Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Garden

It's January. Just today we've had a break in the temps. and it's supposedly 42 degrees outside. Heat wave compared to the 20 degree weather we've had for the past week or two. My furnace has been running like crazy.

I've been doing more reading lately about gardening. I had a pretty good idea before about what cool weather crops are, but now I know for sure. And I think I could grow them.

Here in town, I have only a small garden plot (and I mean small). I live on a half an acre, but half of that is in front of the house, and the other half is pretty much fenced in for the kids and dog. Not too conducive to having a big garden. Oh, sure, I suppose I could dig up a mess and really plant a bunch. But my soil here is pretty sad and it'd be a loooot of work making it worth growing anything in. My small plot allows me to plant some stuff, tend it, and work good stuff into the soil.

So I've been planning. This year, no radishes. I like to grow them because they're easy and look nice, but I always plant more than we eat and end up wasting a bunch. I'm gonna stick to just a few things. Onions. Try to grow 'em big. Tomatoes. Maybe only four plants this year, since the six I had last year produced so much I was sick of looking at the things. Beans - green - bush. And sweet corn. A few rows and hope and pray I learn better when to pick them. I have two rhubarb plants and a small grape vine that actually produced enough grapes last year to make some jelly. Small garden, but still a lot of work with weeding, hoeing, watering, etc. Now all I have to do is keep myself from buying all the seed packets I see (which is always a temptation).

Thursday, January 24, 2008


I'm discouraged today. Last night I met with my best friend for our usual weekly "coffee" at the local Applebee's restaurant. As we talked, I shared with him my ideas for homesteading and what I wanted to do. I told him that I'm already making our bread instead of buying it (saving about $3 a week), and that I intend to put up a clothesline in the back yard and be more vigilant about my garden.

Now, the first time I mentioned this to him, a couple of weeks ago, he smiled at me and said something about 'idealism'. He knows me well. Last night, however, he sat with a look on his face that said, "OK, I'll humor you," with just a dab of "you're crazy" condescension thrown in. You know, people don't have to agree with a choice of a way of life, but I sort of expected a little more encouragement from him. Now, I understand he doesn't 'get it'. The whole 'self-sufficiency' thing. But he does understand my love of nature and the outdoors, gardening and watching things grow. That said, it shouldn't be too hard for him to see me make the switch. After all, we're living on one income and one vehicle and have for nearly three years. BUT to be fair, (and to make a contrast) he said his wife was trying to think of every way possible to quit work and stay home with their son. They have a lower mortgage than we do, only one child (I have three), both have good paying jobs (he makes about as much as my wife does, and the prospect of a raise in the very near future), and have two vehicles. Plus he has a nail bending business on the side (yeah, he bends horseshoe nails and sells 'em to people to make those "Disciples Cross" necklaces - and I'm crazy?) More money, more debt? Dunno. But we're kinda living on opposite ends of the spectrum here. SO.....

I know I'm not crazy and there are a lot of people out there that would applaud any effort I'd make toward self-sufficiency and homesteading, offering their advice, encouragement, and support as needed. But I think it's probably understandable why I'd be discouraged today, after my experience last night. Just needed to vent.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Buying the Farm

Well, I'm not anywhere truly near being ready to buy property to homestead, but I enjoy looking. I've found several websites devoted to selling rural land and homes. Sometimes I get pretty discouraged because I know it's gonna cost an arm and a leg to get what I really want. But on the other hand, I keep thinking that God will work things out. Besides, the place I buy probably isn't even on the market yet... give it a year or so.

Funny thing is, I can see the place in my head. I can see the house and the layout of the buildings... the barn, the garage, the chicken house, the garden, etc. I can see it all. I've even gone so far as to draw it all out on paper before and do some landscape designing around the house! Now, these are probably all just images in my head. But won't I just crap a brick if, someday in the future, a realtor calls me up and says, "Dan, I have a place I want you to see." We pull up in the drive and my jaw hits the ground.... this is the place in my mind. Well, I'd know for sure that that's the place I'm supposed to have, that's for sure.

I'd love to hear how you found your place and knew it was "right".

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Popcorn - the old fashioned way

I remember Friday nights at home as a kid. Dinner, clean up, wait.... Then.... "Dukes of Hazzard", then "Dallas" (ooooh, that JR), then "Falcon Crest". All of this craziness was usually accompanied by bowls full of popcorn.

