September 21, 2020

Peppermint Tea

What amazing weather. September is usually the month we hope for relief from the blistering heat. This year, we've got amazingly cool and crisp days. September is also the month when I begin to focus on harvesting herbs. The kitchen garden picking and preserving of July and August are behind me now, so it's time to switch gears. 

Peppermint! Some for now,

and some to dry for later.

About a tablespoon of fresh peppermint per cup boiling water.

There's nothing like a good cup of tea on a chilly day.

Drying can take several days or more, depending on the humidity.

Peppermint air drying on a bamboo mat.

Stored in a glass jar for winter enjoyment.

I've started a homestead herb notebook because I want a handy resource for all the herbs I grow and gather here at home. I have years of notes scattered in several places, but now seems a good time to focus on my homestead herbs. Here are some of my notes on peppermint.

Peppermint page in my homestead herb notebook.

Are you still busy with your harvest? Or are you switching gears too?

Peppermint Tea © September 2020

September 19, 2020

Giveaway Winners Announced

Firstly, I want to thank Permies.com for hosting a giveaway this week for four copies of 5 Acres & A Dream The Sequel. There were excellent questions and discussions in the homesteading forum. Also, I loved that I got to meet some of you who have read my blog for years but have never left a comment. It was a pleasure!

Winners are announced here. Congratulations to each one!

If you missed the giveaway, you can read my unveiling announcement here.

If you're interested in buying a copy, so far, you'll only see it listed for sale on Amazon (US, CA, UK, DE, FR, IT, ES, JP), but also, it can now be requested from your favorite online book seller. They will gradually be getting it listed on their websites. Or ask your local library to buy a copy!

Thank you, every one, for your encouragements and kind compliments. You all are the reason I love to write.

September 16, 2020

Chapter 1: The Dream, Is It Still Alive?

Before I share chapter one from 5 Acres & A Dream The Sequel with you, I want to remind you of the giveaway taking place over at Permies.com. Four copies will be given at the end of the week. Follow the link for how to enter. Winners will be announced on Saturday.

Following is chapter on in it's entirety. I hope you enjoy it!

You can learn more about my new sequel here.


5 Acres & A Dream The Sequel 
Chapter 1

The Dream: Is It Still Alive?


“There no specific point that either my husband Dan or I can pinpoint being the birth and definition of our dream. . . . Rather, it has been an attraction to a way of life, to what we thought would be more fulfilling and personally more productive than the typical lifestyle of our culture.”
“The Dream,” 5 Acres & A Dream The Book (p. 3)

If you were to ask me what has changed on our homestead since I wrote 5 Acres & A Dream The Book, I would tell you, “a lot.” At a glance, everything looks quite different. The house is now blue and features a bay window overlooking a large open front porch. At the end of the driveway stands the goat barn, exactly where our old coal barn used to be but newer and fresher, with my hand-painted barn quilt gracing the hayloft doors. Behind it, the original chicken coop and goat shed has been expanded into a workshop for Dan and sports a new metal roof. Next to that is the chicken coop Dan built several years ago and the enlarged chicken yard. The two old oaks that I loved finally died and became firewood. In their place, three solar panels now stand at attention.

Above: Our original driveway (2009).
Below: Our driveway today (2020).


We called the original barn (above) the “coal barn” because it once housed coal to
heat the house. The new barn (below) has the same footprint, but with a hayloft .


The biggest changes, however, are not what you see when you look around. The biggest changes are in how we are learning to view ourselves and our relationship with our homestead. There is a long litany of “failed” experiments to go along with that change, each resulting in a flurry of new research, not to mention soul-searching. Yes, there have been times we've questioned what we're doing here and whether it's worth it. More than once we have discussed walking away, but that discussion doesn't last long. Besides the obvious question of, “what else would we do?” there is an inner conviction that this is how we are supposed to live.

  Above: The house when we first arrived in 2009.
Below: The house after extensive repair and upgrading.


Above: The outbuilding we first used chicken coop and goat shed.
Below: The same building expanded to become Dan's workshop.


