Look Around You…Making Use of What you have.

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The Colonials, Pioneers, people living in the Depression era and then WW2 all learned to be resourceful. The colonials arrived at Plymouth rock with whatever they packed on the ship…and those were finite resources. They had to look around and see what they could use to survive.

The pioneers moving west also had to be inventive on the trail to make repairs, supplement their pantry supplies, and treat illness. Folks living through the Depression era were struck with low wage or no wage in conjunction with high prices or poor supply. They had to save and reuse, re purpose, forage, and make meals out of very little.

*We will explore frugal meal options in a future post and youtube videos*

The same again with families during WW2 when rations limited the amount of food that could be purchased and oftentimes the supply could not even match the ration books of many families in many towns.

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School Children during the Depression Era.

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Right now, at time of writing, there are many Americans who are malnourished in the face of an affluent country. Malnourished, yet they live in a country that wastes millions of tonnes of food annually and when an increasing number of people are obese.

For those people who always have the financial stability to just drive to the store and buy more food if they run out, the thought of having very little to eat might seem unlikely….and that is the wrong way to think entirely. 

We should not take for granted that the supermarket will always be open and stocked, we cannot take for granted that there will be mechanics, electricians, doctors, hardware stores, access to purchased fuel. We should learn to make use of what we have more in order to humble ourselves, to waste less, and to give ourselves a little bit of security knowing that we have acquired skills and knowledge that we might not have otherwise.

Lets look at the prickly pear cactus at the top of the post, the Native Americans knew how valuable this plant was and we can make use of it too. It grows wild all over the southwest and is easy to keep in other climates [check with your local extension office if you can grow them where you live]. The prickly pear fruit can be used to make a drink, syrup, jelly. The young cactus pads can be skinned and eaten like a cucumber and even pickled too. The larger spines can be used as sewing needles. Neat huh?

What grows wild near you (away from traffic and chemicals) that you can utilize?

What can you grow in your garden that can feed you and give other purpose too?

We have wild creosote and mesquite bushes…the creosote attracts bees, when pruned it provides mulch material, and most importantly it holds the soil structure and prevents erosion.  The Mesquite makes bean like pods that can be ground for flour, they provide shade and habitat for beneficial insects, and when pruning the dead wood you have a great wood for smoking meats.

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A small handful of Creosote and Mesquite.

It’s not just wild things that we can make use of (with good reference books of course!) but what man-made or man-left things can you re-use?

When we arrived on our homestead, there were some things left behind in the barn, a shed, and in a small salvage pile. In the rafters of the barn we have a bunch of scrap wood, siding, pipes, iron rods, a few tools. The shed we have pvc piping, old milk pails, rebar,  and the shed is also the perfect size to renovate into our hen house. In the salvage pile we have cattle fencing, fence posts, wood boards, and even sign posts!

Luckily the materials left behind are all decent and useful to us…I know sometimes people move to a home and find actual junk that they wont use…or things they see as junk instead of a resource. I have already used some posts and cattle wire for my compost coral, wood boards for a couple raised beds, and I plan to use a piece of particle board to make a barn quilt *more on that later!*

Above is the giant mass of bamboo growing inside our “back yard”area. A problem if let to get too out of hand but what a great resource! I am using some as a filler in the bottom of raised beds and also permaculture beds, some I will use to make edging for our garden flower borders, some will be used as a flooring and interest for our chickens to scratch through (and after they have scratched it up it will go to compost) and the leaves I have been using as a mulch along with bush trimmings. Not to mention I doubt I’ll need to buy bamboo canes for climbing plants ever again!

By saving some food cans, I have been able to use some to grow sweet potato slips in and some as seed starting pots. I punched holes in the bottom for drainage and at planting time I will remove the bottom and plant the seedling WITH the can around it. This wards off pests that attack tomato and pepper stems. Eventually the can will rust and I will carefully dispose of it at the recycle center.

Saved food jars that are not of suitable size for home caning lids, can be used to store dried foods in having kept the screw caps but here I am using them to propagate celery.

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Lastly for now, these railroad sleepers were left behind and I used them to make a small bed that is for the boys to experiment with. We filled it with native soil and steer manure compost. They got to chose and buy seeds and they can grow and learn with this bed so that I can manage our main food and market beds. Presently they have basil plants, mint, thyme, radish, lemon cucumber (that will trail out the right corner), a baby watermelon (trail out left corer), sunflower along the back, marigold along the sides, and ruby chard in the middle.

