Simply Resourceful

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

Shitake Mushroom Harvest!

After a few weeks of dry weather, we received a few days of rain.  Everything here needed a good drink, including the mushroom logs we inoculated in 2013.  This is our first large harvest from these logs: 5 lb 3.2 oz

They were recently moved from the side of the house to behind the barn in a shady, humid area.  The logs are elevated off the ground with cinder blocks to allow air circulation and minimize rot.

The logs were moved because the top logs were drying out from too much sun exposure and lack of moisture. The bottom logs produced much better. 

Looking good!

After saving a few for fresh eating, the rest were dehydrated: only 0.4 pounds after dehydration.

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

Canning Carrots and Using a 41 Qt. All American Canner

The day started with only one simple task: preserve carrots.  Little did we know how much of an undertaking this was going to be...

This year we were a bit over-zealous with the carrot patch.  Last year, all of our root crops rotted with all the rain.  Thankfully we had enough jars left from the previous year that we managed to have enough carrots to last us through winter.  The idea of preserving a little extra because of next year's uncertainty is something I find very important in homesteading.  
This year's varieties: Danvers, Dragon, and St. Valery

Pulling root crops is so satisfying---you just never know how big the carrot will be!

There is a dual benefit to using the broadfork at this stage.  It helps find carrots that were missed during the first picking and it loosens the soil for buckwheat planting.  The soil doesn't stay bare for long!

That's a lot of carrots...

For Mother's Day this year I received the Bron Mandolin and a pair of cut resistant gloves.  While I cleaned the carrots, Jon cut them, and Paul put them in bowls.  Thank goodness for the help...a lot of work for one person!

This year Jon splurged and purchased the All American 41.5 quart liquid capacity canner.  There are many aspects about this canner we like: 
1. Made in Manitowoc, WI  
2. No rubber seal to replace  
3. It can process 19 quarts and 32 pints at one time!  

For six years I have used a seven quart canner, but Jon wants to save time in the kitchen and keep the heat from the canner outside during the hot, humid days.

The only negative aspect about this canner is its sheer size and inability to fit on my current glass-top stove. We threw around the idea of an open fire, but that adds an entirely different challenge with keeping pressure constant.  Jon and I would prefer not to use propane but short of getting a new range our choices were pretty limited.  In the future, we would like to have an outdoor kitchen with a sink hooked up to a grey water system and an old stove just for canning.  Until then, we are using the current set-up. 

It was a long grueling 13 hour day of processing carrots from start to finish.  Paul was a great helper and found ways to entertain himself.  This kid loves to build and design structures like this carrot castle!

I prefer to push through large projects in one day rather than extend them into the next day.  It was satisfying to wake up the next morning to all 73 quarts sealed waiting to be wiped down and stored.  

I think we have enough carrots to last us awhile, don't you think?  A few weeks ago Jon planted 2 rows of Solar Yellow Carrots for a fall harvest.  Jon just can't resist trying new varieties!  *sigh*  I think Jon and I can agree upon one thing: only plant carrots for fresh eating next summer. 

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

Some Chickens Love Japanese Beetles

You know the phrase, "One person's trash is another's treasure?"  Well, the same thing can be true for bugs.  Some garden pests such as Japanese Beetles are a huge problem in our garden, in particular when it comes to grapes, berry plants, and edamame. These beetles have a hard exoskeleton and are not easy to squeeze between the fingers so we knock them into a bucket with a little water in it.  (The water keeps the beetles from flying out easily.)  One of our chickens, who we affectionately call "Turkey", absolutely LOVES the Japanese Beetles (and their grubs in spring) and she comes running to us from across the yard whenever she sees us carrying a bucket---talk about a good example of classical conditioning (remember Pavlov and the salivating dog from Psychology class?).  Turkey is so eager to eat the beetles that she literally climbs into the bucket to get them!  Turkey has made it very clear to the rest of the flock that only SHE can have the beetles; we don't mind - she literally eats hundreds of them at one sitting.

Damage to the edamame (soybean) plants from the Japanese Beetles.  They are most prevalent in the early morning and evening hours.

A Happy Turkey after a Japanese Beetle snack. 

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

Using Row Covers for Pest Control

Every year we try something new in the garden.  This year we are using row covers for the plants that receive the most pest damage.  This list includes: members of the brassica family (e.g. broccoli and cabbage), eggplant, squash (e.g. Turk's Turban and Hubbard), and bush beans.  These plants seem to attract pests that do heavy damage to the crops.  By using row covers, we are essentially keeping the moths and other pests out which will save a considerable amount of our time.  The pests include: cabbage worms, flea beetles, squash vine borers, and mexican bean beetles.   

The row covers (Agribon 19 83'' x 50') were purchased from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply.  We used #9 wire that was purchased through Grower's Solution on eBay. 

Each wire was cut about 6.5 feet long.  

Plants were put under the row cover on May 4th. 

The above picture was taken on May 17th.  This spring has been abnormally dry which makes watering under the row cover a challenge.  A drip line would be great for this.  We have noticed that the plants under the row cover have required less watering than the plants exposed to the direct sun all day long. 

