January 21, 2018

B2B Book Review: High Performance Gardening

Dan's and my first garden on the homestead was huge. It seemed like the right thing to do to become food self-sufficient, but eventually we figured out that it was just too much to manage. If the garden was all we had to do, then sure, it would have been great. But we have other things going on: livestock, home repair, building projects, lumber making, field crops, haying, food preservation, and other self- sufficiency projects like expanding our rainwater collection system, etc. Plus my writing and Dan's job. There just aren't enough hours in a day.

We cut back on the size of the garden, and I cut back on the variety of vegetables we were growing. Also I stopped experimenting with new seeds, deciding to focus on what I knew grew well in our little part of the world. I also knew we'd need to learn ways to extend our growing season and garden more efficiently. That's why I was glad to find High Performance Gardening by Lynn Gillespie in this year's Back to Basics Living Bundle.

What is a high performance garden? The author defines it as a garden that grows in harmony with nature, is disease and insect resistant, has few weeds, requires low time and energy inputs from the gardener (and with only a few tools), utilizes all available gardening space, produces huge yields, and is fun! Isn't that everybody's dream garden?

But isn't that what all books on gardening promise? What makes this one any different? Rather than focusing on specific vegetables, the author deals with concepts. Twelve characteristics of high performance gardens are discussed in detail, supported by science and experience.

One concept that was brand new to me was utilizing the Brix Index to measure the nutrient density of what I grow. What's that, you ask? I'll let the author explain...

"There is a meter called a refractometer that can measure the amounts of dissolved solids in fruits or vegetables to tell you which fruits or vegetables are more nutrient dense than others. The higher the reading on the refractometer the better quality the fruit or vegetable. . . a poor tomato would have a Brix index of 4, an average tomato would have a Brix index of 6, a good tomato would have a Brix index of 8 and an excellent tomato that would make you jump for joy would have a Brix index of 12."
Lynn Gillespie, High Performance Gardening
Ch. 4 "High Performance Characteristic #1:
In Harmony With Nature."

A chart of how various grades of vegetables register on the Brix scale is included.

Who doesn't want to grow food like that! The rest of the book tells you how to achieve excellent nutrient density, how to increase bug and disease resistance, and how to decrease weeds and back-breaking work. I'm thrilled because I feel that at last I have a tool with which to measure my gardening efforts and results.

For a list of all the eBooks in the bundle, click here.

You have several options to purchase the collection:
  • Online access: $39.97
  • USB flash drive: $64.97 (includes domestic shipping)
  • USB flash drive PLUS online access: $69.97 (includes domestic shipping)


And remember! If you buy the bundle through my blog, you get your choice of one volume from my Critter Tales Series eBooks, for free. My Honeybee Tales is included in the bundle, but if you buy the bundle through this link, email me with your choice of another Critter Tales volume, and I'll send you a link for your free copy. (The first volume in the Critter Tales Series is always free, no purchase ever necessary. You can get a free copy of that here.)

January 20, 2018

B2B Book Review: Keys to Successful Homesteading

There are several homestead offerings in this year's Back to Basics Living Bundle, but Keys to Successful Homesteading by Scott M Terry is my hands-down favorite. Some of you may be familiar with Scott from his Christian Farm and Homestead Radio podcasts. I've been on his show a couple of times and can tell you from experience that Scott is extremely knowledgeable and practical about all aspects of farming, homesteading, and agrarianism.

Most books on homesteading are how-to books. Don't get me wrong, these kinds of books are important and extremely useful. They contain skills that people are first concerned about, skills important for self-reliance. But did you know that there are a number of people who get into it, appear to be successful, and then quit? Homestead burnout really does happen. But it doesn't have to. Scott's book will help you avoid it. 

His book is probably one of the most practical books on homesteading out there, because he tells you what other homesteading books omit - the bottom line make-it-or-break-it stuff that is only learned from years of observation and experience. What he teaches you is how to have the proper mindset, realistic expectations, and make good choices. These skills don't come naturally in the modern world, which is why this book is an important addition to the library of everyone interested in homesteading: those still in the research stages, those just starting out, and those who've been at it awhile. Highly recommended.

