Simply Resourceful

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

Baker Creek Spring Planting Festival Expedition

My family just returned from a cross country vacation last week.  We saw many sites in several states, one being the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company in Mansfield, MO.  Attending the Spring Festival was our first visit to Baker Creek. This company has the largest selection of heirloom seeds in the country. At Baker Creek you can see the farm and pioneer village.  The village includes a seed store, herbal apothecary, bakery, an old-time mercantile, blacksmith shop, music barns, and much more.

Jon was in his element surrounded by nearly 1,800 different varieties of seeds!

The festival had thousands of attendees which made for some crowded situations.  At times it became a bit claustrophobic and nerve-racking keeping track of Paul in the crowds of people (thus the bright orange shirt to easily locate him).  This was the only down-side of the festival.  It's great that so many people want to join the festivities, but it makes it difficult to see everything. 

Paul really enjoyed watching the Blacksmith.

Crowds of people in Pioneer Village.  I like the windmill in the background next to the Livery Stable.

I took a picture of the lemonade stand next to the music stage because it was just too cute seeing the owner's daughter in a sundress serving customers fresh squeezed lemonade.  She is seen in several pages of the Baker Creek Catalog biting into delicious fruit and is the envy of Jon and Paul when they are perusing the catalog.  In the picture you can see Paul waiting to purchase a glass of lemonade. 

The Kids' Tent was bustling with activity the entire time with sack races, seed planting, games, and digging in a giant pile of sand. 

One aspect we thoroughly enjoyed at the festival was free camping on-site. We were very thankful that Baker Creek allowed attendees to set up camp in the cow pasture right across from the festival grounds.  There were even bathrooms with flushing toilets and showers!  Camping introduced us to some amazing people who shared common interests in gardening, essential oils, off-grid living, etc.  Campers were respectful of each other's space and quiet time and shared meals.  Bluegrass music filled the night air when falling asleep.  Overall we had a great time at the festival and will return again.

Planting the garden was our first priority after returning from our trip!  Using cattle panels as a trellis, Jon and Paul planted Asparagus Beans from Baker Creek.  This is our first year growing these beans and the pods grow to about 24 inches long!

This picture was taken from our second story bedroom window.  The little plot on the left is for sweet corn.  We are using row covers again this year to protect our brassicas from the cabbage worms, melons from the cucumber beetles, and eggplants from the flea beetles.  

Berry Scones Made With Oat Flour

We really love our grain mill and have been experimenting with different grains in our recipes lately.  One recipe that turned out perfectly with an alternative grain was scones.  In general, my scones are very moist and puffy like biscuits, but when I use frozen berries, the batter tends to be really wet and runny creating some unpleasant smokey smells from the oven from liquid dripping off the baking stone.  What a mess this creates and the scones are then over-baked.  To solve this problem, I discovered ground oat groats help absorb the excess moisture in the batter creating the perfect berry scones.  You have to try them!

Berry Scones:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup wheat germ or flax seed meal
1 cup ground oat groats
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
5 T frozen butter, grated
1/2 cup berries (frozen or fresh)
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 egg

Mix together flours, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. 
Add grated butter to dry mixture using a pastry blender until it has a crumb-like texture.
In a small bowl, mix sour cream and egg together, add to above mixture.  Batter will be wet. 
Add berries and mix thoroughly.
Place mounds of dough onto baking stone, flatten the tops. 
Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden.
Optional: sprinkle sugar on top before baking.  

Making Peanut Butter with our GrainMaker Mill!

This is our first attempt at making peanut butter with the Grain Mill!  We ordered six pounds of nuts from  Organic unsalted peanuts were $4.86/pound.  

There are two separate augers for the grain mill.  The Coil Auger (on the left) is for small grains such as wheat, barley, and rice.  The GrainBreaker Auger (on the right) is for grinding corn, legumes, coffee beans, dehydrated foods, and nuts. For peanut butter we used the GrainBreaker Auger.

We were a bit apprehensive about using the grain mill for making nut butter because it seemed like a messy job.  Here is what the grinding disks (aka Burrs) looked like after grinding six pounds of peanuts. 

To clean the burrs, you simply grind some wheat berries.  It sounded too good to be true, but this is what the burrs looked like after grinding a half cup of flour.  (click picture to enlarge).  Voila!  The mill is clean and ready to go. We used the "peanut cleaning flour" in our favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe.  Grinding peanut butter was super simple and something we will definitely do again!

How to Pollinate a Meyer Lemon Tree

Three years ago we purchased several indoor citrus trees.  The time has finally come for one of the plants, the Meyer Lemon, to produce flowers.  It has been a typical spring with some cold days intermixed with a few warm days, so keeping the plant outside every day hasn't been an option.
Meyer Lemon Trees are for the most part self-pollinating, but if they are inside without wind or insects, they will need some assistance from the gardener.  We used a q-tip and lightly brushed the pollen from the stamens and then dabbed the stigma.  

