bit of soap with you can give you the ability to do it. What about something like a SHTF situation? Whether it be a job loss or other economic issue, there is always a chance that something could happen that forces you to tighten your financial belt up a bit. When those times come about, don’t let yourself be caught unprepared. Have a plan to fall back on. Even something as simple as knowing how to do your family’s laundry without the benefit of laundry machines can be a blessing.

In setting up a laundry, you don’t have to get fancy. Honestly? In a SHTF situation, having a 5 gallon bucket, laundry soap, and a clothesline rope is all that you need. Toss in a package or two of clothespins and you are ahead of the game. You quite easily can wash clothing in a 5 gallon bucket, wring the laundry out, refill the bucket with rinse water, then after rinsing, wring the water out of the clothing, and hang out on the rope clothesline. It literally can be that simple in a pinch. If you are thinking about doing laundry by hand on a more regular basis, such as during summer months, to take advantage of the warmth and sun, here are some tips to get you started.

First, have the right equipment. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It just has to be functional for you. I recommend having 2 wash tubs. I started out with a couple of round metal tubs that I bought at Lowes Home Improvement center in their paint department. These worked for a while, but the solder in the bottom seam fell out over time. They also are very easy to develop rust, if not dried out thoroughly. I next tried the deep plastic tubs with rope handles. These worked great. Only problem was that they were very heavy to empty the water out of. I finally found some smaller wash tubs that are easier to empty. They are the type that you often see used for keeping drinks on ice at a picnic or BBQ. These are smaller and work well for me. You can also find metal wash tubs of various sizes at Tractor Supply, Atwoods, or other farm supply stores. The second item that you need is a clothesline or drying rack to hang the laundry on. For years, I have used the clothesline rope. It works very well, but does need to be replaced every few years due to stretching and it wearing out. Many people like to use the vinyl coated wire, but be aware that after a few years, the sun will dry out the vinyl and it will begin flaking off. You can also use the actual clothesline wire, which is made to not rust. It really depends on what your preferences are. In the beginning, the rope would probably be all you need. Some people have a hand-crank wringer, but it really is not a necessity. I have one that I bought at Lehman’s Non-Electric store 6 years ago. It is now showing rust in some areas. It works, but I have to use steel wool on it as regular maintenance to keep it from rusting. Otherwise I may have to paint it. The wringer helps, but honestly, I can wring things out just as well by hand. It is also faster for me to do by hand than to use the wringer.

The next thing you need to do is have the right soap. That may seem like a no-brainer, but I do need to address this one. Many of your laundry soaps produce a lot of suds. This gives the illusion that your clothes are getting cleaner than a low suds variety. If you decide to use a soap with lots of suds, be prepared to do more rinsing than usual. My favorite soap for hand washing laundry is Fels-Naptha. It comes in a bar. Many women use this soap to make their own laundry soap with. When melted down in water and adding to washing soda and borax, the Fels-Naptha makes a very good quality laundry soap that cleans well without causing excessive amounts of suds. If you don’t want to make your own soap or use the Fels-Naptha, look for a store brand that is low suds. Trust me, you will be happy to not have to do the extra rinsing required from having too many soap bubbles in your laundry. In handwashing laundry, I often hear women mention that their spouse or kids get their clothes really dirty. If that is the case, simply wet the article of clothing, rub some Fels-Naptha soap on the heavily soiled spot and let it soak in a tub or bucket of water overnight. The next day, the clothes will be easier to wash.

On laundry day, I set up my wash tubs on a bench or table outdoors near the clothesline. I add a scoop of the laundry soap to the wash water. In the rinse, I add a homemade fabric softener made with water, white vinegar, and borax. This works great!

Start with your least soiled clothing first. The reason for this is to allow you to not have to change out your wash water so often. I start with things like washcloths, towels, and other lightly soiled items. I gradually work up to the most heavily soiled items as the washing continues, changing the water as necessary to get the laundry clean.

I have a scrub board that I like to use for socks and heavily soiled items especially. This is not essential, but nice to have. You can order them new from places like Ace Hardware’s catalog. Another idea, which I saw in a video by another off-grid homesteader, is to use a rubber bath mat with the suction cups facing upward. Rubbing your clothing across the suction cups provides enough scrubbing power to get the dirt out of the clothing as well. I haven’t used this method yet myself, but the video was very convincing.