For a list of all the eBooks in the bundle, click here. If you are interested in any particular one and would like me to review it, just ask!

You have several options to purchase the collection:
  • Online access: $39.97
  • USB flash drive: $64.97 (includes domestic shipping)
  • USB flash drive PLUS online access: $69.97 (includes domestic shipping)

Click here for more information or to buy.

And remember! If you buy the bundle through my blog, you get an additional bonus! Choose any one volume from my Critter Tales Series eBooks and receive it for free. Buy the bundle through this link, email me with which Critter Tales volume you'd like, and I'll send you a link for your free copy. (The first volume in the Critter Tales Series is always free, no purchase ever necessary. You can get a free copy of that here.)


January 19, 2018

B2B Book Review: Heritage Cooking

I know most of you have probably seen this before


Heritage Cooking by Lori Elliot is the cookbook to go with it! Her book is a collection of carefully updated heritage recipes from cookbooks just like our grandparents and great-grandparents used to use.

Heritage recipes really appeal to me. Growing our own food means growing our own ingredients, so it is the traditional skills for preparing, preserving, and cooking them that I want to master. Modern substitutions aren't bad, but knowing how to take the simple foods we grow on the homestead and turn them into wholesome, 100% homegrown meals is a goal. So after taking a look at Going Herbal, this was the second book from the Back to Basics Living Bundle that I looked at.

The introductory chapters introduce you to the featured cookbooks, all originally published in the 1800s. Then she discusses how to source ingredients, make substitutions, and includes a measurement conversion chart (very useful) for converting old-fashioned measurements like saltspoons, gills, wine glasses, and teacupfuls.

Then the recipes. These are divided into sections including Breakfast Dishes (like Cinnamon-Sage Sausage Patties and Spiced Rose Water Pancakes), Breadstuffs (such as Sourdough Graham Bread and Indian Bannock), Soups and Stews (how about Spring Soup or Hodge Podge Stew), Side Dishes (the Bacon Fried Potatoes look yummy), Main Dishes (Ham Apple Pie), Desserts (Baked Carrot Pudding or maybe Chocolate Jumbles), and Cakes and Confections (like Cathie's Gingerbread or Cider Cake and Glaze.)

All recipes include the original version and I think the author made excellent choices in her substitutions for modern ingredients. One of the things I find interesting is that a number of the recipes call for part whole wheat flour and part sprouted wheat flour. There is also a recipe for "Homemade Yeast," i.e. sourdough, as well as some recipes for it.

I would love to have a paperback version of this cookbook, but unfortunately there isn't one!

For a list of all the eBooks in the Back to Basics Living bundle, click here. If you are interested in any particular one and would like me to review it, just ask!

You have several options to purchase the collection:
  • Online access: $39.97
  • USB flash drive: $64.97 (includes domestic shipping)
  • USB flash drive PLUS online access: $69.97 (includes domestic shipping)

Click here for more information or to buy.

And remember! If you buy the bundle through my blog, you may have your choice of one volume from my Critter Tales Series eBooks - free. My Honeybee Tales is included in the bundle, but if you buy the bundle through this link, email me with whichever Critter Tales volume you'd like, and I'll send you a link for your free copy. (The first volume in the Critter Tales Series is always free, no purchase ever necessary. You can get a free copy of that here.)

January 18, 2018

B2B Book Review: Going Herbal

For a book lover like me, opening my Back To Basics Living Bundle was like opening a Christmas gift filled with lots smaller presents inside. Where do I begin? What do I look at first? Actually, it wasn't that hard. The first one I wanted to look at was Marie Beausoleil's Going Herbal: 30 herbs you can start using today for food, cleaning, personal care & health.

Marie's A Cabin Full of Food was in last year's B2B bundle, so those of you who bought that bundle likely understand why I chose her book first. She writes the kind of books that you really want hard copies of, books you'll use as a reference as well as a resource.You can read my review of that book here, and I can tell you that Going Herbal didn't disappoint.