The more we interact with the natural world around us—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—the more we understand ourselves to be a part of it. Our life's work is to conduct ourselves in such a way that our five acres of earth can be its best self. And that begs the question of how. How do we function as part of our homestead ecosystem?

That idea is counter-cultural to modern thinking. Modern thinking tends to view humans as an environmental problem. It's true, humans are extremely destructive creatures, but if humankind is truly “The Problem,” then someone or something got it wrong. Either God was wrong in creating us in the first place, or evolution was wrong by selecting us to become the dominant species. What is true, is that there is an extreme disconnect between modern culture and the natural world. Urbanization and technology are leading people away from nature. That influences how they see it, how they think about it, and what they want to do with it.

Unfortunately, today's high esteem for technological advancement and gadgetry is a blind spot in the modern point of view. Problems are recognized, but causes are ignored. Research is based on reductionist science rather than the whole, and the recommended solution is always to throw more technology at the problem. But haven't they noticed things are only getting worse?

“We longed for a simpler life, a life that gave a sense o purpose, appreciation, and satisfaction with what we do and how we do it. We wanted a lifestyle that relied less on consumerism and more on our relationship with the natural creation and its gifts.”
“The Dream,” 5 Acres & A Dream The Book (pp. 3-4)

The longer we homestead the more this is true, and the world's way continues to become less attractive. Consumerism is certainly less appealing, in part because we prefer what we can grow and produce ourselves. But also, because of the increasingly poor quality of commercial goods being produced nowadays. Food from the grocery store has no substance; no real flavor. Construction materials are becoming smaller, flimsier, and contain more flaws. The metal used in tools and equipment is either lighter gauge or replaced with plastic, which eventually cracks and breaks. When faced with the choice between buying such offerings or doing something else, we increasingly have chosen to do something else.

Sometimes that something else is doing without. We’ve learned that we can truly live with less. It's not that we're settled for less, it's that we realize we can be content with less. The old saying “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” is good advice. The interesting thing is that when we don’t continually rely on buying solutions to problems, the brain somehow switches into its creative mode. By casting about for alternatives, new ideas present themselves. I'd say we've accomplished more with fewer financial resources than we thought possible. And we’re happier for it! Because of that, I can say with certainty we are indeed living our dream.

How have these changes impacted our goals? More on that next.

******

You can find more information about my new sequel here.

© Sept 2020 by Leigh at http://www.5acresandadream.com

September 13, 2020

Published! 5 Acres & A Dream The Sequel

At last! I can finally announce that my sequel to 5 Acres & A Dream The Book is officially published! Oh my, but I often thought this day would never come. But it did, and here it is.

5 Acres & A Dream The Sequel:
Lessons Learned in the Quest for
a Self-Sufficient Homestead

Back cover blurb:

"The homesteading dream, is it still alive?

"In 2009, Leigh and Dan Tate bought a 1920s farm house on five neglected acres in the foothills of Southern Appalachia. They had a dream but very little money. All was going well until an unfortunate accident forced them to rethink everything they were about.

"5 Acres & A Dream The Sequel is the second book in Leigh Tate’s homesteading series. It follows 5 Acres & A Dream The Book, and takes a hard look at what happened to their dream. Has it changed? Are their goals and priorities still the same? Leigh updates their progress toward food, energy, and water self-sufficiency, sharing how their self-reliance goals have expanded and changed. She shares how they've learned to prioritize projects in spite of distractions and discouraging times, and how they deal with feeling overwhelmed. She discusses how their relationship with their land and animals has changed the way they see themselves and their homestead."

Excerpts from the Introduction:

"When I first published 5 Acres & A Dream The Book, I never dreamed it would do as well as it has. Nor that I would hear from so many people telling me how encouraging that book has been to them. When I look back through it, however, I am aware of how much our homestead has changed. Between that and the encouragement I receive to continue writing, I felt that it was time to share the next part of my husband Dan’s and my story."

"If you're looking to take back some sense of control over your life, then I hope this book is an encouragement to you. I hope it can help you develop a new normal of your own making, with a greater sense of purpose and inner freedom. You don't need large acreage or a lot of money to start a garden. Or to simplify your diet. Or your lifestyle. You just need to take a first step. We all start the journey at the same place—the beginning."

