Simply Resourceful

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

Handmade Mummy Costume


Making Halloween costumes can be fun and very affordable.  A friend requested I make her son a mummy costume after seeing the two I made for Jon and me 2 years ago.  The mummy costume is very easy to make and utilizes fabric you probably already have in your home.  I also want to mention that I am not a seamstress.  My sewing abilities are very minimal---mainly mending and the occasional curtain here and there. This project is great for beginners because lines don't have to be straight and there isn't a complicated pattern to follow.  

All you need is a pair of pants, a long-sleeve shirt, and some strips of white cloth.  I used a pair of pants that have been patched numerous times and a button-up shirt.  It's best if the clothing is light in color but I didn't have any light-colored pants so I used what I had on hand.  In the end I couldn't tell what color the pants were underneath all of those white strips anyway.

In the past I used a crew neck shirt and a turtle neck.  What I had on-hand this time was a button-up shirt with a collar.  The buttons were removed for a later project.  To fasten the front I used Velcro.  To sew the sleeves and pant legs, I cut the seams so they lay flat for sewing and then they are sewed back together once all the strips are on. 

I have an older sewing machine that doesn't handle thick layers really well so I removed pockets, hammer holds, pocket pouches, and belt loops to reduce the bulk. 

When sewing the pants I remove the thick inner seam and...
add a strip of cloth to replace the original bulky seam so it's easier to sew closed at the end.  With all
of the overlapping white strips the layers get thick.


These pants were getting a little short for my son so I added 2 layers to the bottom.  There's not much you can do wrong with this costume...uneven lines, zig-zag cuts, frayed edges, puckers...it's supposed to look scrappy and unshaven...that's what makes this project stress-free and fun!

I like using several shades of white for a unique look.  I used two different t-shirts (stained with holes) and an old curtain.  I try to  hide the stitching by overlapping the layers (kind of like laying roof shingles).  Leave some strips dangling.

I added a hood to complete the costume by using an adult-sized t-shirt.  I traced a hood from a sweatshirt onto the t-shirt, cut it out, sewed white strips on it, and sewed it to the collar of the shirt. 

One unplanned bonus of this costume is how warm it is.  If you live where it's cool at the end of October, you won't have to worry about wearing long underwear or a coat.  It's insulated already with all of those overlapping layers!  

Jon and I go as a bride and groom mummy couple.  You can't see it in the picture, but I have on an old veil.  I still have to finish my gloves but other than that, the costume is complete.  We competed in our first Halloween costume contest this past weekend and won $1,000 cash in the largest costume contest in WV!


Harvesting Walnuts: Take 2!

Last Fall I harvested walnuts for the first time and didn't have very good success.  This year I decided to try it again and how lucky I am to have 5 black walnut trees in the yard at our new house!  I say lucky, but not really, because those pesky nuts are a pain to pick up every time the lawn is mowed.  Compared to last year, this time I had much better success with harvesting the nuts.

I had a pretty basic setup in the front yard.  The nuts that needed to be hulled were on one cardboard box area and the ones drying were on another.  I used a rock to break the hulls off. 

The hulled nuts were added to a bucket of water.  The floaters were removed because that signifies the shell is empty. 

The nuts were rinsed several times to remove the hull residue.  The water doesn't have to be perfectly clear...just not really dark.  In the bucket you can see some fabric.  I was dying a treasure map for my son's birthday party.  Walnut dye is great for "antiquing" fabric.

After the nuts were washed, they were placed on cardboard and left in the sun for a day or two until they were dry.  We don't want the nuts to mold while they are curing. 

The nuts were then hung in onion sacks in the basement.  There are a lot of different recommendations for storage times.  Two weeks was just the right amount of time for us because some of the nuts inside the shell were starting to shrivel up into nothing. 

To crack open the nuts I used a hammer and a brick.

This nut looks perfect!


There was a wide range of ripeness from the nuts I gathered. 

Black walnuts have a much stronger flavor than English walnuts; because of their intense flavor I actually use less in my recipes. 


