Simply Resourceful

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

Truck & Trailer Toy

It's a good thing my son doesn't know how to use a computer yet!  His birthday may not be until late October, but I just finished his second toy.  All of my projects use scrap wood left over from other projects.  I don't have a hole-saw, so I purchase all of my wheels from a local carpentry shop.  It is rewarding to make Paul's gifts.  Besides a basic woodworking class in middle school, I have no formal training.  Jon and I pick up carpentry skills as we go along.  I enjoy the challenge of finding the right piece of wood and cutting it just right.

Below are a few toys that I have made in the last 1.5 years for Paul.

Installing a Nuc

Yesterday I picked up my nuc (short for nucleus) of honeybees at Livingscape Nursery.  A nuc is an established colony with an accepted queen who is already laying babies.  A nuc consists of 4 frames so the bees are building comb and taking care of the brood (babies) while in transist.  Last year I purchased a package of bees which is more complicated to install because the queen has not been accepted yet by the colony and she lives in a little cage, which I, as the beekeeper, must help release.  A nuc is sooooo much easier and takes about about 5 minutes to install.
The nuc came in a waxed cardboard box so I covered it with a tarp to keep it somewhat dry overnight.  You can see the bees coming out of the hole.  The large house on the left will be their new home. 

I'm taking out the first frame of bees.  Jon is standing far away so this picture isn't very detailed ; ) 

Voila!  The job is finished!!  The bees are nestled into their new home!

The weather today was cloudy, around 48 degrees, and no rain.  Installing the nuc turned out to be a success!  In the hive I also included a pollen patty (leftover from last year; baby bees are fed pollen), a grease patty (disease treatment for mites), and sugar water (some food to give them a head start after their long journey in the box).  I want to do biodynamic beekeeping, but I don't have the necessary items in my bee kit yet.  Biodynamic beekeeping looks holistically at treating the bees.  You want to strengthen the bees immunity and health rather than treat the disease.  Mites and other diseases are getting resistant to chemical treatments so in the end, we're breeding "superbugs!"  Biodynamic beekeeping looks at using herbs and essential oils rather than chemicals.  A biodynamic beekeeper would not combine two weak hives to get a strong hive.  Let nature decide who is strongest so we're not breeding a weak gene.  Does this make sense?  I am growing my own herbs but need to dry them so I can make tea infusions.  I also didn't harvest honey last year so I can't substitute honey in place of sugar.  It's recommended that you only use honey from your own hives so you can ensure no cross-contamination of diseases.  

So, with all that being said, I made a grease patty to help eliminate any possible mites.  The grease makes the bees' bodies slippery so the mites fall off.  I mixed together 1/2 cup vegetable shortening and 1/4 cup powdered sugar.  I planned to add some Honeybee Healthy (commercial essential oil mixture) to the mix, but the bee supplier didn't have any.  The sugar syrup was a mixture of 2 cups water and 2 cups cane sugar (warm it until the sugar dissolves). 

Recently I just learned that freezing the frames can help kill some diseases and criters that may be lurking on the frames. Freezing will get rid of nosema ceranae spores (although not nosema apis).  I currently have 7 frames in my freezer, and after a week or so, I will exchange them with some other frames. I read somewhere that 48 hours should suffice.  I have two hives, so I have a total of 40 frames.  I will let the frames come to room temperature before giving them to the bees.
For those of you who are unsure what a frame is, here is a picture of one that I took last year.  A frame has foundation that bees build there comb on (made of plastic or beeswax).  The foundation is supported by the wooden frame on all four sides.  There can be ten of these frames in one hive box. 

In addition to my own hives, I volunteer at Zenger Farm.  Earlier this week we installed three nucs because 5 hives died over the winter.  I took a video of the installation:

Reference Books

The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It: The Complete Back-to Basics Guide by: John Seymour

All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More in Less Space! by: Mel Bartholomew

Keeping Bees and Making Honey by: Alison Benjamin & Brian McCallum

The Backyard Beekeeper by: Kim Flottum

Home Dairy: All You Need to Kow to Make Cheese, Yogurt, Butter & More by: Ashley English

Soapmaking: Self-Sufficiency by: Sarah Ade

The Everything Soapmaking Book by: Alicia Grosso

Made From Scratch by: Jenna Woginrich

Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living by: Rachel Kaplan

The Way to Make Wine: How to Craft Superb Table Wines at Home by: Sheridan F. Warrick

The Solar Food Dryer: How to Make and Use Your Own High-Performance, Sun-Powered Food Dehydrator
by: Eben Fodor

Prepping the garden

Jon is the main gardener in the house and I, the preserver.  This past weekend Jon has been doing major renovations in the yard.  We have these nuisance bulbs/weeds that never seem to disappear.  No matter how many bulbs we pull up, more show up the next year.  These bulbs sprout cute little purple flowers, but they're certainly not cute enough to keep around.  Here is a picture of the pile of bulbs, other weeds, and leaves that were collected in just 3 days.  The pile is about 7 feet long and 3.5 feet tall.  What's depressing, we have many more to pull...