When hanging out the laundry on a line, have it in the full sun. This will allow the laundry to dry even faster. One thing you will notice is that the higher the cotton content, the more stiff the clothing may become. There are 2 reasons for this. First, the fabric dries fully. In a dryer, there is humidity that allows for a small amount of moisture to remain in the fabric. This is what helps to make the laundry feel soft. Another reason why the cotton fabric gets stiff is a lack of breeze. Hanging the laundry out on a windy or breezy day causes the fabric to flap in the breeze. This action, just like the tossing of fabric in a dryer, helps to keep the cotton fabric softer. Ideally, I try to do laundry on a day when we have a breeze that is strong enough to move the fabric about as it dries.

I typically will start doing laundry in the mid-morning during summer months. By lunchtime, the laundry is often not only washed, but dry as well. I love that time spent doing the washing. I set up out in the yard, with the kids playing nearby. We all enjoy the sun and fresh air as I do the washing. After I empty the wash tubs, they are dried and set aside until next time. It takes less than a half hour to wash and hang out the laundry. When doing it by hand, I wash 2-3 days worth at a time. This makes the job far less daunting. On the days in between washing clothing, I may do bedding or towels. This is simply a preference of mine. We homeschool year round and I don’t want to have to spend an entire morning washing a week’s worth of laundry and bedding. When the kids were little and slept in a bit longer, I often started laundry shortly after dawn. By the time the kids were waking up, all the laundry was already washed and on the line to dry.

One note on why I do laundry so often when washing by hand. It is not uncommon to have a rain storm in the spring and sometimes during summer. One year, we had rain nearly every day for a solid month! Because of this, I try to have the laundry done often to prevent it from piling up. On average, if done at a laundromat, a week’s worth of laundry costs about $20-$25 to wash and dry. This means I would be spending between $80 and $100 a month to do laundry! I can think of so many other ways to spend that money than to use a laundromat.

The main point though, is to be prepared. Whether you choose to try hand washing the laundry or not, be knowledgeable in how to do it. Don’t let yourself get caught unprepared should an emergency happen. The best time to gain knowledge or a new skill is BEFORE you need it.

 

New Gardening Project February 17, 2016

With Joseph gone doing his trucking job and me raising two kids here in the homestead alone most of the time, I am having to rethink how to have a family garden.  It has to be something that I can manage completely on my own.  I found a blog post about a No–Dig Garden that is very easy.  Once the garden beds are created, your work is nearly done.  The weeding is minimal, especially if you use mulch around the plants.  All organic materials means that each season you only have to add some more fertlizer or ammend the soil before planting again.  This is easily done.  Once your garden is finished for the season, add more compost or manure, cover with a layer of mulch, and let the garden beds rest until spring. 

I am going to use cinder blocks to form the garden beds.  These will not have mortar but simply stacked 2 rows tall.  The cavities of the blocks will contain rocks in the lower level and planting mix in the top level.  The cavities can be planted with flowers or herbs.  Another option would be to add a length of pipe in the corners and center blocks that are slightly taller than the cinder blocks.  These will be useful for forming a hoop cover.  To make the cover, take a length of off and bend it into a curve.  Place one end into a pipe, forming the curve over your garden bed.  You can also use these pipes for placing a trellis along the side for climbing plants or make a taller canopy to provide shade when necessary.

The boxes are very easy to construct.  Place 2 layers of cardboard under the garden bed to prevent growth of vegetation from under the bed.  Stack your cinder blocks to form the sides.  Next, place alternating layers of straw, manure, and planting mix into the beds.  You want it several inches above the bed.  After about 2 weeks, the materials will have settled down to the top of the bed. 

If you want the material to hold moisture better, use peat moss as one of the top layers.  I generally will mix a 50/50 mixture of potting mix and peat moss, which works great here in the southwest where temps reach over 100°F in summer.

You can plant right away after filling the garden beds or wait until the soil mixture settles down into the garden bed.  Once planted, add mulch to further cut down on moisture loss and weeding.

I can”t wait to get my new garden area set up.  The beauty of this method is that I can move the garden to another location easily.  Just dismantle the beds, set up in the new area, then refill the beds reusing the soil materials.  All the straw used breaks down and gives you compost.  You are, in essence, building and planting your garden in a contained compost bin.

During the winter, I will be able to add the wood ash from our wood stove to the garden beds to add more nutrients to the soil.  In spring, I just have to turn the soil and I am ready to plant, especially if I have added the additional manure to the garden beds at the end of growing  season the previous year.

I can’t wait to get started.  This is going to make gardening so much easier for me to manage this year.  I plan to start with 2 large or 4-6 small beds first.  I can expand later if needed.