Storing Carrots in Boxes For the Winter

"Our children should enter adulthood with a basic knowledge of how to store food over winter without the cooperation of a nuclear power plant (or coal, or hydropower, etc.).  Every animal in the forest is taught this skill; we owe our children no less."   by: Jerry Minnich


This year I started exploring a broader view of preserving food now that we have a basement and the winters are cooler here.  As much as I enjoy looking at vegetables and fruits through the hundreds of jars I fill every year, I would like to minimize my carbon footprint and minimize the energy use that goes into canning.  I borrowed several books at the library about keeping a root cellar and I listed my two favorites below and included a general review of each book.  Besides basic squash, potatoes, garlic, and onions, I wanted to go a little further this year and try keeping fresh carrots.  We don't know the average temperature and humidity levels in this new house so we started small and kept a few dozen carrots in a cardboard box to see how it goes.  Here's how to do it:

1. Dig up the carrots carefully on a dry day, shake off the excess soil, and twist off the tops.  Don't scrub or wash the carrots, as this may damage the skin.  Examine each carrot and set aside any that are damaged to use immediately.

2. Choose a shallow cardboard box, wooden box, or crate.  Line the bottom with newspaper, or similar material, and put a thin layer of spent compost, moist sand, coir, untreated sawdust, vermiculite, or leaf mold in the bottom.

3. Arrange the carrots side by side, without touching, on the covering material.  Position the carrots so that they lie head to toe.

4. Hide the vegetables with more covering material and repeat until the container is full.  Finish with a layer of covering material to exclude light.  Store in a cool, preferably dark place such as a garage, cellar, or spare room for 2 months or more  Use as required, ensuring the remaining vegetables are kept covered.

Ideally carrots require 32-40 degrees F and 90-95% relative humidity for storage.

We used sawdust and shavings that came from the love seat we made this summer.  It's aspen wood that we collected ourselves from the woods so we know it's untreated.

First layer...notice that the carrots are not touching.

More sawdust and shavings covering each row.

Results: I only put about 3 dozen carrots in the box because I didn't know how successful this method would be and I didn't want to waste any carrots.  The carrots were picked the second week of September and the box was empty by the first week of October.  The temperatures were still in the 70's throughout the month of September so it never really got cold.  Overall the carrots stayed relatively firm for the 3 weeks they were in the box.  The smaller ones got a little rubbery but they were still usable.  Next time I will use larger carrots and plant the seeds later in summer so they can be harvested when the temperatures are cooler.  The sawdust also felt warm to me so next time I will try sand or another material that stays cooler. 

Books:

Preserve It! by: Lynda Brown  This book is a great introduction on different preserving methods: canning, drying, freezing, smoking, brewing, salting, and natural cold storage.  For a more in-depth book, I recommend the following:

Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits and Vegetables by: Mike and Nancy Bubel
This book is a must-have if you are really serious about keeping food throughout the winter using natural cold storage methods.  The book is very thorough about when and how to grow and harvest vegetables and fruits; which varieties keep best throughout the winter; storage requirements for your edibles; ways even an apartment and city dweller can use natural storage methods; how to build a variety of different types of root cellars; testimonies and building plans of people who use root cellars; and recipes for your cellar crop!


Homemade Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

This recipe comes from "Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day" ( One of Jon's favorite bread books ). 




Master Dough Recipe
5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp (2 packets) granulated yeast
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
4 cups lukewarm water


Cinnamon Sugar Bagel Recipe
2 pounds (cantaloupe-size portion) Master Recipe dough (1/2 the batch)
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup raisins

For the boiling pot:
6-8 quarts water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda

This recipe makes about 8 bagels.

Directions:
1) For the Master Recipe -- throw all the ingredients in a very large container that can be covered and stir until all the flour is incorporated
2) Put the lid on the container and set at room temperature for 2 hours.
3) Put the container in the fridge for an hour or two -- though you an wait up to a week if you want...
4) When you are ready to bake, place your baking stone in the oven and heat the oven to 425F.  Start the boiling water (you can just put all the "boiling pot" ingredients in the pot and stir).
5) Take a cantaloupe sized portion of the Master Recipe and roll it out on a well floured countertop to a 1/4" thickness
6) Mix cinnamon sugar / raisin mixture in a bowl and spread evenly over the top of the dough.





7) Roll the dough into a jelly roll






8) Cut off peach sized portions and squeeze together and eventually push your fingers up through the middle to make a hole.







9) Set bagel on a floured surface
10) Drop bagel into boiling water (I do four at a time) let it sit there for 2 minutes and then flip for another minute on the other side



11) Remove and put on a floured and cornmealed pizza peel or other surface that allows you to easily slide the bagels onto the baking stones in the oven.
12) Bake for 25-35 minutes at 425F (Time depends on how wet the bagels are)

Enjoy the yummy goodness!



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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