Its great for kids to learn for themselves. Experiment and learn what works and think about solutions and plan based on prior knowledge. Example, knowing that the sunflowers grow tall, we discussed the best place would be the back edge with west sun behind them so as to offer some partial shade for the chard and radish in the middle and apex.

So that’s me finished for now, just a few ideas of how to look around you and be inventive. Re-use things as much as you can and think outside the box.

Your giant bamboo monster needs thinning? Do so mindfully and make use of it in several ways. Another cute idea I will be making is solitary bee nests and I will have some of those for sale.

Did you purchase celery and are still waiting to be able to plant your own seeds out? Propagate…in a later blog post I will show you everything I am propagating from bought fruit and vegetables.

Also, I will show you how to make flower border edging with said bamboo monster and of course! A barn quilt. Excited for that!

Thanks for reading if you got this far and sorry for delay since the last post. Been super busy over here but I have lots to catch you up on. I hope you enjoyed today’s post and look forward to any comments or thoughts below.

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The Quiet After Monsoon Rains

 

So you want to Homestead…

produce My FIRST harvest. Not particularly spectacular; a deformed bell pepper, a few radishes, some super bitter sun scorched cucumbers, just two ears of corn that had maybe 30 kernels pollinated…but the cherry and pear tomatoes were gorgeous! It wasn’t much but to me it was a huge deal and was the high that led to be literally addicted to gardening.

Since I was a little girl I have wanted a home farm so I cannot really remember when I first thought – hey, I want to homestead – but after getting married I knew that homesteading was going to be my goal and I am just very lucky that I have a spouse who supports the madness and actually wants in on it too… provided there are fresh tomatoes for as much of the year as possible!

11424757_10207221017902654_5121941254151902711_nSometimes they don’t turn green before the cold but thanks to the Southern states we can make pickled green tomatoes if we don’t make them fried.

So what do you do when you want to be a homesteader? Well its not often an instant endeavor and it is a lifelong learning process. You may be in a city with only a balcony, you may live in an apartment but near enough to a community garden, the suburbs may be where you call home or you may already live in the country. It doesn’t matter where you are, there are SO many things you can learn and do wherever life has you right now.

In no particular order, here is a list of things that you can do to nourish that Old Soul of yours:

  • READ – I can not over emphasize enough how truly valuable your local library is. They will have all manner of books that can teach you skills and history. Our local library has a ‘local’ section where we can find books specific to our area such as managing the soil or growing a particular cash crop. One of the books that I loved so much that I bought is The Encyclopedia of Country Living [Emery] . 517s6+KwtLL._SX383_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

 

  • RRR (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) – Our ancestors would have been outraged at the amount of packaging and “throw away” fashion or appliances we have today. But we don’t have to be driven by the consumer nature that seems to be normal for our times. Reduce how much you put into the landfill by using something as simple as a cloth bag for your groceries or switching from paper towels to washable rags. Reuse or re-purpose before you throw something out such as keeping condiment jars for storing spices or dried fruit in. Recycle by turning a felted woolen sweater into boot cuffs.glass-255281_960_720

[Image https://pixabay.com/en/glass-glasses-bottles-255281/]

  • COOK – Now I understand that everyone schedules differ but you will get immense satisfaction by making at least one meal a day from scratch and if you have this homestead bug then you probably do this already. This could be as simple as foregoing pre-flavored oatmeal in favor of making your own from plain oats and adding fruit and nuts to it yourself or it could be as elaborate as never buying anything that is not a whole food (raw and in it’s natural state).

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  • GROW – Get your hands dirty either in containers on your balcony and grow some herbs OR turn your lawn into a food garden (local covenants allowing). While you are learning, getting your thumbs green with a few containers will teach you a lot about gardening even if you don’t yet have an actual in-ground garden.

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  • YOUTUBE and BLOGS – there is a plethora of knowledge out there and book knowledge is only one level. Find some YouTube speakers and Bloggers that cover topics that you are interested in because personal experiences can fill in what reference books miss. Historically we would have learned skills from family and neighbors but many homestead skills are being lost and so like-minded people can be your internet ‘family’ and we can learn a lot from our peers.

 

So there are my first tips to stoking that homestead fire in your heart and you might have noticed that the key theme is knowledge and practice.

The more you know before trying to go whole hog the more comfortable you will be. The wonder of homesteading is that there IS so much to learn but if it is something you have passion about then it is not a chore.

Learning and practicing SKILLS will be the key to success on your homesteading endeavors and the more you can learn on the way the better equipped you will be.