What makes this book different from other books about herbs is her chapter entitled "The Common Active Components of Herbs." Most books give you a list of culinary and medicinal uses for herbs, but in this chapter Marie explains why herbs work. She gives you a brief history of herbs in western culture, also on the safety and quality of herbs including a discussion of misleading information online. The next several chapters discuss growing your own herbs, harvesting and storing, and how to set up your own kitchen pharmacy. If you are unable to grow your own at present, there is an excellent discussion on how to purchase good quality herbs: how to evaluate the company's website and products. The next chapter discusses essential oils and how to choose quality oils.

The bulk of the book is devoted to the herbs, "30 Herbs & How to Use Them." Each herb includes a section on cultivation, tips on growing, medicinal uses, and several recipes. Recipes like Aloe Vera Shampoo, Burdock Hair Conditioner, Dandelion Coffee, Elderberry-Echinacea Syrup, Ginger Oil, Hawthorn Jelly, Basil Insect Repellent, Cayenne Tincture for Relief of Joint Pain, Garlic Antibacterial Ear Drops, Lavender Body Lotion, Licorice Candy, Marshmallow Salad, Nettle Beer, Potato Plantain Soup, Clover Blossom Tea, Rosemary Foot Scrub, Sage Incense, Spearmint Essential Oil, Thyme Facial Toner, Turmeric Juice, and Valerian Tea.

Needless to say, I'm really happy with this book and if it comes out in paperback, I will likely purchase a copy.

For a list of all the eBooks in the bundle, click here. If you are interested in any particular one and would like me to review it, just ask!

You have several options to purchase the collection:
  • Online access: $39.97
  • USB flash drive: $64.97 (includes domestic shipping)
  • USB flash drive PLUS online access: $69.97 (includes domestic shipping)

Click here for more information or to buy.

And remember! If you buy the bundle through my blog, you get your choice of one volume from my Critter Tales Series eBooks, for free. My Honeybee Tales is included in the bundle, but if you buy the bundle through this link, email me with which other Critter Tales volume you'd like, and I'll send you a link for your free copy. (The first volume in the Critter Tales Series is always free, no purchase ever necessary. You can get a free copy of that here.)

B2B Book Review: Going Herbal © January 2018  

January 17, 2018

The 2018 Back To Basics Living Bundle


The Back To Basics Living Bundle is a project I love and this is my third year to participate. I love it because it's a collection of valuable information written by people just like me; people seeking a simpler, more natural way of living. I feel like I fit right in, because this is why I write too, to encourage others who are seeking a simpler, more natural way of living. Not everybody is a writer, but most of us are readers. As writers bundling our eBooks we can offer folks a whole lot of resources for a whole lot less than buying them individually.

So what resources are being offered in the 2018 Back To Basics Living Bundle?

Resources for simplifying your life
  • 31 Days to Simpler Living by Merissa Alink
  • Back to the Basics: Small Space Living by Kayla Kamp
  • Electronic Budget Worksheets by Charisse Merrill 
  • Handmade Gift Planner And Organizer by Jennifer Osuch

Resources for Gardening
  • Edible Landscaping in The Desert Southwest by Catherine Crowley
  • Get Growing: Five Easy-to-Raise Vegetables by Gabe Wright
  • High Performance Gardening by Lynn Gillespie
  • The Art of Gardening: Building Your Soil by Susan Vinskofski

Resources for Natural Cooking and Baking
  • Artisan Bread – The Art Of Sourdough by Dana Thompson
  • Heritage Cooking by Lori Elliott
  • Never Buy Bread Again by Laurie Neverman
  • How to Make Gouda Cheese at Home by Corina Sahlin
  • DIY Homemade Butters with Herbs, Nuts and Fruit by Kristina Nelson

Resources for Home Food Preservation
  • Canning for Beginners by Heather Harris
  • Freezer Meals To Feed The Hungry by Jodi & Julie
  • Homemade Dried Fruits & Vegetables by Carol Murphy 
  • Batch From Scratch by Lisa Barthuly