My wife and I were doing some shopping yesterday while my mom had the kids. We were picking up a few odds and ends that we needed in the pantry and around the house. As we went down the snack aisle of the store, my wife asked me if we had microwave popcorn. I said I didn't know, because I usually don't eat the stuff much. She thought we were out, so she began looking at boxes in order to see if she could find a brand that didn't' have partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in it....

As an aside, I challenge you to do your grocery shopping without buying anything that contains either partially hydrogenated veggie oil, or high-fructose corn syrup. It can't be done! You'll come home with one, maybe two items! And neither of those ingredients are good for you - at all! But they're in absolutely everything!

Anyway, she could only find one kind of Orville Redenbocker's that didn't have it. It was packaged as organic or some such and cost more. Pshaw.

Now here's the thing about microwave popcorn... Until I was in High School back in the late 80's, such a thing was pretty well unheard of. But by the time I got into college, the smell of prepackaged/prebuttered popcorn could be smelled wafting from the snack room microwave nearly every night of the week. It's all about convenience, I guess.

Now, later on last night, I got to thinking about all the bags of microwave popcorn ever made in the world and I'm sure the number would be staggering. But at what cost? I burn more than I successfully make. And the partially hydro... oh sheesh, that's a lot to spell out.... the PHVO's are killing us. Then I thought, "Well here's something interesting to note..." People my age and older still refer to it as "Microwave Popcorn", contrasted to just 'popcorn'. See, to me, there is a vaaaast difference between the stuff in the bag, and real popcorn. So the fact that a lot of us still make a differentiation, in my opinion, is significant.

I still remember the black handled, silver metal pot that we used when I was a kid. Pour in the oil. Heat it up. Add the corn. Shake it a bit. Put the lid on and let it pop away. Once it's done, pour it out and then melt your butter in the still-hot pot.

So there we were, standing there there looking at the popcorn. In my effort to become more self-sufficient, I made a decision. We bought a bag of loose popcorn. It was about a buck-fifty and will make several servings of popcorn. Compare that with the boxes of 'the other stuff', which was more costly, not as good for you, and less exciting to make. I think I made a better choice.

Now here's the real biggie. My kids have never, NEVER seen popcorn made the 'old fashioned way' at home. This will blow their minds. They'll be amazed. So, I'm increasing their life experiences and doing something better for myself and my family too. How's that?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

My Idealistic Mind

I've been reading a lot about homesteading over the past few weeks. It's like a fever. It started with chickens and finding out how to raise them. But I'm not sure what started that. Now I imagine my farm, complete with a huge garden, four pigs (1 sow for piggies, one to sell and pay for the other two to go to the butcher), a chicken coop with plenty of egg layers, and either some goats or a cow for milk and meat.

When I think about this stuff, I'm not in the least daunted by the thought of canning and freezing tons of produce and fruit. Making jelly and jam is something I already do and I can tomatoes too. Managing land to prevent overgrazing and what crops I can feasibly grow to feed the animals during the winter, that is a bit daunting.

But then I start thinking about making my own butter and cheese. Soap making has taken a spot in my interests too. And smoking meat has come to the forefront in the past day or two... you know, you can make a smokehouse pretty easily?

I envision myself and the kids going out to the garden for an hour a day and weeding, hoeing, picking... (wife is the one that works an outside job in our house). Doing morning and evening chores, being an old hand at making the family bread (which I've started doing), and making pert near everything else as much from scratch as I can. It appears to be a very tiring life. Exhausting, actually. But somehow, and also quite strangely, fulfilling.

Now I'll be the first to admit that my mind and the way I think about things is pretty doggone idealistic, focusing on the romantic notion of a thing until the true reality raises its ugly head. It's at that point that I usually cool to an idea and move on to something else. I'm trying to be very realistic about all of this... at least as much as I know how to be.

This time might be different, though. See, God wired me for a love of nature and the outdoors. He made me to love putting something in the ground and watching it grow. And though I love civilization and all the perks that come with it (shopping, eating out, etc.), I think I much prefer the quiet and darkness of a summer night in the country compared to a night on the town. I've already begun to work on developing the discipline it'll take to run a small family farm. I'm just being a little more on the ball I guess. So maybe I'm not so crazy. Maybe idealism is the grist that keeps me going toward a goal and helps me even consider a thing as worth doing in the first place.