 

One View of Simplicity February 1, 2015

Filed under: green living,old fashioned,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 11:20 pm
Tags: ,

Ever since we started on this journey to a more simplified lifestyle 6 years ago, we are often asked why we would do this to ourselves.  It seems that society’s outlook on someone deciding to live within their means (or below their means) just because they choose to, is one in which the person is looked upon as having gone off their rocker.  For us, it seems silly that the media spouts off about the cries of conservationalists and enviromentalists for people to become more conscience of their use of fossil fuels and natural resources.  These groups often push for a more sustainable lifestyle that reduces the carbon footprint of each family.  Yet, here we are, doing exactly that and we are looked upon as being radical or weird.

I read an article today, “When Bread Bags Weren’t Funny” by Megan McArdle, that a dear friend shared on Facebook.  I loved the perspective of the author.  She was spot on in her views.  She shares in the article a glimpse into our nations past.  Not the distant past, but just a generation ago, using illustrations from the Little House books series as a comparison.

As I read the article, I was nodding my head in agreement to so much of it.  I have always held the belief that as a society, we have become spoiled.  Things that are relatively new (within 2 generations) have become so commonplace that people think it is impossible to life comfortably  without them.  One example of this attitude is the air conditioner.   When people first hear that we don’t use an air conditioner in the summer, they freak out.  They can’t understand how we can manage without one.  Truth be told, generations of our ancestors survived hot summers very well without air conditioning.  Even more interesting is to note that prior to my Grandma’s generation, women wore far more heavy clothing than we do today.  Yet, even in the deep south where humidity is  stifling in the middle of summer, these southern women managed to get through the season without health issues popping up all the time.

One of the issues that really makes me wonder at the thought processes of others is when people get weird over the idea of us using wood stoves for heat and cooking in winter while we have kids in the house.  Let me say this, even our autistic child who is developmentally delayed knows to never touch the wood stoves.  He doesn’t even touch them in summer when the stoves are not in use.  He simply has be trained to not touch them.  It is no different than teaching a young child to not touch a burner on your kitchen stove or to not pick up a glass object.  You simply train them.  Yet, there are those who cannot seem to understand this concept.

As far as the economics part of simplicity, here is my opinion. We are living on a single income.  My husband doesn’t make a huge salary, but a very modest hourly wage.  The wage is low enough that many families that we know would be looking for a second income to survive on a monthly basis.  According to the US Census bureau, the poverty line for a family of 4 is about $22,300 income per year.  Our family income is close to that.  Yet, we manage on this income.  How do we do it?

First, we don’t use credit unless critical.  We now have 1 credit card that is held in reserve for medical expenses only.  We are part of a medical sharing program and this credit card is what we use if we have to go to a doctor or buy medication.  Secondly, we only are buying essentials.  We see no need to go into debt to buy things that are unnecessary.  One point brought up in the article that I agree with is the opinion expressed about clothing.  In earlier generations, a person only had a week’s worth of clothing.  It was common for a woman to have what was termed her “work dresses” which were worn throughout the week.  These were the dresses worn as she did her daily tasks. The fabrics were sturdy ones that could take a lot of use.  For Sundays, she may have a single dress that was only for church or a special occasion, such as a wedding.  It was not uncommon for a woman to wear her Sunday best as her wedding dress.  When I was growing up, we got new (or new to us from the thrift store) clothes that were purchased just before the new school year began.  Our older clothes that still fit became our play clothes.  Each day, we would put on our school clothes before heading out to the bus.  When we got home, we had to change into our play clothes so that our newer outfits wouldn’t get messed up as we did chores or went out to play.  Today, many kids get a complete new wardrobe of clothing when school begins and they wear these same clothes whether playing outdoors or going to school.  Seldom do I hear someone talk about play clothes for their younger kids.  Often, kids today have more clothing than can fit in their dressers and closets.  Why?  Why would anyone need that many clothes?  How much money is spent on buying and maintaining that amount of clothing?  Where else could that money be better used?  It isn’t just the kids either.  Many adults have far more than they need, yet society says more is the better option.  If you don’t have a lot, then you are poor and underprivileged.  You are lacking in their eyes.  But who is truly lacking in this?