Author Bio:

"Leigh Tate is a long-time homesteader and passionate advocate for sustainable, simpler, self-reliant living. Through her books and blog, she shares what she and her husband Dan are learning about homesteading, permaculture gardening, off-grid food preservation, regenerative soil management, holistic livestock keeping, plus energy, water, and resource stewardship. She enjoys encouraging others to make their own homestead dreams come true."

Chapters: 

Ch. 1 - The Dream: Is It Still Alive?
Ch. 2 - Reassessing Our Goals
Ch. 3 - Reevaluating Our Priorities
Ch. 4 - Fine-tuning the Master Plan
Ch. 5 - The Transition Phase
Ch. 6 - Food Self-Sufficiency: Feeding Ourselves
Ch. 7 - Food Self-Sufficiency: Feeding Our Animals
Ch. 8 - Energy Self-Sufficiency
Ch. 9 - Water Self-Sufficiency
Ch. 10 - Resource Self-Sufficiency
Ch. 11 - Discouraging Things
Ch. 12 - Distractions
Ch. 13 - Toward Keeping a Balance
Conclusion: A Sense of Purpose

Appendices:

Homestead Recipes
Resources
Pasture Rotation: 3 Models
Polyculture Forage, Hay, and Cover Crop Lists

Praise For: here

Look Inside: at Amazon

Giveaway: In partnership with Permies.com, I'll be giving away four (4) copies of The Sequel. You need to join their forum to participate, but I promise it's the best permaculture and homesteading forum I've found. Entry details can be found at this page. Giveaway dates are Sept. 14 - 18. I hope to see you there!

Technical Stuff:

9 x 6 inch paperback, 260 pages
204 photos, 11 charts and diagrams
ISBN-13: 978-0-9897111-4-2
ISBN-10: 0-9897111-4-5
List price: $12.95 USD

Currently available from:

Amazon.com
Amazon.ca
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.de
Amazon.fr
Amazon.es
Amazon.it
Amazon.jp
        And will soon be available from other online booksellers.
        I'll keep an updated list at my book website.

If you're willing to give this a share to help me get the word out, I'd appreciate it!

September 10, 2020

An Exotic Treat in the Mail

I received a lovely treat in the mail!


These lovely goodies came from Wholesale Nuts And Dried Fruit, sellers of bulk nut and dried fruit (obviously!).

They look and smell so good, popping with flavor. But what should I make? I toyed with the idea of fruitcake, which I've been thinking about ever since I read about Mama Pea's fruitcake. Dan, however, firmly states he doesn't like fruitcake, so I thought, well, why not start with small bites and see what he thinks. So here they are...


Fruitcake Cookies
  • 1 pound dried fruit
  • 6 ounces chopped nuts
  • ¼ cup apple juice*
  • ½ pound soft butter
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 2⅔ cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 large egg

The night before, set the dried fruit to soak in the apple juice. Next morning, blend the butter and sugar, add and mix in the egg. Gradually stir in flour, soda, salt, and ginger. Mix in the fruit and soaking liquid. Mix in the nuts. Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 3 doz.

*Traditional recipes call for brandy, rum, etc., but you can use any fruit juice you choose. Orange is common, but I used apple to keep the flavors of the cherries and mango true.

The verdict? Winner! So good. I think it was the dried, rather than candied, fruit that made these a success.

If you're looking for a nice variety of dried fruits and nuts, or are looking to do some stocking up or adding some special treats to your prepper pantry, you can check out Wholesale Nuts And Dried Fruit for yourself, just click on that link.

An Exotic Treat in the Mail © September 2020

September 7, 2020

Garden: Summer Clean-Up & Fall Planting

September arrived and brought relief from daily picking, all-day preserving sessions, and the heat. Some things are still producing, but much is finished. Those are the beds I need to tidy up and plant for fall. I'd better warn you that this is a long post, but there's lots of pictures. 😄

Here's one of the beds that is still producing, mostly volunteers.

