Simply Resourceful

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

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.

Starting Seeds Indoors

Since January, my seed-obsessed husband and son have spent hours, more like days, pouring over seed catalogs picking out new varieties to grow this summer.  When the seeds arrive in the mail, they literally drop everything they are doing and meticulously read the entire seed packet.  They practically salivate imagining all of the delicious food they will enjoy in the upcoming months.  

After arriving in the mail, the seeds are placed in the somewhat organized seed box that is literally bursting with seeds this time of year.  Even though we have plenty of seeds left over from previous years, Jon couldn't resist trying new unique varieties like the Pepino Melon, Cosmic Purple Carrots, Purple Cauliflower and Amarilla (yellow) tomatillos.


Using Jon's handy seed starting program, seeds are planted in our recycled wooden seed trays made with re-purposed pallets.   This season Jon's soil mixture includes: 1 part potting soil, 1 part Beat's Peat Coconut Coir, 1 part Vermiculite, and 1/4 part Perlite.

We really like our homemade plant labels using recycled yogurt containers.

Every year there is a shortage of onions in our home.  With all the canning and cooking, we always run out around the first of the year.  This year we are growing 5 different varieties (Walla Walla, Martina, Bronze D'Amposta, Red of Florence and Australian Brown) for about 500 onions total.  Plus about 100 Zebrune shallots.

This is our Glow Panel 45 watt LED light we purchased seven years ago when we had a backyard suburban lot for growing food.  Now that we have a garden approximately 50 x 100 feet, we likely need about 10 of these.  Maybe next year we will have a better setup.

Using Snow For Homemade Ice Cream

This February we received about 10 inches of snow over a few days.  We live in the Mountain State so we don't have to go far for a good sledding hill!  

Even though it's cocoa season, we couldn't resist bringing out the ice cream maker.  We haven't purchased ice cream in at least five years and find the store varieties way too sweet for our liking, not to mention all of the unnecessary additives our bodies don't need.  Snow is free and the best thing to use for keeping the cream cold while churning.  Our ice cream maker is an antique White Mountain hand crank churn we found at a flea market.   It is Made in the USA,  We have our churn sitting inside a 5 gallon pail because there is a crack on the bottom that leaks water.

After 30 minutes or so of churning the cream is starting to thicken. 

The key to using old churns is to submerse the entire bucket in water for at least 24 hours before using it so the wood slats swell and hold the ice water.  As you can see, even with a slight crack, the pail still holds the ice water pretty well.  It took five days for the pail to dry out again. chocolate chip ice cream!  There are recipes using snow with the milk, but we prefer the recipe found on the back of the Morton Ice Cream Salt box.  We reduced the recipe by half with a few other slight variations:
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 T lemon juice
1/8 tsp. salt
3.5 cups heavy whipping cream (local Homestead Creamery brand)
 1 cup whole milk (Whole Creamline Milk Homestead Creamery brand) 
 1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. mint extract 
2 drops green food coloring
1.5 cups chopped chocolate chips (Ghirardelli Bittersweet chocolate). 

According to several websites, this White Mountain Ice Cream churn was made in 1923.  More than 90 years and the thing still works!  I can only imagine how many revolutions that handle has had in its life so far.

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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