Simply Resourceful

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

Valentine's Day Grain Mill Gift!

What says, "I love you" more than a grain mill?  This Valentine's Day the boys gifted me this awesome GrainMaker grain mill.  We just love homemade bread, noodles, hot cereals, and baked goods.  Grinding our own flour is the next step in having more whole grains in our diet.

Straight out of the box we couldn't resist grinding a cup of flour.  Paul was thrilled to pour in the wheat berries and turn the big "pirate wheel." 

We have the GrainMaker Grain Mill Model No. 99 which can grind grain, seeds, legumes, and nuts.

All I have to say is that we are impressed with our american made grain mill built in Montana.

Starting Seeds Indoors

Since January, my seed-obsessed husband and son have spent hours, more like days, pouring over seed catalogs picking out new varieties to grow this summer.  When the seeds arrive in the mail, they literally drop everything they are doing and meticulously read the entire seed packet.  They practically salivate imagining all of the delicious food they will enjoy in the upcoming months.  

After arriving in the mail, the seeds are placed in the somewhat organized seed box that is literally bursting with seeds this time of year.  Even though we have plenty of seeds left over from previous years, Jon couldn't resist trying new unique varieties like the Pepino Melon, Cosmic Purple Carrots, Purple Cauliflower and Amarilla (yellow) tomatillos.


Using Jon's handy seed starting program, seeds are planted in our recycled wooden seed trays made with re-purposed pallets.   This season Jon's soil mixture includes: 1 part potting soil, 1 part Beat's Peat Coconut Coir, 1 part Vermiculite, and 1/4 part Perlite.

We really like our homemade plant labels using recycled yogurt containers.

Every year there is a shortage of onions in our home.  With all the canning and cooking, we always run out around the first of the year.  This year we are growing 5 different varieties (Walla Walla, Martina, Bronze D'Amposta, Red of Florence and Australian Brown) for about 500 onions total.  Plus about 100 Zebrune shallots.

This is our Glow Panel 45 watt LED light we purchased seven years ago when we had a backyard suburban lot for growing food.  Now that we have a garden approximately 50 x 100 feet, we likely need about 10 of these.  Maybe next year we will have a better setup.

Using Snow For Homemade Ice Cream

This February we received about 10 inches of snow over a few days.  We live in the Mountain State so we don't have to go far for a good sledding hill!  

Even though it's cocoa season, we couldn't resist bringing out the ice cream maker.  We haven't purchased ice cream in at least five years and find the store varieties way too sweet for our liking, not to mention all of the unnecessary additives our bodies don't need.  Snow is free and the best thing to use for keeping the cream cold while churning.  Our ice cream maker is an antique White Mountain hand crank churn we found at a flea market.   It is Made in the USA,  We have our churn sitting inside a 5 gallon pail because there is a crack on the bottom that leaks water.

After 30 minutes or so of churning the cream is starting to thicken. 

The key to using old churns is to submerse the entire bucket in water for at least 24 hours before using it so the wood slats swell and hold the ice water.  As you can see, even with a slight crack, the pail still holds the ice water pretty well.  It took five days for the pail to dry out again. chocolate chip ice cream!  There are recipes using snow with the milk, but we prefer the recipe found on the back of the Morton Ice Cream Salt box.  We reduced the recipe by half with a few other slight variations:
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 T lemon juice
1/8 tsp. salt
3.5 cups heavy whipping cream (local Homestead Creamery brand)
 1 cup whole milk (Whole Creamline Milk Homestead Creamery brand) 
 1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. mint extract 
2 drops green food coloring
1.5 cups chopped chocolate chips (Ghirardelli Bittersweet chocolate). 

According to several websites, this White Mountain Ice Cream churn was made in 1923.  More than 90 years and the thing still works!  I can only imagine how many revolutions that handle has had in its life so far.

When Does Maple Sap Run?

Maple sap runs when the temperatures fluctuate from the teens and low 20's followed by a quick rise in temperatures to the 40's and above.  Using the graph above you can quickly see when the sap will flow.  My husband created this forecasted temperature and precipitation graph which has been an invaluable tool for maple syrup season and gardening.

According to the graph you can quickly see when it will precipitate (green colors) and when to cover the garden plants (the red line is temperature and the blue dotted line is 32°F -- freezing).  The best thing is, you can get this for any location in the USA. Simply go to this website: and click your location on the map and this graph will appear. This website works best on a desktop computer or tablet, not a phone.

We hope you find this tool useful for your syrup and garden planning activities!!

Our first maple syrup boil this year, February 8, 2015.

Here is another maple sap run later in the season that shows temps reaching the 50's and then plummeting down to the teens.  

When should I start my seedlings indoors? Try the Seed Start Planning Tool

My husband is always itching to get started planting seeds and usually ends up planting them too early. He got tired of his seedlings becoming spindly while waiting for warmer weather to arrive, so he developed a solution. He made a Seed Start Planning Tool. :-)

You can use it here:

Here's our last frost date of May 1st:

Handmade Fabric Valentines

Valentine's Day is one of my favorite holidays because it taps into that giddiness I felt as a young girl making my valentine box at school and looking at each and every valentine I received over and over.  It is a special day to tell those you love that you really care about them.  This year during my mom's visit over the Christmas holiday, we made heart pillows using scrap fabric, felted wool, buttons, and antique lace.  These pillows were really easy to make and most didn't even require a sewing machine.  My mom designs and sells quilt patterns and other fun things on her website and has a pattern for these delightful little pillows called "Tokens of Affection."

Every heart pillow is unique with it's fabric combinations and details on the front.

This was my favorite pillow all stitched by hand using felted wool for the red heart, three small white buttons, and a running stitch along the edge.  Simple and elegant.

All of the hearts have different thicknesses using combinations of fiberfill and quilt batting.  

There are so many fun combinations that we just couldn't stop!  All together we made 32 heart pillows.

I really like the hearts with pockets that can hold a valentine or love note!

In addition to the heart pillows, we made vintage valentines printed onto aged scrapbook paper found at an antique store. Some ribbon was also used to give it that old-fashioned look.

Making the heart pillows and paper valentines was so much fun that we couldn't resist selling them at The Wild Ramp!

How to Prevent Peach Borers

On a warm January day, Jon, Paul, and I took a walk around the property and discovered a pool of  jelly-like substance around the base of the peach trees.  I did a bit of research and there seems to be a lot of reasons for the sap leakage.  Some say borers are the main culprit whereas others suggest a bacterial or fungal infection.  One peach grower on a forum says this can happen to young trees when sap pressures are high in early spring and there is a weak graft that has not closed completely,  
After clearing away the sap and a little investigating, we did see holes that would indicate borers. These borers feed on the cambium layer of the tree between the bark and sapwood.  They typically attack the tree between 3 inches below ground to 10 inches above ground. 

This is our first time raising peach trees and we garden using only organic methods.  Besides sticking the end of a paperclip into the borer hole to kill the feeding larvae, organic growers suggest using Tanglefoot, a sticky paste made from natural gum resins, vegetable oil, and wax.  You first wrap the first 12 inches of the tree trunk and a few inches below the soil with strips of stretchy material (e.g. t-shirt) and then apply Tanglefoot directly to the t-shirt.  Tanglefoot traps insects because it is so sticky, thereby preventing the moths from laying eggs on the trunks of the tree.  This is more of a preventative approach and a fine example of why you need to do your research and be proactive rather than reactive.  After three years of watering, weeding, and pruning, the trees may be too weak to survive.  Now that the borers have established themselves, it will be nearly impossible to keep them under control because the borers laid their eggs under the bark last summer/fall.

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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