Cowpeas, a tomato plant, horseradish, a lone Swiss Chard,
and several potato plants (mostly died back by now).

Ozark Razorback cowpeas volunteered this year.

The only thing I planted in that bed was the Swiss chard. Of that, I tried to plant half a bed, but only the one came up.

Rainbow Swiss chard.

This chard was also a no-show in my African keyhole garden. Of the horseradish, I thought I dug it out last fall, but it came back with a vengeance.

One of my mostly finished beds is my summer squash below.

Tatume squash grew here, with tomatoes still on the far
 end. (Sorry for the smudge in the middle of the photo!)

Tatume is a Mexican variety of summer squash, and I find it does pretty well for me. It doesn't succumb to wilt or other disease. Squash bugs were a problem, which I kept under control through June. After that I didn't have time to keep up with them. The lone squash in the center of the photo got away from me, so I left it in hopes of volunteers next year.

Squash bed clean-up. I'll plant Daikons here next.

My method of clean-up has changed over the years. Before, I would pull everything out of the bed and toss it in the compost. Now, I cut off vines or plants at ground level and lay them back into the bed. Then I cover them, above with soil and/or wood chips and compost. So I now leaving roots in the ground, as per the soil building principles of A Soil Owner's Manual (my book review here.) Plant roots feed soil microorganisms: living roots first, dead roots second. Cutting and leaving plants is called "chop and drop" in permaculture; everything the plants took out of the soil is able to return back to the soil.

The last of the squash was half-a-dozen or so mature Tatumes.

Mature Tatume summer squash.

I scoop them out and save some seed for planting, then, I steam the scooped out halves, scrape out the flesh, and use it in canned soup.

Just below the squash bed is my rather disappointing field corn bed.

Gourdseed corn in a rather sorry state.

We had heavy rains and winds several weeks ago and most of the corn lodged (fell over). It was planted late, as a second crop of corn (I grew sweet corn early), then it had sparse germination. So I wasn't sure I would get even a seed crop.

I hand pollinated the half-dozen or so ears in my little patch.

Volunteer marigolds keeping the corn company.

Across the aisle from the corn are my black turtle beans. Four rows being taken over by blackberry vines, honeysuckle, and bindweed (morning glories). It needed rescuing.


These are a good dried bean for me to grow. They're a delicious and they tolerate our hot droughty spells. I mulched and watered them in the beginning, but since then they've been on their own.


My first pickings yielded small bean seeds, but we've had more rain since then. With the weeds now pulled, I anticipate the rest of the crop will be better. Yes, I do pull out persistent weeds and feed them to the goats!

I planted two kinds of winter squash: North Georgia Candy Roaster and Long Island Cheese. The candy roaster did fantastically well last year, but this year, meh.

I only got two small candy roasters before the vines died back.

The Long Island Cheese is part of a three sisters planting, along with the sweet corn and Cornfield Pole Beans. This squash was incredibly slow to get going. It got water early in the summer, but it had to survive the hottest, driest part of summer on it's own. But it hung in there and has just started to flower!

Long Island Cheese squash (sometimes referred to as a pumpkin).

If first frost holds off, I should get a squash harvest.

The pole beans were slow starters as well. But since our last good rain, they've taken off and are beginning to produce beans.

Cornfield pole beans, using the dead corn stalks as poles.

These are so named because they are somewhat shade tolerant and will use corn stalks for poles. These are the first beans and they're very welcome. I had to cut back my bush beans earlier because they did poorly after it became too hot and dry. Sometimes, even irrigating the beds doesn't seem to satisfy.

I still have a few tomato plants hanging in there.


Of the 40 seedlings I transplanted, I have less than a dozen plants still alive. So I only get a trickle of tomatoes, but I'm glad for each of them. The Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes are doing very well.

Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes. A keeper!

These tasty little guys are hard to keep up with!

I'm still getting watermelons too.

Watermelon—both fruit and flower—in the strawberry and garlic bed.

These are Orangeglo watermelon. They've been both prolific and delicious this year.

It really is a glowing orange color! Very sweet.

