Simplicity by Choice

Off-Grid Living & Self-Reliance

Sickness and Homesteading November 14, 2013

Filed under: family,homesteading,off grid,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 3:03 am
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No matter what your lifestyle, having the flu is never fun. Having the flu as a homesteader is definitely not a pleasant experience.  Prior to our off-grid lifestyle, I would have put the makings for a homemade soup or stew into the slow cooker in the morning and let it cook all day. When our son threw up, his clothes would be tossed into threw washing machine and dryer.  Not today.

My dear husband, after staying home an extra couple of days and missing out on a good truck run to take care of us on my worst day, had to go back on the truck today.  I am certainly not complaining. Poor guy is getting over the bronchitis he had on the truck yet still did as much as possible to make my life easier once he got home and I got sick with the flu.  It is simply a fact with trucking. If the truck isn’t rolling, you are not making any money.

A few hours after dropping him off at the truck stop where the truck had been parked, reality set in.  Our son and I have both been taking Tamiflu since we saw the Dr.  While it seems that I am over the worst of it, our son started throwing up today.  That’s the moment reality hits.  The woman who gags at feeling food particles in dish water had to hand wash 3 pairs of pajamas. It was only by sheer will and lots of begging to the Lord that I didn’t get sick myself. 

Later, after teaching our daughter how to make homemade noodles to use in a soup for dinner, I got the kids settled again. Then, I grabbed a tote and gathered firewood from the wood bin for the stove to last the night. Though we have a propane heater, I use the wood stove as well. It helps to save on the amount of propane we use. I also enjoy cooking on that stove.

One lesson that I learned through this day was that I will be finding a way to make things easier when I am sick and my husband is not home.  I manage the way things are, but I can make it easier.

Time for me to come up with alternative ways to do the tasks that are necessary.

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Winterizing October 7, 2013

Filed under: cooking,family,homesteading,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 9:31 pm
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This week, my beloved husband is taking his vacation.  We are spending it winterizing the home and fixing his pickup truck.

First up is getting the new propane line put in. We had copper lines but they needed replaced due to damage. Instead of using copper again, we are installing black pipe.  It goes in so much easier and the cost of the pipe is less than half what we paid a year ago for the copper. 

Next comes covering windows with plastic. This works great, especially on the older windows of the homestead.  I am adding a little more insulation as well to the bathroom. It is one of the rooms set to be remodeled. I am adding insulation around the old window where cold air can seep in.

Another winterizing project is preparing a firewood crate on the porch so I will have a ready supply of dry, seasoned firewood for the wood burning cookstove. We took the chainsaw to be sharpened this morning so that we will be able to tackle cutting the wood later this week.

Fixing the pickup is going to possibly be an all day job.  We bought it from a neighbor and our needs a could of minor things done. One being to put on a new steering column and wheel.  That will take the longest. The rest is simple stuff like checking it over well and possibly giving it a tune-up.  We want to get out working to be used as a second vehicle. He is trying to get a local truck driving job and will need the truck.

Ongoing winterizing projects that I have include crocheting winter gear. Hats, mittens, slippers, shawls, etc. all need to be made. The nights are getting cool enough that crocheting is being done more often.

I found on a free setting pattern website the instructions and patterns for making a fleece cape with hood in both a child and adult size. It has the option for no hood as well. I am considering making the cape for both my daughter and I using fleece on the outside and a different fabric inside. Made to be waist length, it would be warmer than a shawl when on outings.

In the upcoming week, I am going to be canning winesap apples from our tree. I plan to make pie filling as well as apple butter.  Might even use a few apples to make stewed apples to go with dinner one night while Joe is still home.

Of all the seasons, autumn has always been my favorite. I enjoy the winter preparations. I always look forward to that first day when I can use the wood cookstove to make our meals. I love having a stock pot of a soup or stew simmering on the stove all day. With a simmer plate under the stock pot or dutch oven, I use it just like a slow cooker.

I guess the nostalgia never wears off.  This is definitely one of my favorite parts of our lifestyle.

 

Solar Oven Experiment July 11, 2013

Filed under: cooking,green living,off grid — ourprairiehome @ 5:12 pm
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My blog posts have been sporadic due to lack of reliable Internet.  I am working at getting that improved soon.

Last week, I decided to take the plunge and do a little experiment with solar cooking.  I had purchased one of those foil sun shades for the Jeep’s windshield.  I got to thinking about how reflective it is.  Wouldn’t it make a good “in a pinch” solar cooker?

In the yard, we have a black metal trailer for the small lawn tractor.  I set up a metal wash tub in the trailer with a small block under one end to place it on an angle towards the west.  I then formed the foil windshield shade into a cone shape.  This was placed into the washtub.