And when the weather was warm, we had help from a few wild bees.  The blossoms are very fragrant so attracting pollinators isn't a problem.

Teaching Others About Gardening and Preserving Food

This week I helped my friend, Pam, teach a class on growing and preserving food at a local MOPS group.  This is the same place I taught homemade cleaning projects and soap making in 2014.  The group had a lot of great questions for us and there seemed to be a few interested in starting a small backyard garden and preserving food.

Years ago the very thought of speaking in front of a group sent me into panic mode; but now I willingly accept the invitation.  Why the sudden change?  I have learned that when I am passionate about something, the fear of public speaking goes away.  Teaching is probably my calling in life, but not in the traditional sense like a teacher in a classroom.  I get excited showing others the things my family does and the lessons we have learned.  To see someone else become interested in what we are doing is very satisfying.   

In one hour we covered a lot of topics including:

*Benefits of raising your own food
*Getting started
*Types of gardening (i.e. container vs. raised bed vs. tilled area)
*Where to purchase large amounts of produce (i.e. farmer's market, stores locally, neighbors, etc.)
*Benefits of joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)

Pam gave everyone a packet of seeds to take home and we had a lot of stuff for them to look at.  We barely had enough time to cover all the topics and answer questions, but a handout was given to them before leaving.    

Homesteading During a Winter Power Outage

This week I finally got around to transferring pictures from the camera and came across the pictures taken during a three day power outage in early March.  It's hard to believe that happened less than a month ago since the grass is almost ready to be mowed and the garden has been tilled and partially planted already!

On March 5th we received about 10 inches of heavy, wet snow in less than 24 hours creating major power outages throughout the tri-state area.  Losing electricity for an extended period of time is not an uncommon occurrence living 3.5 miles down a back road in West Virginia.  Our first summer here, we went seven days without electricity after a wind storm called a derecho obliterated the state. Ironically that derecho storm gave us the wood we used to keep our pipes from freezing in this storm. In general, folks in the country here have adapted to these situations.  Most have generators, 4-wheel drive vehicles, and chainsaws to remove fallen trees across the road.

Jon and I both grew up in WI and MN so snow storms are not foreign to us.  We stock up on food and stay off the roads until the plows go by.  Well, we waited 48 hours until the plows went by (on only one side) and by then there was a thick, compacted sheet of ice from vehicles and 4 wheelers. The road conditions have to be the most annoying aspect about living in the country in the Appalachian mountains.  Earlier in the winter when we only received a few inches of snow, Jon had to leave his car in town and walk in twenty below zero weather the 3.5 miles to our home because the road turned to solid ice and the temperatures were so cold that the salt they scarcely spread did not work. Needless to say, every car was stranded at the bottom of the big hills irregardless of their 4-wheel drive capabilities.

Going without electricity isn't a big deal for my family because we aren't hooked to electronics and we enjoy making meals and heating water over a fire.  In this instance we went 60 hours without electricity and had night time temperatures reach three below zero Fahrenheit.  Thank goodness we have a fireplace, but without the electric blower pushing warm air into the room, the house didn't really warm up.  The warmth mainly stayed in the living room.  By the second day we moved the tropical plants into the room so they wouldn't freeze.  At night Jon and I slept in the living room and added a log to the fire every 30 minutes or so.  To keep the pipes from freezing, we ran a pencil width of water continuously the entire time.  Keeping warm wasn't our main concern because we had plenty of long underwear and blankets; it was keeping the pipes from freezing and bursting that was our main concern.  At a time like this, a person can't help but think of our ancestors and how they didn't have indoor plumbing and electric freezers full of preserved food to worry about.  Their worries were different of course, but that's not to say I would trade small pox for electricity or a flushing toilet, but it definitely gives reason to have a smaller home with fewer bathrooms and a fireplace that radiates heat on all sides.  There is some comfort in simplifying our home and being self-sufficient.

Eating over a fire is something my family really enjoys.  During the power outage we ate like royalty using our blackened camping pot and cast iron hobo pie makers.  A few meals included: vodka penne pasta, chili, taco mac, vegetable barley soup, and grilled cheese and tomato soup.  

We had three warm meals each day and plenty of warm chai.  It was somewhat like winter camping but indoors.  When the power returned, the thermostat read 50 degrees  

Six large pine trees fell on our property during the storm.  Four fell on the maple syrup boiling area and another fell on two young fruit trees, a pie cherry and Q-18 peach. The day after the power was restored, the temperature rose to the high 50's and all of the snow melted within two days.  This was a storm that came and left in less than a week.  Besides the loss of two fruit trees which Jon is sorely upset about, and the few hours it took to remove the fallen trees, we managed to weather the storm in our own simple way.

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.

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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