What is the best way to get rid of unwanted bulbs?  Two years ago we placed a minimum of 2 layers of cardboard on top of the bulbs covered with wood chips.  The cardboard has disintegrated since then and the bulbs are back!!  Can bulbs be "cooked" in a compost pile at home?  We have yard debris pickup at the curb here in Portland, but we don't want to send everything to the yard debris collection place even if it is turned back into compost and woodchips.  Not only is there a lot of good black dirt clinging to those weeds and bulbs, but we'd like to keep things on our property as much as possible and process it here which is certainly more sustainable. 

In the past, our garden beds were too large because it was nearly impossible to reach the middle of the bed without placing the heal of your hand or knee into the box when reaching to the center.  With a few extra 2x4's, a saw, and some nails, we cut up the two large boxes and constructed 4 small boxes.  We have 8 different raised beds for a total of 125 square feet of gardening space!  That is a lot of area to cover.  Jon decided to adopt the square foot garden method this year.  Seeds are planted in 1x1 square foot plots, and when harvested, a new plant is installed in the square.  Apparently this method increases your crop yield by 20%.

Jon decided to make a cold frame this year by using some of our old windows. Ideally the cold frame should be shorter, but we're waiting to see if this will work before we cut the glass.  The pots are placed on top of a metal grate which is resting on top of the garden box.  Two scrap boards are used as a heat vent so the plants don't cook.  If we place the pots directly on the soil, slugs will demolish everything.  We're not sure if this will work, but like most things in the yard, it's an experiment!

With Excel, Jon designed our garden for this year.  We're still in the process of learning companion planting. 

Homemade Yogurt

I'm not sure why it took me so long to begin making my own yogurt, but here is my first batch!  It goes without saying that homemade yogurt is certainly not as sweet as store-bought yogurt because there are no added sweeteners.  Therefore I add some homemade granola and frozen blueberries to spruce up the taste.

4 cups milk (preferably whole, low-fat, or skim)
3 T plain yogurt or 1 packet dried yogurt culture
*Makes 1 quart*

*If using plain yogurt, make sure it states "live, active cultures" on the container because this is what makes the milk turn into yogurt.  These cultures are the beneficial bacteria that our bodies need; also called probiotics.*

1. Warm the milk gently in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until it almost reaches the boiling point, right around 180 degrees F.

2. Remove the milk from the heat and allow it to cool to 110-115 degrees.  Using a metal whisk or spoon, stir in the yogurt or dried yogurt culture.  Mix until well incorporated.

3. Transfer the mixture to whatever container you will be culturing it in, such as glass jars, thermos, glass bowl, etc.

4. Hold the yogurt at 110-115 for the next 6 hours.  There are many ways to maintain a steady temperature.  You can either purchase a yogurt maker (here is one example) or you can devise your own insulation method.  I chose the oven technique because it's simple to do.  I chose not to purchase a yogurt maker because I would be consuming more resources (& they are usually made of plastic) and it's another thing to add to my already long list of appliances.  Here are a few do-it-yourself ideas:

  • Preheat an oven to 120 degrees.  Place the yogurt mixture in a glass or ceramic bowl, and cover with a lid or plate.  Turn the oven off, and place the yogurt mixture inside for 6 hours. 
  • Fill a soup pot with hot water, place the jar filled with yogurt into the water making sure the water doesn't go above the jar.  Wrap the lidded pot with blankets. 
  • Place the jar filled with yogurt in a small to medium insulated cooler overnight, along with several jars of hot water. 
  • Preheat a slow cooker on low.  Add glass jars of yogurt to the pot.  Turn off the heat, cover with lid, and allow to incubate six hours or overnight. 
  • Simply fill an insulated thermos with your yogurt mixture, put the lid on, wrap a couple of kitchen towels around it, and put in an area away from drafts, such as a pantry or cabinet for 6 hours or overnight. 
5.  Store the yogurt in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and use within one to two weeks. 

There are a many recipes on the Internet for yogurt made with coconut milk, soymilk, almond milk etc.  Once I have tried and perfected these recipes, I will add them to this post.  Please feel free to share your recipes as well!

All of this information was taken from: Home Dairy, All You Need to Know to Make Cheese, Yogurt, Butter, & More by: Ashley English

Did You Have a Paddle Board as a Child?

A neighbor friend gave me a bouncy ball weeks ago for Paul to play with because she was concerned that one of her dogs would ingest it.  Within a few minutes of receiving the ball, I knew exactly what to do with it, make a paddle board!  I had one as a child and I thought it'd be a simple birthday gift for Paul.  This simple project took about 20 minutes to make.  I used scrap plywood we had in the garage; sealed the wood with a linseed/beeswax oil; threaded a rubber band through the ball; and attached the rubber band to the plywood. Total cost: $0.00

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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