Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

How to Make a Bag Drying Rack

We have been reusing our plastic Zip-loc bags for years.  We simply wash them and hang them to dry on our handmade log dryer. 

Making a bag drying rack is really easy.  A log is cut in half, sanded smooth, and coated with two applications of polyurethane.  We leave the knots and other features on the log because we like that unique look.  

Holes to fit the dowels are drilled randomly on the rounded side. 

We use a 3/8 inch oak dowels for our drying racks.  The dowels don't have to be symmetrical.  The longest dowel is 15 inches long and the shortest is 6 inches.  The racks in the picture above are being sold at the Wild Ramp, a local food and artisan store.  Reusing our Zip-loc bags is one simple thing we can do on a regular basis to conserve resources.   


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How to Kill Yellow Jackets Without Chemicals

This month Jon came across a yellow jacket nest while mowing the lawn.  The nest is located about 3 feet from an apple tree so using chemicals or gasoline like many suggest, just wasn't an option.  Doing a quick Google search, we came across this idea: put a glass bowl over the hole so the yellow jackets can't escape.  The bowl lets light into the nest so they fight like mad to get out and tire themselves out without any access to food and water.  

We used two bowls to ensure that any yellow jackets that managed to sneak under the first bowl were caught in a second trap.  After four days we checked to see if there was activity and discovered the bowls off the hole and the nest dug out of the ground.  We're thinking a skunk found the nest and raided it since the yellow jackets were probably pretty weak at this point.  Problem is now solved! 


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Growing Buckwheat for Honeybees

During a visit to Portland, Oregon early this summer, I stopped at Ruhl's Bee Supply. This was my beekeeping supply store when I lived in Portland and I couldn't resist stopping by to look around, taste some honey, and take deep breaths of the beeswax smell!  Before leaving, I purchased a Swienty Feeder for use inside my vivaldi board and one pound of buckwheat seeds.  The seeds were planted in mid-July and flowered in late August. Buckwheat was sown after the carrots were pulled.  Buckwheat is a great green manure/cover crop, weed suppressor, and an excellent nectar source for honeybees producing a very dark and rich honey.  This very low maintenance crop will be grown again!






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Shelling Beans: Harvest and Storage

In August, I posted about our awesome bean trellis using the existing greenhouse frame for the beans to climb.  Well, the beans are finally harvested and put away for the winter.  The results: 18 lb 4.1 oz

All together we grew six different varieties of beans.  Three required a trellis and three didn't.

Once the bean pods are dry, the beans are removed.

The beans are then put on drying racks for about a week to remove any remaining moisture before permanent storage.  

The picture above was taken last year when I discovered mold on the beans because they weren't completely dry when stored in the jars.  I did manage to "save" them by washing them in warm water in a colander and then drying them in the oven on a low setting. 

Even with the wet weather rotting the beans touching the ground and the Mexican Bean Beetles, we still harvested more beans than we will need this winter.  For each type of bean that we grew, we planted an entire package (about 50 seeds per package) that we purchased from SSE with an exception of the Tiger's Eye.  We planted about 30 seeds of the Tiger's Eye that we saved from the previous year.  

Tiger's Eye (bush): 2 lb 5.4 oz
Lina Sisco's Bird Egg (bush): 3 lb 12.9 oz
Calypso (bush): 3 lb 3.4 oz
Cherokee Trail of Tears (pole): 3 lb 5.7 oz
Good Mother Stallard (pole): 3 lb 3.3 oz
Brockton Horticultural (pole): 2 lb 5.4 oz

We use a pressure cooker for cooking our beans.  Here are the cooking times for the varieties we grew. Cooking times (not soaked) vary depending on the size of the bean. 

Trail of Tears: 15 min
Good Mother Stallard: 30 min
Brockton Horticultural: 35 min
Tiger's Eye: 35 min
Lina Sisco's Bird Egg: 25 min
Calypso: 30 min


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Teaching Others About Homemade Cleaning Products

This week I was invited to a local MOPS group to speak about homemade cleaning products.  I was surprised to find so many women eager to learn alternative ways to clean their homes.  We covered everything from floors, bathrooms, laundry to everything in between. 

 In the picture above I am holding a bottle of essential oils talking about the artificial perfumes that are put into products that make us think something is clean.  

The items I brought with me to the class include: vinegar, borax, super washing soda, baking soda, a spray bottle with a vinegar water mix, Fels-Naptha soap, a reusable mop pad, microfiber cloth, rags (instead of paper towels and disposable wipes), essential oils, and gloves.  Before the girls left, they filled their own spray bottle with a vinegar and water mixture (1/2 cup vinegar to 5 cups water) and took home a microfiber cloth.  This is the handout the girls received with recipes to make at home.


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Hot Summer Days

There are only a few hot and humid days left this year.   I am enjoying the final ones reading a good book and drinking homemade ginger ale on the porch.  

During the really hot days, the chickens keep to the shade of the woods and only wander in the yard occasionally with their wings slightly flared to catch a breeze.  We think they look pretty funny with their wings out like this! 

The honeybees form beards outside their hives at night to bring in the cool air. 

And Jon and Paul make homemade ice cream.  Just when we are about to complain about the humidity, we remember the frigid January days when the pipes froze last year and we were huddled under blankets.  We are grateful for all of the time outside and soak up the heat when we have it!


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Composting at Work


A gardener can never have too much compost.  It seems every gardening book proclaims that just about every plant needs compost.  This nutrient-dense stuff not only feeds the plants but is a mulch for water retention and weed control.  Jon and I throw every possible scrap into our compost but the pile never seems to get large enough for all of our needs.  One way to help bulk up the compost pile is to collect scraps from those who don't compost.  One area that is often overlooked is our workplace.  Jon collects coffee grounds at work and sprinkles the grounds around the blueberry bushes.  I would consider coffee grounds a pretty easy item to collect, unlike banana peels and fruit pits and cores because there isn't the issue of fruit flies.  The fruit flies wouldn't be a problem if the compost wasn't left for a few days but Jon isn't always there to collect it.   The coffee grounds have been collected for about 6 months now and perhaps in the future we could find a way around the fruit flies and collect the other items.  A perk to composting at work is that coworkers start asking questions about gardening, where their food comes from, and the importance of eating local.  You never know what changes you will make by starting a compost system at work!.

Our blueberry plants really like the coffee grounds!


* I look forward to your comments. If you have trouble commenting, please contact me using the form at the right. Thanks!

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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