Resources for Herbal Living
  • 100 Essential Oil Diffuser Blends by Meghan Nowlin
  • Edible and Medicinal Flowers by Kami McBride
  • Going Herbal by Marie Beausoleil
  • Herbal Teas for Winter Health by Carol Little
  • Delicious Dandelions: A Recipe Collection by Annie Coombe

Resources for Planning your Homestead
  • Keys To Successful Homesteading by Scott Terry
  • Modern Homesteading by Sheri Ann Richerson
  • Provident Homesteading by Julie Gropp
  • Pioneering Today – Faith and Home the Old Fashioned Way by Melissa K. Norris

Resources for Preparedness
  • Food Storage Made Easy by Jodi & Julie
  • Pantry And Food Preservation Planner by Kim Mills
  • Your Shelf Stable Pantry by Misty Marsh
  • The Modern American Frugal Housewife Book #4: Emergency Prepping by Jill Bong
  • Your Own 72 Hour Kit Plan by Misty Marsh
  • Living Off Grid by Sheri Ann Richerson

Resources for Keeping Livestock 
  • Pasture Raising Livestock- A Beginners Guide by Jenna Dooley
  • Raising Chickens Naturally by Mindy Wood
  • Honeybee Tales by Leigh Tate

Resources to Learn New Skills
  • Make Maple Sugar in 3 Simple Steps! by Michelle Visser
  • Homebrewing eBook Package by Bill Osuch
  • Hot Process Soap Making by Heidi Villegas
  • Natural Soap Making How-To And Recipe Book by Kelly Cable
  • Make Your Own Vinegar for Pennies by Kathi Rodgers
  • The Guide To Primitive Survival Traps by Blake Alma
  • Rags to Rugs by Kim Brush
  • Green Your Clean by Gabe Wright

Resources for Home Income
  • Rural Hobby Turned Business by Leah Lynch
  • How To Make A Profit Homesteading by Kristin Duke

Resources for Inspiration and Preventing Burnout
  • Homestead Management by Quinn Veon
  • How to Handle a Crisis by Dennis Evers
  • Joyous Home Journal by Theresa Powers
  • A Heart Of Gratitude – 30 Day Thankfulness Devotional by Sara Jordan
  • Everyday Gratitude Journal by Sara Jordan
  • Mom’s Quiet Time Journal by Sara Jordan
  • Dreams From God, A Glimpse of the Future by Susan McDermott

Resources for Kids and Grandkids 
  • Kid’s First Homestead Recipes by Deborah Olsen
  • How to Afford Homeschooling by Selena Robinson
  • Parenting Your Differently Wired Child by Sallie Borrink
  • Preschool: At What Cost? by Susan Stewart
  • Your Homeschool Blueprint by Ana Willis
  • Zero to Hero Nutrition: How to Actually Get Kids to Eat Healthy Food by Christina Kamp
  • 9 Easy Steps to Homeschooling by Michelle Curren

Plus
  • Over $100 in bonus offers.
  • My private bonus offer. Buy the bundle through my blog and get your choice of one volume from my Critter Tales Series eBooks, for free. My Honeybee Tales is included in the bundle, but if you buy the bundle through this link, email me with which other Critter Tales volume you'd like, and I'll send you a link for your free copy. (The first volume in the Critter Tales Series is always free, no purchase ever necessary. You can get a free copy of that here.)

Price?
  • Online access: $39.97
  • USB flash drive: $64.97 (includes domestic shipping)
  • USB flash drive PLUS online access: $69.97 (includes domestic shipping)

The selling point is that bought separately, all of these resources would cost $529.85. Of course, no one would buy every single one individually, because not all of it is relevant to every one of us. What you have to figure out, is whether there's enough good stuff in there to make the 92% discount worth it for you.

So, while the sale is in progress (Jan. 17 - 23) I'll run a series of book reviews on the bundle contents. That way I don't have to try to talk you into anything and you can see for yourself whether the bundle is a good investment for you. If you're curious about any particular eBook on the list, just ask. I'll review it or at least try to answer your questions.