Toys for kids is another area where people go nutty.  In the Little House books, the Ingalls children had a special toy.  In the first book, Little House in the Big Woods, Laura writes about her sister, Mary, having a doll.  Laura’ parents couldn’t afford a doll for Laura, so Laura had a doll made by wrapping a cloth around a corn cob.  Later, she would get a doll of her own.  At that time however, Laura was happy to play with her corn cob doll.  Our kids have had a lot of toys given to them over the years.  We finally took on the task of buying each child an 18-gallon size plastic tote.  Because their bedroom is small, the toys that fit in their totes is all they keep.  We have given the excess to a thrift store run by a church that uses the proceeds for a youth ministry.  Our kids don’t feel slighted one bit by having to donate the extra toys.  They still have all their favorites.  Later, once the house remodel is done, they will appreciate even more the downsizing of their toys.  The room we are fixing up for them is the largest in our house.  We will be putting a wall down the center to give each of the two kids a room of their own.  Their rooms at that time will be about the size of a small bedroom in a single wide trailer.  More than enough room for them since they spend so little time in their bedroom anyways. Most of the time the family gathers in the kitchen/dining room or are outdoors.

My current project is attacking the homeschool shelves.  Every homeschooling family will shudder at the thought of what I am doing.  I am boxing up and donating all the excessive books that I have.  When I started buying them, I planned to use them with both children.  Now that I have a better idea of what Pookie is capable of doing, I know that it may be years before he can use some of these resources, if he is ever able to use them.  Instead of keeping everything on the hopes that he may one day be able to use the materials, I am donating everything Little Miss is not using within the next year.  By doing this, I will be able to clear nearly all the shelves.  Yes, like many homeschool families, I have a large amount of books and resources cluttering my shelves.  Not for too much longer though.

My feeling is that there was much to be appreciated about the more sparse furnishings.  The less you have, the easier to maintain and keep clean.  Purchases now are being considered by how much real use will it get.  I take time to consider each purchase and try to never buy anything on a whim or impulse.  Such was the way of things with earlier generations.  Money was scarce and they had to be thoughtful in considering each and every purchase they made.  Why is it so strange to others if a family lives that way now?  I can only think that it is because it is more acceptable to give in to our desires and wants without considering the financial consequences of those purchases.

As I think on that article mentioned above, I can only smile to think that someone else is “getting it” and understanding that there is no shame in choosing to live with less.

 

 

Planting for Autumn Harvest July 9, 2014

Filed under: gardening,green living,homesteading,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 6:59 am
Tags: ,

July is well underway and today I started new garden seeds for autumn harvest. Here on the homestead, the northern side of the house gets the most shade. Though the days are quite warm and humid, the shaded areas feel a little cooler.

I started the seeds for green beans, peas, yellow squash, acorn squash, butternut squash, pumpkin, and sugar snow peas in the seed starting tray. Once the seedlings are grown large enough, I can plant them along the northern side of the house. The afternoon shade will protect the plants during the hot afternoon, yet they will get plenty of morning sunlight.

Some may wonder why I am planting these so late in the growing season. Our first frost doesn’t occur until late November. Even the pumpkin, which typically has a growing season of about 115 days before harvest can be grown and will be ready to harvest about October 25th. The earlier plants, such as the green beans and peas, will be ready in about 55 days to begin harvesting. That means they will be ready about September 1st. Plenty of time to get more harvest for winter.

An easy garden plant to start just about anytime are your leafy greens. The only trouble that you may have is that they will want to bolt, or go to seed, if they get too much of the hot summer sun. So, to combat that, you can plant in an area that gets shade in the afternoon or plant in window boxes that can be moved from place to place. Harvesting from the greens often is another way to help prevent the plants from going to seed.

If you happen to not have enough shaded areas for planting a second round of seeds, consider using old bedsheets to make shade cloths to protect the plants. Place long sticks to be used as poles along the edges of the plant rows. Drape and use cable ties or twine to tie the shade cloth onto the tops of the poles. Make sure that the tops of the plants do not touch the shade cloth. This simple method will provide enough shade to help tender plants to continue producing during the hottest portion of summer.

I love planting this time of year. We completely miss the wet season which always seems to wash away our garden seeds or drown the young plants. Using plenty of mulch or other weed barrier methods eliminates the worse of the weeding. If you plan well, you don’t have to worry much about the plants drying up. A good watering first thing in the morning usually does the best. Never water in the early evening as it will encourage insects to come into the garden. The insects come for the moisture as much as the plants.

As you probably noticed, most of the seeds I planted are for a variety of winter squash. These store very well in a root cellar or an unheated room through the winter. These also are being harvested right up until first frost. If the first frost comes in late November as it usually does, then we will be harvesting pumpkins for a month before that frost arrives. The green beans, sugar snow peas, and regular green peas will be nearly done producing by mid-October.