I wasn’t feeling horribly brave, so got out a small roasting pan and filled the bottom with chopped up potatoes, bell peppers, onions, and squash.  I tossed the veggies with a drizzle of olive oil to coat them and sprinkled on some sea salt.  The pan was covered with clear plastic wrap and set into the center of the foil cone.

I left the veggies roasting until they had only a slight crunch left to them.  It took about 2 hours due to the size of the veggies.  Chopped smaller, they would obviously have cooked faster.  When I removed the pan, I learned rather quickly that an oven mitt would be helpful.  Thankfully, I always have aloe vera on hand!

The results of the little experiment was that the make-shift solar cooker worked just fine.  It would be an easy option in an emergency situation.  We did have to accept that the roasted veggies do not get browned like they would in a standard oven.  That was the only real difference that we noticed.

My darling husband is planning to build a solar cooker for me when we get a chance.  He is planning to make it a combination solar oven and solar dehydrator.    When we look at plans for each, we find that it will be fairly easy to make a combination oven/dehydrator.

 

 

Loving Summer July 4, 2013

Filed under: faith,family,homesteading — ourprairiehome @ 4:30 pm
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This summer has been a very mild one.  Last year, we were already in the triple digits by June.  This year, we have only had 1 day in the triple digits.  The average temp has only be in the 80’s.  I love it!

On the home front, there are small changes happening that will bring great blessings to the family.  My Beloved husband has been truck driving throughout most of our marriage.  With this job, he is away from home a minimum of a week at a time.  Currently, he is home overnight once a week.  Not much time for family with that schedule, but it is what the company demands of him.  We have been working towards the day when he can be home more often.  In the past years, we tried twice to do this and failed.  He had found a local job each time, but they were not trucking related.  Living in a rural area as we do, you have to have a specialized job in order to make ends meet.  During one period of about 2.5 years, our family of 4 lived on a single income that was barely above minimum wage.  Our lifestyle helped to make that possible, but we still were getting behind.  Financial needs were met but we could not make any improvements to the homestead.  So, back to trucking he went.  The challenge now has been that I don’t have the ability to do all the work necessary on the homestead while tending the home, kids, homeschooling, etc.  We basically have been just taking care of essentials.  In many ways, it was no better than when he worked local.  Basic needs are met, but there is no time for expansion when my husband is home.  So, after much prayer, we were prompted to take it slower this time around.  Last week, my husband was able to get the extra endorsements on his trucking license to allow him to drive any type of truck, including those for the fuel companies.  Now, the next step is that he will be looking for a local trucking job that will allow him to be home more often, yet pay what we need.  Lord willing, he will have a new job by summer’s end.

Our children are having a lot of fun this summer.  Between trips to the zoo, vacation Bible school, and playing outdoors, they are kept busy.  In August, our baby girl will start going to Girl Scouts.  Wow!!!  The time has surely flown by.  She is so excited to start up.  We signed her up during the spring.  Our son is making headway in his development.  He has finally regained the ability to feed himself, even using utensils for the first time.  He is chattering a lot more often than previously.  He still doesn’t say any words, but jabbers like an infant learning to make letter sounds.  Cute part is that he does it in such a way that it sounds like he is singing.  He is such a happy little boy.

It has been such a wonderful time for us.  So many blessings that outweigh any challenges that we have faced.

 

Natural Ant & Fire Ant Control June 6, 2013

Filed under: green living,homesteading — ourprairiehome @ 5:57 am
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I have been wanting to share this idea for a while now, but never seemed to think of it when I was ready to post on the blog. This idea is one that we have used with great success. I first tried it over 20 years ago and have found it to work better than anything else.

A couple of summers ago, we found a large fire ant nest in our front yard. Not fun! For those who have ever been bitten by these little buggers, you know how painful they can be. They are also hard to get rid of, from what I have often been told.

As soon as we found the nest, I gave my darling husband a container of yellow cornmeal. Yep! The same stuff you use for making cornbread. He scattered it over the nest area pretty well. The next day, the cornmeal was gone and the fire ant hill was completely absent of any activity. Even 2 years later, there has never been another sighting of the hill area becoming active again.

I have used this same trick in the house when I find an ant trail forming. Outdoors, where we had a large trail of the big carpenter ants, I also scattered cornmeal. With every type of ant I have used this on, the results have been the same.

How it works is easy. The ants carry the cornmeal back to the nest and they consume it. The cornmeal swells up in their bellies and kills them. I love that it is completely organic and safe around the cat and kids.