We've eaten watermelon every day since early July. Then one day, Dan announced he was "watermeloned out." So the rest, I'm dehydrating.

Dehydrated melon is akin to fruit leather.

It's been a long tour, I know, but this will be the last shot, I promise.

Jing okra

Jing was a new variety of okra for me. Even though I'm pretty sold on Clemson Spineless, the catalog description made it sound too good to pass up. My negatives about it was that it was another one that was slow to grow and start producing. Considering how many other things had this same problem, it may not have been the okra. On it's positive side, it has a delicious flavor, is highly ornamental, and the pods remain tender even when quite large (compared to Clemson Spineless). It's producing better now, so I will probably get several pints to slice and freeze. I don't need a lot of okra in the freezer, but oven fried, it makes a really nice side-dish for winter meals, or to add to soups.

So there's my garden in early September. I need to get cracking on my fall planting. But now it's your turn. What's happening in your garden?

September 4, 2020

Outdoor Cooking: Rice and Meatballs

Outdoor cooking doesn't have to use a solar oven, grill, or campfire. If you can put your slow cooker or crock-pot on your porch or balcony, you can cook outside and keep some heat out of the house! That's what I did the other day, when I cooked rice and meatballs in my slow cooker.

Cooking outdoors with my slow cooker.

The recipe was simple and required few ingredients.

1 cup of brown rice and 2 cups of "tomato water."

Tomato water is what I call the water I save from defrosting frozen tomatoes for canning. Because I'm cooking them down to make pizza sauce, I drain the tomatoes to save cooking time. My frugal genes won't let me throw that tomato water away, so I save it for making rice, gravy, or soup.

After the rice was started, I heated up some frozen meatballs to add.

Slow cooker is set on high.

Rice and meatballs don't have the same slow-cooker cooking time, so the meatballs needed to be cooked before adding. After that, I could just forget about it until it was time to eat.

Total cooking time was a little over 2 and a half hours.

I served it with a salad of cucumbers and tomatoes from the garden and my ricotta ranch salad dressing. We had homegrown watermelon for dessert. It's nice to have a simple meal after a busy day.

September 1, 2020

Solar Cooking: Bread

Lots of rain and clouds these days, but the other day was sunny, so you get another solar cooking post! This time I made bread.

Sun Baked Bread

Here's my recipe for two loaves:
  • 2 cups warm whey, water, or milk (I use whey because I have lots of it from cheesemaking.)
  • 1 tbsp. baking yeast
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 6 cups flour (I use ⅔ whole wheat and ⅓ unbleached white because that's how Dan likes it.)
  • ½ cup soft butter
  • 1 tbsp. salt

Warm the whey (water or milk) until it's warm to touch but not hot. Pour into a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast over the liquid, then sprinkle the sugar over the yeast. Allow the yeast to start bubbling.

Yeast proofing in the bowl

Add about half the flour, then add the butter, and salt. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Dough will be soft. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and allow to rise until double in bulk.

Ready to turn out to hand knead and shape for the pans.

Stir down and add another cup of flour. Mix by hand, adding flour until the dough is pliable and no longer sticky. Turn out of the bowl onto a floured surface and knead for a while by hand.

A nice elastic dough.

Divide the dough in half and shape it for the baking pans. Allow it to rise in the pans in a warm place until double in bulk. In the meantime, position the solar oven in the sun and let it preheat.

The loaves have risen nicely and are ready to bake.

I mentioned in my Solar Cooking: Brown Rice post that cooking times for a solar oven are variable. Several passing clouds darkened the sky and lowered oven temp, so it took about two hours to bake my bread.

Ready to come out of the oven?

Food cooked in a solar oven doesn't brown as much as it does in a conventional oven, so how do I know when my bread is done? When it's internal temperature reaches 190°F (88°C).

Yes, ready to come out of the oven.

Two sun baked loaves of bread.

Nicely textured, ready for toast or sandwiches.

Between our homegrown wheat and baking in the solar oven, it's the best tasting bread I've ever made.

Solar Cooking: Bread © September 2020