Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Taming the Picky Eating February 27, 2016

Having kids, you often deal with a period of time when you have a picky eater.  Most common problem is a child who refuses to eat vegetables.  We have dealt with that with our own kids.  Having one who is autistic, we deal with it on a fairly regular basis.  We found an answer though that may work for other families as well.

This morning, I took the kids outside and we began planting vegetable seeds into the seed starting trays.  I had a variety of vegetable seeds and let the kids pick out the ones they wanted for a special garden box that will be set up in their fenced play area.  They chose grape tomatoes, sugar pod peas, and green beans.  I helped them to plant the seeds and we have them out in the sun.  Once large enough, we will be transplanting them into a square foot garden bed in their yard.  These veggies will be ones that I will let them pick and snack on.

What have me the idea originally was memories of my own childhood.  My parents always had a large garden each year.  When playing outside, I often would pick a handful of green beans, peas, or a tomato to snack on.  I loved eating straight from the garden.

As a parent, I have learned that if I let the kids help grow a few of their favorites, they were far more likely to eat the veggies at mealtimes.  It also encourages healthy snacking.  When it is warm enough, I want to plant a small strawberry patch as well.  Both kids love strawberries, so they should be a good choice. 

It is definitely worth a try to plant a few veggies and see if the kids are more likely to eat them.  Even if you only plant a small garden bed along your house or in pots on your patio, it can help.  Kids take prize in harvesting a few veggies from their own garden plants to add to the family meal.  It can make a big difference.


Planting for Autumn Harvest July 9, 2014

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


Spring Cleaning and a Swap February 22, 2014

Filed under: Crafting,gardening,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 6:06 am
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For the past week, the days were nice enough that I only had the heater set on low at night. In the morning, I turned the heater off.  By mid-day, the front for was open to let the warm breeze in.

I have started the spring cleaning.  I want it done before spring planting commences.  Already, the feed stores are selling onion sets and seed potatoes. Garlic can also be planted.  The time to prepare for garden season is upon us.  Once the last frost has occurred, I won’t have time for spring cleaning.

This season, Little Miss is helping.  I have her working along side of me so that she can learn how to deep clean.  She seems to enjoy it while we are working together much more than when doing a task on her own.  It takes me longer to get the chores done, but we have fun with it.

In the evenings, I am crocheting 10″ square dishcloths for a swap that I joined. We have until early April to get the dishcloths made and mailed to the other participants. I haven’t taken party in a swap like this for quite some time.  I am enjoying it though.  I am making 20 of the dishcloths in total.  I was Lucky in that I already had a bunch of the cotton yarn on hand.

As the winter is approaching its end, I am deciding on the final garden plan.  I am considering the vegetables we ran out of the fastest.  How much should I grow?  Is it more cost effective to buy the tins of certain vegetables instead of growing our own?  Lots to take into account before planting.


Perpetual Salads September 16, 2013

Filed under: gardening,green living,homesteading,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 7:53 pm
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Do you have a sunny window in your home? Why not sow some spinach or a leafy variety of lettuce in a planter?

It is very easy to grow spinach and leaf lettuce all winter long this way. As you’re plants produce, you break off or cut the outside leaves. The plant will continue to produce for a long time. As the plant begins to slow down, sow new seeds in another planter.

By doing this, you can enjoy fresh leafy greens long after the winter snows begin to fall.


Starting the Garden April 30, 2013

Filed under: cooking,gardening,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 5:15 am
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Filling up the recycled containers with potting mix in the morning. Frost danger has now passed us by. I have very few above ground plants to put in this year. We are barely out of the drought stage, so I am planting a drought tolerant garden instead. Of the above ground plants, I am only planting a few summer squash, but will be planting plenty of winter squash. The rest of the plants will be root crops.

Little Miss has some pumpkin seeds starting. They should be popping up in about a week. Once they are a good size, they will be transplanted along the edge of the yard. I am considering how we will plant them. If I can find a few old tires, I will use those as planters. I used tires to grow watermelons when I lived in an upper desert region and they did great. The sidewalls of the tires helped to hold the water near the plant.

