Simply Resourceful

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

Making Homemade Tortillas

After years of purchasing tortillas with enriched flour and a whole list of unknown ingredients, Jon decided to make our own tortillas using four simple ingredients: flour, salt, coconut oil, and milk from a recipe that he found on The Prairie Homestead Blog.

Homemade Tortilla Recipe:
2 c flour (or half fresh ground wheat and half all-purpose)
1 tsp. salt
4 T coconut oil
3/4 c warm milk

Instructions: Using a pastry blender, mix together flour, salt, and coconut oil until it is crumbly (similar to making pie crust).  Add milk a little at a time and mix until everything comes together.  Divide into seven small balls.  Using a rolling pin, roll each ball about 1/8 inch thickness into a circle or use an inverted bowl for making a round shape. Fry in a dry skillet 30 seconds on each side poking air bubbles with a fork. Use immediately. 

Sweet Potato Harvest!

This was our first year growing sweet potatoes.  We spent $10 for three plants from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company and we harvested 36.92 pounds of sweet potatoes!  Estimating the price for organic sweet potatoes at $1.73/pound, our harvest would have cost $63.87 from a store.  Growing sweet potatoes was very easy.  The only challenge was keeping them watered and weeded the first month of growing.  The variety we grew was Molokai Purple.

The picture above looks like a giant weed patch but this is how our sweet potato patch looked by autumn.  The vines literally took over and sprawled everywhere!  The carrots got lost among the vines and were eventually smothered and dead, but the loss of carrots was worth the harvest of sweet potatoes.  It does help that we still have a LOT of carrots still in canning jars from last year.   

Sweet potatoes produce potatoes only where the "slip" was planted.  The vines look pretty and take over the garden, but only potatoes grow at the base of the plant.  It's kind of a gnarly mess and the potatoes reach about 18 inches from the center so begin digging at least 18 inches from the base to reduce damage to the potatoes.

A potato fork works really well without a lot of damage to the potatoes.

We discovered that potatoes grow really long and easily get broken when pulled.

When harvesting root crops, it's always entertaining to have a young child digging in the soil.  It's like finding buried treasure, you just never know how big the next potato will be or where it will be located!

After harvesting, the potatoes were left on the front porch for ten days where they received only a few hours of direct sunlight a few hours in the morning.  The potatoes on the left were dug first and all came from one plant.  The wetter-looking potatoes on the right side came from the other two plants.  Jon and I aren't sure why the first planted yielded such large tubers.

It's hard to see in the picture, but Jon is holding one of the tubers in his hand.  You can see that the width of the potato is as wide as his wrist.  We are still excited that we grew such large 'taters without much work.  We just planted the slips, watered and weeded them for about a month and left them alone for the rest of the summer. 

We read online that we can grow our own sweet potato slips using vine cuttings.  I used the tips of the vines so there was only one cut end instead of two.

The bottom leaves were removed and placed in mason jars with water.  They are somewhat decorative and will remain inside until next spring.  A friend of ours received a few cuttings as well.  Ten dollars for three slips isn't that big of a deal when considering the harvest yield, but it would be nice to be a little more self-sufficient and not be using fossil fuels to send potato slips in the mail.

These sweet potatoes do stain and could make a great dye for crafts.

Planting Fall Garlic and Shallots

Earlier this summer I posted about all the garlic and onions that we harvested.  Fast-forward to the end of October and we are planting garlic for next summer!  This will be our second year growing garlic beginning with the bulbils instead of the cloves. In the above picture are second year rounds. 

For the bulbils, we just scatter them in the rows and will thin them next spring.

The garlic growing area includes two beds with eighteen rows about three feet long.

The Zebrune Shallots that were sprouting in the basement were also planted this fall.

Fall Gardening

Autumn is here and our garden is still producing for us.  In the past, we either didn't get the fall crops started at the right time or we didn't have the ambition and energy to tackle a fall garden.  This year however, the stars must have aligned because fall gardening is in full force!  

Using row covers is definitely the way to go with pest control and keeping jack frost from nipping the plants.  The pea pods in the back of the picture are exposed to the elements because they don't have pest problems and can tolerate the frosts. 

The Oregon Sugar Pods were planted the second week of August and have produced several bowls of delicious pods for three weeks. 

Arugula is thriving but the lettuce has been slow. 

The beets were planted at the same time as the pea pods and the kale were transplanted the first week of September.
The brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, and brussel sprouts) were transplanted the second week of August.

The celery was planted in the spring and limped along all summer with frequent watering.  Now that fall has arrived, the plants are thriving with crisp stalks that are excellent in soups!

Paul spotted a large preying mantis on top of the row cover a few weeks ago.

A giant hornworm was found on a ground cherry plant last week.  These suckers are huge and stripped the plant of all its leaves!

Uses For Sorghum

This is our second year growing sorghum just for the fun of it.  We planted about two dozen seeds because their corn-like stalks grow about ten feet tall producing beautiful, burgundy seed heads.  We don't have enough stalks to make the sweet sorghum syrup but the flower heads themselves have many uses.  They are great for decoration, popped for eating, ground into flour for baking, a substitute for cooking, and sprouted for salads.  In an effort to educate and inspire others, I sold some at The Wild Ramp where I volunteer. 


The seeds easily come off the stalk.  To separate the chaff from the seed, rub the seed on a screen and then blow lightly over the seed.  

Popped sorghum is very small compared to popped corn.

We made flour with some of the sorghum using the grain mill.  

To filter out the chaff we used a sifter for a cleaner product.

From the two pictures above you can see the difference in Bob's Red Mill Sorghum and ours.  Our variety was Red's Red Sorghum. 

Force-Fruiting Mushroom Logs

The nights are getting cooler here in West Virginia.  To get one last flush of mushrooms before it gets too cold, we are force-fruiting the mushroom logs.  This is a process where the logs get fully saturated with water so the mushroom spores fruit.

We have tried soaking down the logs using our well water and a garden hose, but the logs just barely fruit.  The best solution is to toss them in the creek and let them sit for 24 hours before returning them to the log pile.

The log with all the shitake mushrooms was the only log submerged in the creek at the time this picture was taken.  It takes about three days after soaking until the little mushroom caps emerge.

The mushrooms we don't consume right away are dehydrated.  It takes about 8 hours in an electric dehydrator.  One log fills a quart jar.

Growing Asparagus Beans

Every summer we grow something new in the garden.  This year we planted Red-Seeded Asparagus Beans purchased from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  These tasty beans grow really long and are delicious stir-fried.  At one point we couldn't keep up with the supply so we froze them for winter eating.  I blanched them for 1 minute in boiling water followed by a ice bath for 1 minute.

Using a cattle panel for the trellis worked really well and we all enjoyed walking under the jungle of hanging beans.  The beans also made great "dreads" for the garlic pirate!

The pods can grow to 24 inches if you don't pick them fast enough.  They are best eaten when 12-14 inches long.  Picture taken 7-12-2015.

This picture was taken October 3rd and we are still receiving beans!  The beans that are brown and shriveled up will be saved for seed to be used next summer.

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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