The above picture was taken on May 30th.  No cabbage worms so far!

The row cover was removed about 2 weeks before our first broccoli harvest because the plants were pushed up against the row covers and the fabric couldn't raise any higher.

The squash looks beautiful this year because squash vine borers haven't gotten to them yet.  They are too big for the row cover so they are out in the open.  The squash are putting down roots along the vines so we have been covering sections of the vines with dirt.  We were told if the plant is rooted in several places, it has a better chance of surviving the squash vine borer because even if the main stem is injured, the remaining vines should be okay.  We'll see if this "trick" works!

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

Handmade Log Carrier

We have been wanting a log carrier for years and now we finally have one!  It took a little bit of creative thinking to make this, but an hour is all it took for this project! 

This project requires two butterfly chair cases.  For demonstration purposes, I included a picture of two bags so you can see what I'm referring to. 

I wish this post could be a tutorial but I didn't think about making this crafty project into a blog post until half way through sewing it.  Basically I cut the ends off two bags, overlapped them to create a reinforced center, and sewed all the seams to keep it together and to prevent fraying.  Note: I left the straps alone---no sewing.
Dimensions: 22W x 31L

The carrier works really well!  The material is easy to clean, light weight, and sturdy.  

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

Strawberry Harvest

 Strawberries are the first fruit of the summer and this year we had our hands full!  So full that after weighing 50 pounds of berries, I lost track.  We had a late spring freeze which bit a lot of the strawberry flowers, but apparently the plants recovered because from the picture above, you can see flowers everywhere! 

It seems like we can never have enough berries around our homestead and friends never tire from them either.  Aside from fresh eating, this year we added them to oatmeal, made coffee cake, smoothies, bread, pies, ice cream, and a lot of jam. 

This strawberry rhubarb pie made in a cast iron skillet was the best pie I had every tasted.  It almost had the flavor of a raspberry pie.  Thanks to my generous friend who has the most prolific rhubarb I have ever seen, traded me some rhubarb for some strawberries. 

My family loves homemade ice cream and naturally flavored with strawberries is a treat!

All together we made 26 pints of jam; some contained rhubarb and some were plain strawberry.  I have to hold back on the jam making every year because it's easy to get carried away filling dozens of jars and blackberry season is slowly approaching!  Jam is always a great gift idea too!

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

Picky Eater? Let them eat dirt.

Do you have a picky eater in your house? Well, we'd thought we'd share our story on how we raised Paul, and how this kid will eat anything.  The key was we didn't give him choices when he was a baby. He ate what was on the table or he went hungry. We didn't dress up his food with salt or sugar either. In fact, to this day the kid goes through a 25 lb. bag of Bob's Red Mill Oatmeal about every 5 months! It's a fixture at the breakfast table. He eats a heaping cup of dry oatmeal with boiling water poured over the top without any sugar added. After about a year of this, we started adding raisins. In fact, if you put brown sugar on it, he says its too sweet - that goes for a lot of things like pop/soda, chocolate, ice cream...etc.

Paul just ate a handful of dirt and he didn't like it. We did help clean him up...

Paul has always been given the option to forage in the garden, and let me tell you...he takes advantage of this freedom. Throughout all hours of the day he will eat raw fruits and vegetables. At first, when he was little, we felt the need to restrict him because he was becoming a pest: eating small bites here and there (when produce was under ripe), breaking vines, trampling seedlings, etc.but Paul was in love with the garden and we were in love with him so it all worked out. Tomatoes, snap peas, broccoli florets, any type of berry, okra, the list goes on and on, he loved foraging. He even knows what not to eat. I think when he was three we showed him a picture of a fly agaric mushroom and said it's a "bad" mushroom. A few weeks later in the dentist office, Paul saw a picture of this mushroom on the wall and exclaimed excitedly "Daddy, that can kill you" (while pointing to the mushroom). So, he knows to ask us before eating a mushroom. We only eat wild oyster and chanterelle mushrooms, and we grow shiitake; anything else he has to ask us about.
Fly agaric mushroom

So a pleasant side effect to all of this is Paul has eaten a lot of dirt, and the kid was perpetually sick the entire first year of his life. Since then, he has maybe had one minor cold. We're sure his little body built up a ton of antibodies and strengthened his immune system so much that he could live in a germ palace and do just fine. Just don't let your kids eat dirt that has been treated with fertilizers/pesticides etc. Our garden is 100% organic/pesticide free so we didn't have that fear.

Eating dirty strawberries...

Eating dirt in the blueberry patch...

Taking care of the strawberries

Mmmm blueberries with dirt...

Foraging for beans
Not going to eat the chicken...

Big Carrot!
Eating peaches
Hunting for Mushrooms
Fresh Corn

Eyeing the trunk full of raw apples (they're not pretty, they may have a worm, but to Paul they're heaven).

A fully loaded apple tree (this tree was only two years old and gave 2 dozen apples)
He loves his fruit and veggies.

* 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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