As I previously mentioned, there is a really good produce farm not far from our homestead. I will be buying from them any crops that I don’t grow at home. I will be talking to them in the near future about buying things like green beans by the bushel for home canning. Hopefully, I will get a good price for the bulk purchases.

Our family has become hooked on a new snack. I bought some vegetable chips at Whole Foods in Tulsa on my last trip there. The chips are thinly sliced veggies and whole green beans that are dried or baked. A small amount of sea salt is added to them, but it is a very small amount. I looked online and found various recipes on how to make them yourself through dehydrating, baking, or frying. As soon as I see the fresh produce hitting the produce farm’s shop, I will be trying the recipes out to find our favorite. They are a wonderful healthy alternative to eating regular potato chips!

I have started my summer meal preparations. In warm months, we eat very few cooked meals during the day. Instead, we have lighter, raw or chilled meals. A variety of salads make up a large portion of our diet. I add cooked quinoa to nearly every salad that we eat. This helps to make sure we get enough protein each day. Cooked meals that we do eat are ones that can be prepared very quickly. A favorite is making a stir-fry with teriyaki sauce served over cooked quinoa in place of rice. Ever since we started eating quinoa, we have given up rice almost completely. Compared to rice, there is far more nutrients in quinoa.

By making the meals fast to prepare, I don’t have to worry about heating up the kitchen too much through cooking. We have a large griddle, like the type that you see for outdoor kitchens. On that griddle, I am able to make a large amount of flat bread at once time. During summer, that bread is the only type that I make. If you allow the dough to rise before you start forming the rounds for dry frying, the bread becomes thicker & lighter during the cooking process. I roll out the dough slightly thicker than you normally might do. The flat bread then will puff a bit like a pita bread when you dry fry it. Once cooked, you can then cut a slit into the bread to use as a pita.

The lighter meals also provide us with a great opportunity to take full advantage of the fresh produce in season. We are so blessed to have kids who love to eat this way.

Once I see how this year’s plantings do, I will decide what to plan for next season. As long as my husband is still away so much with his trucking job, I am limited on how much garden we plant. Throughout the season. We will be gradually adding more raised beds to plant our garden in. That will also determine the amount we plant.

By and by, the garden area will be completely moved to it’s new location and we will be able to grow more. Just having to use patience for now.


Busy Writing & Homestead News April 28, 2013

Filed under: family,green living,homesteading,off grid — ourprairiehome @ 5:20 am
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Lately, I have been working on my book about our journey from using the public utilities to our off-grid lifestyle. For this reason, my writing here and on my autism & homeschooling blog have been less frequent. I am hoping to get back on track with the blogs this week.

The e-book is finally getting closer to finished. After a few rough starts, I am finding the words coming much easier. On Friday night, I added another 3,000 words to it before my netbook battery got low. This book has been a challenge. When I first started workign on it, I had my own vision for where I wanted to go with it. As people learned that I was writing, I received many requests of what people wanted me to include. Over time, trying to please everyone turned teh book project into a heavy weight around my neck. I felt no joy in it anymore and set it aside. I met through Twitter another author, Paula Hardin. She gave me wonderful advice. Stop trying to please everyone else and write the book that I want. I have to say that piece of advice was very timely. I had my book saved on a flash drive, but instead of going back to it, I started over from scratch.

My goal for the book is to have at least 20,000 words before I call if finished. I am writing a bit of the backstory on how we came to be living off-grid. Included are some of our successes as well as our mistakes. I am hoping that by sharing both the good and the bad, I can help others avoid making the same mistakes as we did. The reasons for why we made many of our decisions are in the book as well. I am addressing the most often asked questions that we receive in how to get started.

There are many books out there that go through the step by step process. What makes my writing unique is that it is written almost as a journal. Readers will hopefully get an insight into not only the mechanics of how we did things, but the personal struggles along the way. When I am ready to sell the e-book, I will be doing it through Amazon and will post on the blog when it is available.