So here's the link to purchase the bundle ⇨ Click Here.

Even if you aren't interested in buying the bundle but enjoy book reviews, come on back! There are some excellent books on offer and if you are interested in homesteading, simple living, and preparedness, you will enjoy learning about these authors and resources.

January 16, 2018

Coming Soon

The 2018 edition of the Back to Basics Living Bundle.


Sale starts tomorrow. If you aren't interested in buying a collection of eBooks but enjoy book reviews, then come back throughout the week. I plan to run a series of daily book reviews on bundle contents covering natural cooking, gardening, preparedness, various homesteading and simple living skills, etc.

Kids!


If everything is going according to the dates circled on my calendar, kidding starts next month!

Jessie will be first with a tentative due date of February 5.

Violet would be about the same time - maybe.
She had a second visit with a buck at a later date.



Daisy is a first freshener who is due in mid-February.
She's already starting to bag up which is a positive sign.

Stay tuned!

Coming Soon © January 2018 by Leigh

January 13, 2018

Goat Barn: The Rest of the Roof

A view through the loafing overhang roof.

The goat barn is officially roofed! Once Dan finished roofing the hayloft, all that was left was the back of the barn.


There were two sections to do: a lean-to to extend the inside space, and an overhang for goat loafing and to protect the doorway from getting muddy. We had a number of clear days, so he was able to get it done.


Looking up between the hayloft floor joists.

So everything is under cover now, which is a relief.

Back side

Barnyard side.

The exterior walls will be next. We discussed every kind of siding we could think of, crunched the numbers, and decided to stick with plywood and battens like the Little Barn and Chicken Coop. We're on the pay-as-we-go method, so I'm not sure when we'll get to buying the plywood. The rest of our savings will have to go to paying the hefty tax penalty for not being able to afford health insurance. Even so, most of the inside work on the milking room can still be done, as well as the hay loft floor and the hay feeder. So progress will continue!

January 10, 2018

Sourdough Doughnnuts


My grandmother taught me to make doughnuts when I was a little girl. Not sourdough doughnuts, nor did they contain any whole grain, but they were one of my best favorites nonetheless! Now, doughnuts are pretty much a seasonal food for us. Frying them keeps the kitchen warm and nothing is tastier for a winter's brunch than fresh, hot doughnuts. Our recent batch was made with sourdough starter.

Sourdough starter

My grandmother's recipe came from her mother, so it's an old one. As you will see, it's not a yeast recipe but rather one for cake doughnuts. So I'm not using the sourdough in place of yeast, I'm using it in place of the milk. I'm not using the sourdough to help the doughnuts rise, I'm using it to have healthy fermented whole wheat flour in them and as the acid with baking soda for a chemical quick bread rise. Here's the recipe.

Sourdough Doughnuts

1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup sugar (I use unbleached cane sugar)
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
unbleached white flour, enough to make a soft dough (3 - 4 cups)

Mix by hand to make a soft dough. My grandmother told me the softer the dough, the better the doughnuts. Roll out on a floured surface to about 1/4-inch thickness and cut into shapes.

I inherited the doughnut cutter from my grandmother.

Preheat oil to 375°F (190°C) and fry first one side until golden brown, then turn and fry the other.

I finally bought a candy thermometer to monitor the oil temperature. If
it's too hot the food burns, if not hot enough the food absorbs excess oil.

The kind of oil or fat makes a huge difference in flavor. My grandmother used lard, but I'm guessing that was before they hydrogenated it and filled it with all sorts of preservatives. That's what keeps me from buying lard today (although I did find some "natural" lard at the store for about $6 for a one pound container.) Instead, I'm using a combination of coconut oil and palm shortening.


To eat them fresh and hot makes them worth waiting on! Once they cool, I coat them with powdered sugar and store in a metal tin. Just like my grandmother did.

Sourdough Doughnnuts © Jan 2018 by Leigh

January 7, 2018

You Know It's Cold When ...