I am looking forward to seeing how these do. Tomorrow, I am going to start seeds for buttercrunch leaf lettuce, swiss chard, and spinach to plant in containers or along the porch on the north side of the house. These grow quickly, so I should do good with them. We love the fresh greens!

If you are planting for an autumn harvest, what do you have started? What have you had success with and what has been a struggle?

 

Finding Local Farms & Farmers’ Markets July 3, 2014

Filed under: green living,homesteading,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 2:34 am

As a part of preparing to take the No Grocery Store for a Year challenge, I am in the process of searching out local farms and Farmers’ Markets where we can purchase locally grown produce, eggs, and raw milk.  

Tonight I wanted to share a few resources that may be of benefit to others who are wanting to buy locally instead of the GMO and chemical laden produce at the grocery stores.

Local Harvest is a searchable online directory for the United States.  By searching using your zip code, you are given a listing of the farms and markets in your immediate area.

Farmers Markets Online contains a searchable directory for markets in the United States.  An added feature that I like is that you can search for specific items.

OK Grown is a listing of farmers markets here in Oklahoma.  

Real Milk Finder is a searchable directory for locating farms which sell raw milk.

Some dairy farms will give you a lower price on the milk if you supply your own gallon containers.  I have found that it is easiest to use the gallon size glass jars.  Unlike plastic, these will never get an “off” odor from storing milk in them.  I have never purchased the glass jars.  Instead, I found a deli shop in town that throws away the gallon jars the sandwich condiments come in.  The jalapeno peppers, for example, always come in the glass gallon size jars.  Once washed, the jalapeno scent is completely removed from the jar and lid.  These work great for the raw milk.

For those wondering about the safety of drinking raw milk, here is an article by Dr. Mercola about the US government’s study results regarding raw milk safety.  It is interesting to note that one of the biggest voices against raw milk happened to be a lawyer who represents Monsanto.

For those interested in raw farm milk but undecided about the “to pasteurize or not to pasteurize” issue, here is a great article from Backwoods Home Magazine that gives the history of pasteurization, the benefits and drawbacks, and instructions on how to pasteurize milk at home.

Hopefully the above links will help give you ideas on where you can find locally grown/produced foods near you.  

 

No Grocery Store Challenge Preparations July 2, 2014

Filed under: green living,homesteading,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 6:03 am
Tags: , ,

In my previous post, I spoke of a blog article that was written about a family’s challenge to go a year without grocery shopping at a store.  It has inspired me in many ways.

Over the past week, I have been noticing how easy it is to just go to the store instead of hitting up the pantry or other options.  I realize that my pantry isn’t really set up for doing the challenge.  It is growing season right now and so the stores of vegetables and such that I had last autumn are depleted.  I still need to locate local farms that sell raw milk, eggs, and farmer’s markets for produce.

One area that I am working on currently is to restructure my recipe collection.  I am taking into consideration the items we typically might buy, but can be made easily at home.  One example is saltine crackers.  How often do you purchase a box of these at the store to use with soups or eat as a part of a snack?  Did you know that these can be made with only 5 ingredients that are commonly found in nearly any pantry?  Here is an easy recipe that is fast and easy to make.

Saltine Crackers

2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
2/3 c. milk
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Combine the dry ingredients, cut in the butter, then stir in the milk.  Round into a ball and knead for few strokes.  Divide dough into several pieces and roll out very thin on a floured board.  Lay sheets on ungreased cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and prick with a fork.  Cut into 1 1/2 inch squares with a sharp knife or pizza cutter.  Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

There are many things that we are so accustomed to buying that can be made easily at home.  We have simply become spoiled with the convenience of the stores.  Over the next few months, I am going to be making changes here at the homestead to take the challenge.  I am being realistic.  I know that if we were to simply start the challenge tomorrow, we would likely fail.  I do want to make the necessary changes to give us a real chance at being as successful as possible in doing the challenge.

The end goal is to rely as little as possible on the stores for our food.  We don’t want to continue being caught in the trap of having to pay rising costs to feed our family a healthy meal.  We also are wanting to support local small farms that are trying to survive in a time when Monsanto’s GMO food products are so prevalent and forcing small family farms out of business.  It is also giving us back the control to decide what we will and won’t put into our bodies.  I have said this before but it can never be said too often, “The chemicals individually that are used in food production may be determined to be safe, but there has never been sufficient testing done on what the cumulative effects of the various chemicals to our bodies.  How do they interact as the chemicals build up in our bodies over time?”   By being more aware of where our food comes from, we can make informed choices.

I  look forward to hearing about any plans that you may have to trying this challenge in some form or fashion.