I've got a long way to go. I'm trusting in God for a lot of help here, some wisdom, and guidance. I'm asking Him if He'll bless me with five acres out in the country (but I'm hoping he surprises me with 12 or some bigger ridiculous number). I'm asking for it from Him. This summer should be a great time for me to get a small look at just what I'm in for.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Doing Laundry

Today is laundry day. Last summer, I remodelled our bathroom, which also doubles as the laundry room. The fact that we're still not using said bathroom for it's original purposes is another story, but we are doing laundry in there!

As a matter of fact, our old washer/dryer was a one-piece stack unit like you might see in an apartment. Now, houses go through trasformations over the years as different owners change things around. For instance our family room was once the garage. It's seriously like somebody decided one day to say, "Hey hon, pull out the car, I'm gonna throw up a wall and turn the garage into a family room." In the process, they went to the expense of adding on another attached garage, complete with Bedfordstone siding tied into the original house.

That said, our bathroom in question (we have another, by the way) was once just the laundry room. I'm sure that it had cabinets, a counter, a wash tub or basin, maybe a 'new fangled' washing machine, etc. But somewhere along the way, it was decided that the space would be more useful as a bathroom. So the appropriate ceramics were installed and the washer/dryer was chosen and put in for its compactness for the space. This one-piece unit finally bit the dust as we were about to remodel. So for several weeks, as I'm tearing up the bathroom, we had to take our laundry (and kids) to the local laundry-mat. That was an experience in itself. I worked frantically for several weeks to get the room back to a point where we could reinstall a washer and dryer. Finally the time arrived and a trip to our local Lowe's produced a new Whirlpool stackable front end loader whashe and a dryer to go on top. Both are supposed to be energy efficient. However....

I say all of that to say that I've been thinking some about this. I wanna save some money. I wanna work toward true homesteading (not washing clothes in a cauldron of boiling water or beating them on a rock). I'm thinking an easy way to do both would be to put up a clothesline in the back yard. We live on a half an acre. Most of the backyard is fenced in for our dog and kids. My wife frets about putting the clothesline there because she envisions the dog pulling on the clothes and dragging them all over creation. I envision the kids doing that. So deciding where to put it is certainly the biggest obstacle right now. I can't see how actually installing it will be that big of a deal. Just where do I put it?

This is a bigger deal than it may seem at first. I have a lot of neighbors. And though there are none behind me (a corn field lies that-a-way), I still have plenty of folks around to consider. Some people could be clothesline intollerant (wow, I hate this kind of 'pc' nonesense). In other words, they might not appreciate the fact that my clothes are hanging outside for them to look at all the time. Now, it's a free country and I can install the clothesline if I want to, but I do want to keep good relations with my neighbors. Chances are, it'll end up in the back yard somewhere. Maybe I'll fenagle some sort of fencing or something around it to keep the dog away.... we'll see. Got any ideas?

Monday, January 14, 2008


I'm a member of a forum on a site called I posted a question the other day about how a Christian homesteader tithes. Basically, I wanted to know how, since a homesteader's 'increase' isn't necessarily monetary, a proper tithe might be given to the Lord. It was a sincere question and I was seeking sincere discourse. Sheesh. I must be soooo much more naive than I thought.

Some of the responses ranged from near outright "church-hating", fat-a**ed preacher bashing... to "give em compost". With a lot of "you don't need church to be a Christian" in the middle. what does that have to do with my question about tithing? If you don't think you need to be a part of a local body as a Christian, fine. But leave my post alone, since it was obviously written in such a way as to make plain the fact that I DO!

Fortunately, there were about three or four individuals that bore the marks of true Christians as their responses were respectful, well thought, sincere, and helpful. I'm not saying that any of the other responders aren't Christians, but "They will know we are Christians by our love".

Now, since this is a new blog and I doubt anyone has even viewed my page, I'm not really expecting much response. But if you do read this and would like to know the gist of my original post on the other site, I'd be happy to share it with you.

Thanks, and God bless.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

El Numero Uno

Well, here it is... my first blog as a hopeful homesteader. No, I'm not a full-fledged homesteader yet. No animals or pasture, etc. But I do garden, am a Master Gardener, can and make apple butter and jelly.

One day down the road, I hope to move myself, my wife, our three kids and our dog to a little slice of heaven out in the country somewhere to commence with animal husbandry, huge gardening, and generally good country living. Idealistic? Yeah, but I know I'm that way, so I try to temper it.

I'll try to post some things as I go along about how life now is and what efforts I make to move toward my dreams.

By the way, I'm a stay-at-home dad, and I homeschool our oldest. Lest you think I'm a laze-about... I do have an MA in counseling that I've used frequently for the past 8 years.