... Meowy wants to stay indoors!


Meowy is 100% farm cat. She loves to prowl, loves to hunt, and loves to be outdoors. She runs into the house only long enough to grab a bite to eat if hunting isn't good, and then it's out and off again. All day long she's busy stalking and catching mice, shrews, rats, chipmunks, rabbits, and squirrels. I've even seen her worry a snake or two. She loves going squirrel hunting with Dan, and is willing to fetch the prey, even though it's almost as big as she is! She's just a wee bit of a cat.

Sam and Meowy

Meowy hates rain. When we have long rainy spells she'll come inside, but paces constantly like a caged panther. She'll try to lay down for a catnap, but soon pops up again to pace some more. Every ten minutes or so she'll go to the door and meow, but when either Dan or I open it for her, she just stands there and glares at the rain, tail switching impatiently. Then she'll turn back and give whomever opened the door a good swat on the ankles as though the rain is our fault!

Because she's small and lightweight, we've always made her come in at night when the weather gets below freezing. She would prefer to spend the night nestled down in the hay, but we figure she doesn't have enough spare calories to spend on keeping warm. Over the years she has grudgingly accepted this. And anyway, hunting is poor when all the critters worth catching are burrowed deep in their dens for the night. Even so, Meowy is always the first cat out the door in the morning, ready to begin a new day.


These frigid January temps, however, have been too much even for Meowy! She not only volunteers to come in, but has been taking long daytime naps indoors as well. That's fine with us, because everything is frozen solid now. She likes to accompany Dan or me when we go out to swap frozen water buckets for fresh, but she's also willing to come back in when we are. You know it's cold when Meowy wants to stay indoors!

Sam, on the other hand, never passes up an
opportunity to be as comfortable as possible.


Do you have a "you know it's cold when ...?" Let us hear it!

January 4, 2018

Hayloft Roof & Weathervane

Cold, rainy days have made this project a slow go, but at last the roof is on the hayloft.

With ridge beam and rafters

With nailers

 
With metal roof

From the side

And the crowning touch - the cupola and weathervane!


Next will be the roof on the back section, and then we can start working on the walls.

January 1, 2018

Homestead Goals for 2018

Happy New Year! Somehow, the middle of winter seems an odd place for the new year to begin, especially in terms of seasonal rhythms. But nobody asked me, so as long as I have new calendars and remember to end the date with an 8 instead of a 7, all is well.

No matter when the new year starts, winter is a good time for evaluating and adjusting our goals and plans. These have mostly been geared toward homestead infrastructure, or what I call our "establishment phase." Trying to become self-sufficient is a lot of work! None of our plans for the upcoming year are new ones; they are either extensions or modifications of things we've been working on,

1. Finish the barn. I'm sure that doesn't surprise anyone, and there is still quite a bit to do: finish the roof, then walls, windows, doors, workbench and shelves for feed processing and storage, feeder, pens, hay feeder. Then we'll need a corral with gates to facilitate pasture rotation for the does. That leads to goal #2.

2. Fencing and Pasture. Once the barn is done we can work on the fences and pasture improvement:
  • Fencing. The bottom line is that we just aren't set up well for a faithful rotational grazing program. What we thought would work, hasn't. Having a number of fences squashed by falling pine trees hasn't helped, but if we have to repair fences, we might as well consider a better subdivision of paddocks.
  • Pasture improvement. The goal is sustainable pasture, but it has been a huge challenge to make it so. I've tried a lot of things over the years and have made some progress, but it's not enough. Grazing rotation is key, but that must wait on the fences. So as we reestablish fences, we will also work toward further soil and forage improvement. 

3. House. Another ongoing project, but there isn't much left: front porch ceiling, front bedroom windows, and the back gable end of the house. However, the roof on our little addition off the kitchen is badly in need of repair, so this will have to be the priority house project.

So that's it for us. Have you thought about your plans for the new year? Are you continuing with long-term projects or starting something new? May it be a productive year for us all!

Homestead Goals for 2018 © January 2018