 

Recycled Containers in the Pantry April 18, 2013

I wanted to share a simple and frugal idea. I saw a great idea on TV while spending a few days with a dear friend a couple of months ago. They showed a family who used 2-liter soda bottles for storing rice. That got me thinking.

With many grains or items like powdered milk, you have to watch out for pantry pests such as weevils. Those little buggers will eat their way through paper packaging to get to the dry goods. Many times I have opened a brand new package of saltine crackers and found that weevils had gotten to them. Same thing has happened with various grains, including rice, flour, and powdered milk. If you store these in bulk amounts, such as a large 4-gallon bucket, you can lose the entire bucket of food if weevils happen to have been in the smaller package purchased at the store. What happens is that the weevil can get into the food at the store or warehouse. When you empty it into a larger bulk container at home, yoou have just contaminated the entire supply. This is where creative storage comes in handy.

I don’t use much soda, but we do use a lot of juice. The juice bottles that we get are flat enough that when laying on their side, you can easily stack them. I am using these for rice, oatmeal, granulated sugar, and any other item small enough to easily pour from the bottle. Things like brown sugar are stored in wide mouth containers such as peanut butter jars. I love the fact that if something gets in one container, it won’t cross-contaminate into the entire supply. Case in point, I had a peanut butter container of grits. Weevils got into it and I was able to toss out that one container instead of all the supply. I purposely will buy the amount of an item needed to fill new containers. Unless it is something like sea salt, I typically won’t add new supply to the previously purchased supply. I am able to better rotate my stock this way as well as lessen the chance of contamination should I get a bad batch from the store. With the amount of juice that we drink, I easily have the ready supply of juice bottles ready to be used.

One new idea that I am going to start doing is to buy a pint container of dried herbs at a time. I have certain dried herbs that I use very often. By buying a pint container worth of the herbs at a time, I can fill a peanut butter jar with the herbs. I purchase my herbs in bulk from a health food store for far less than what a grocery store charges. Once I am able to get the herb garden fully established, I will dry my own herbs instead of buying them. Until then, this is my most economical way of getting the culinary herbs that I need.

What inventive ways do you have for storing your pantry supplies?

 

Trip to the ER January 20, 2013

Filed under: faith,family,homesteading,simplicity — ourprairiehome @ 6:44 pm
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On Saturday, I ended up going to the ER. My legs and lower back were painful with my legs also having some numbness. Long story short, I have had this problem for a while but I was being stubborn. The doctor found that I have a lot of inflammation. In November, 2004, I had been in a minor car accident that caused a back injury. It seems that old injury is coming back to haunt me. The doctor also suspects that I may have Rheumatoid Arthritis showing up. Monday, I will be calling to set up a follow-up appointment at a clinic. Likely, there will be some testing needed to find out for certain.

I am returning to my old diet of eating vegetarian foods, leaning more heavily towards vegan diet. In the past, that helped me to have relief. I seemed to feel much better when I avoided packaged foods, meat, eggs, and most dairy products. The only animal products that I ate were hard cheeses, yogurt, butter, and sour cream.

How will RA affect my lifestyle? As little as possible. I will continue to do the daily tasks that I have always done. The only difference is that I will be portioning out the workload a bit more. Heavier work will be saved until my husband is home from his trucking job so that he can help me.

Already, I have been scaling the work down. That is in part the reason why I am working towards getting the house organized. Once the work is done, I will have an easier time in the daily maintenance.

The doctor sent me home with a couple of prescriptions. I will be taking Prednizone for 3 days and a muscle relaxer as needed. I am not entirely thrilled to be taking medication. I am looking at the more natural alternatives. Getting back to the vegetarian diet is only the first step.

On a fun note, my husband and I are doing something new on Monday afternoon. I haven’t been able to wear a wedding ring due to metal allergies. So, we found a tattoo design that we are getting done on our ring finger. The tattoo artist we are going to uses only organic, metal-free inks. I am really excited about this. On our anniversary, February 17th, we will be renewing our wedding vows after church services. When we married, it was very small with only the pastor, his wife, and members of their family. There were no friends or family of our own in attendance. This time, we will be married by our own pastor with our church family there with us. It is such a wonderful time for us.

In upcoming posts, I am going to start sharing more ideas on how to live without electricity. I have been really bad about not posting pictures, so am taking another step in that area. I am planning out my blog posts a bit more and listing pictures that may be needed. The future posts that are of a tutorial style will often have pictures or a link to a YouTube video to go along with it. I have been trying to figure out how to do the videos and finally have come up with a temporary solution using an old cell phone. Quality may not be as good, but it will at least give some illustration.