In homesteading news, we have finally stopped having freezing temperatures. I usually don’t start planting the garden until May, unlike many of the neighbors who start earlier. I tried planting early one year and lost the entire planting due to a freeze. Our last frost happens about late April each year, so I play it safe. This year, I am planting mostly root crops and only a few varieties of squash and leafy greens. A farm near us sells fresh produce from their produce stand. It is more economical to buy from them, than to grow it ourselves. I am also looking at the fact that with 2 young children, one of which is special needs, I have to limit the amount of garden work that I do. So, I am focusing on items that I will be canning or are ones that we use almost daily. High maintenance varieties that require a lot more attention will be purchased from the farm. Once my husband is no longer truck driving for a company that has him gone for a week or more at a time, I will have help tending the garden. Until then, I have to keep it within the reasonable levels that I can manage on my own.

My husband was able to meet the 2nd of 3 goals for getting a local trucking job last weekend. The first was to get a small truck for transportation to and from a local job. We did that earlier this month when we bought a used truck from a neighbor. Last weekend, he started the process for getting his background check for a HAZMAT endorsement. In our area, most trucking jobs require that the drivers have this endorsement. The last step will be to take the written test once he receives the letter saying he has passed the background check. Getting him back home has been a goal of ours for a long time. We tried it once before and it didn’t work out. He had found a job outside of trucking and the pay was minimum wage. We lived on that single income for 3 years before we made the choice for him to go back to trucking, which pays better. Now, we are taking it a bit slower with getting him back home again. We are taking steps to get him a local trucking job that will pay at least what he gets now. By having a HAZMAT endorsement, we can accomplish that goal.

In other news, we seem to have hit a time of breakdowns with equipment. LOL It never fails. One thing gets fixed and another decides to take a turn. Latest was the lawn tractor. We replaced the battery, started it up and began mowing only to have the cable that engages the blades snap. So, after all the rain we have had, we have no way to mow until we fix the lawn tractor hopefully tomorrow. You have to take it with a sense of humor. I keep thinking of an old fashioined rotary blade mower my grandparents had. It had no motor. Instead it was a wheel of blades that spun as you pushed the mower. I have to wonder if they were not much smarter to have that type of mower. I remember using it a few times. The only maintenance was sharpening the blades. It sure was heavy to push though!

A new project that I am going to try this week is making a mosquito catcher to hang out in the woods away from the house. I saw instructions to make this really easy one from a 2-liter bottle. You start by cutting the top portion off of the bottle just about an inch below where the bottle is at it’s widest. This makes a funnel that will later be inserted into the bottom portion. Heat 1 cup of water and 1/4 cup of brown sugar until the brown sugar has dissolved. Let cool, pour into the bottom part of the 2-liter bottle then add about a scant 1/4 teaspoon of dry active yeast to the sugar water. Place the top portion of the bottle upside-down into the bottom portion to form a funnel. Tape around the seam to hold in place. Wrap the bottle in black paper or paint black. From what I read, the mosquitos are attracted to the carbon dioxide the yeast/sugar mixture makes. They also are supposed to be drawn to the color black. The mosquitos go into the bottle but cannot get out. You have to change out the mixture every couple of weeks to keep baiting them. I know this is common sense but make sure that you bait them a distance from your home or any area where your family hangs out. I am hoping that this works since we have an irrigation ditch not far from our home.


Herbal Garden Planning November 12, 2011

Filed under: homesteading,old fashioned,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 10:04 pm
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Tis the season.  I am thinking ahead to spring and the planting of an herb garden.  I already have enough garden seed for a couple of years’ worth of planting, so now my thoughts are turning towards the herbs.

I am planning to grow both culinary and medicinal herbs for the family.  This had led me on a search.  I am looking into expanding the homestead library to add some good natural remedy reference books as well as books on the growing, harvesting and storing of herbs.

I have always loved the blessings of herbal teas.  I have had too many times in my life when the herbal approach was very effective to discount it as an option.  In a self-reliant homestead, it is also a good next step.

Of course you have to use common sense and become well educated in the use of herbs.  You have to keep in mind that most medications that we have today can be linked back to natural herbs and plants from which major ingredients were derived.  If you have a serious condition, you never use only herbal approach without guidance.  For this reason, I am going cautiously.  I am being careful in my choice of reference books and am looking into taking classes in the use of herbs.