Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: Year In Review



I know most folks get introspective around this time of the year. Thinking back on the "what ifs" and "the could-as, the would-as and last but, not least, the should-as". Here's a little something to put some perspective on that.

Wishing all my family and friends.... A wonderful 2012! May you be blessed with glorious happenings and may this year be better than last's!

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Skinny on Boxing Day

Boxing Day is a holiday in the United Kingdom and many countries (including Canada) that were once part of the British Empire. The origin of this holiday's name is not clear. In feudal times in the United Kingdom, the lord of the manor would 'pay' people who worked on his land in the past year with boxes practical goods, such as agricultural tools, food and cloth. These were often distributed on the day after Christmas Day. More recently, employers traditionally gave their servants a gift of money or food in a small box on the day after Christmas Day. Some people in Canada still give gifts to people who provide them with services.

Other stories relate to servants being allowed to take a portion of the food left over from the Christmas celebrations in a box to their families and the distribution of alms from the church collection boxes to poor parishioners. These traditions evolved into the Christmas baskets that some employers distribute to their employees during the holiday season at the end of the year.

Boxing Day is a federal holiday and is listed in the Canadian Labour Code as a holiday. However, it is not uniformly observed in all provinces and territories. It is not an official holiday in Quebec, nor is it a statutory holiday in Alberta and British Columbia. In practice, many organizations and businesses are closed, although stores are often open.

In some communities, particularly in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador, stores are not open. Post offices across the country are closed. As Boxing Day falls in the Christmas holiday period, schools are closed. Public transport services may run a normal or reduced service, or provide no service.When Boxing Day falls on a Sunday or Saturday that is a non-working day, workers are entitled to a holiday with pay on the working day immediately preceding or following the general holiday. (I will be working tonight so will be getting paid for the holiday!)

Many people in Canada have a day off work and many of them visit stores that start their annual sales on Boxing Day. Some shoppers even start waiting outside stores in the small hours of the morning and many stores open earlier than usual. Now, the sales often last for a whole week between Christmas Day and New Year's Eve and are known as the "Boxing Week Sales" instead of the "Boxing Day Sales". In some areas, particularly in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and Ontario, stores are not open on Boxing Day and the post-Christmas sales start on December 27.

A number of important sporting events are held on Boxing Day and watching them on television is a popular activity. The International Ice Hockey Federation world junior hockey championships often start on December 26 (today's game is against Finland). The Canadian National team often does well in this event. The Spengler Cup ice hockey tournament, which is played in Davos, Switzerland, is also shown on major sports television channels.

And, then other's will be just enjoying the extra day off to recoup from the festivities of yesterday. Here's hoping you are doing whatever it is you enjoy doing!


Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Gift



I love this song. I still cry each time I hear it.
It's my Christmas gift to those of you who read my blog.
It's sung by Aselin Debison - if you wanted to know.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Merry Christmas to one and all.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Why Live a Self Sufficient Life?

Why have so many people opted to live the self-sufficient life? Besides enjoying the romantic, pastoral lifestyle, there are plenty of practical benefits for being self-sufficient. Here are just a few:

  • You’ll pollute less. By being self-sufficient, you’ll learn to compost food scraps, grow your own organic food, build with local materials, generate renewable energy, and avoid shopping. Each step makes a difference towards lowering your environmental impact.

  • You’ll save lots of money. Imagine if you didn’t have any more expenses: no more car payments, no more auto insurance, no more utility bills, and free food and housing. If you practice extreme self-sufficiency, you could literally live without any money.

    You don’t need to do everything yourself, nor do you need to quit your job. If gardening is too much hassle, for example, you could always buy produce from the farmers market. Likewise, it may be prudent to keep your job to help build savings. However, the more self-sufficient you become, the more you’ll save, and the fewer financial obligations you’ll have. Every little bit of self-sufficient frugality can increase your freedom.

  • You’ll pay off your debts quickly. If you work full-time in addition to homesteading, you’ll have an income with virtually no expenses. Undeveloped land is cheap, so you can often purchase it without a mortgage. After a few short years of hard work, you’ll own a house debt-free. A self-sufficient homestead can provide freedom from the turbulent state of the economy. After all, wouldn’t you rather spend your mornings gathering firewood than worrying about mortgage payments?

  • You’ll be more independent. Once you learn self-sufficiency skills, you’ll no longer depend on modern conveniences like restaurants, department stores, and gas stations. You’ll also no longer need the utilities company for water and power. Not only is self-sufficiency convenient, it could save your life during an emergency. During a serious crisis, such as a hurricane, earthquake, or a terrorist attack, you might be left stranded for weeks without basic necessities. By being self-sufficient today, your family will be much better prepared for future emergencies.

  • You’ll learn to be more resourceful. Many of us today can’t survive without cappuccinos and WiFi internet, let alone life in the rural countryside. But if you’ve ever wanted to explore different parts of the world or buy back-country property, it helps to learn self-sufficiency skills. As a benefit, the cost of living will be far cheaper. You can combine this with a telecommuting job to build savings.

  • You’ll enjoy the learning experience (hopefully). As you become self-sufficient, you’ll acquire practical skills that teach you about the environment and sustainable development. Up until the last century, these primitive skills were mostly common knowledge; we’re merely re-learning them today. This knowledge can help us better understand both historical cultures and the world around us.

Self-sufficiency is a fusion of many related ideas. It’s half low-cost lifestyle and part do-it-yourself ingenuity, mixed in with sustainable development and a touch of emergency preparedness.It can be a lot of fun. Really.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Low Cost Slow Cooker Greek Yogurt


Pour 1 gallon of milk in a 5 quart slow cooker. Place on low for 2-3 hours or until it is 180 degrees. Do not let the milk boil! You can use any kind of milk–skim to whole. I prefer skim for the lower calories and we are used to it. Whole milk yogurt is delightfully creamy though.

Turn off the slow cooker and let the milk sit until it has cooled to 110-120 degrees. (2-3 hours) (You have just killed any bacteria that was in the milk previously so it won’t interfere with the new bacteria cultures that you are going to introduce.) This also unravels the proteins and allows the yogurt to thicken.

Take 1/2 cup of plain yogurt (reserved from your last batch or purchased) and mix it with 1 cup of the warm milk from your slow cooker. Then stir this mixture into the rest of the warm milk. Cover with the lid and wrap in bath towels to insulate. Keep the slow cooker turned off and allow it to sit overnight. In the morning it will look like this:

You can see the whey separated and floating on the top with the yogurt solids underneath. If you stir all this together, you will have regular plain yogurt.

To make Greek Yogurt: Layer a large bowl with a large colander and line with 3 layers of cheese cloth. Pour your yogurt into this and allow to drain without stirring until half of the volume is reduced. Save the nutritious clear whey for baking and use it like buttermilk in pancakes, biscuits, bread etc.

Take the strained yogurt and put it in your electric mixture with the wisk attachment and whip. Add a little fresh milk (or cream) until it has the moistness and consistency you like.

It should be very thick and creamy when you are done. This recipe yields 1 gallon of plain yogurt or 1/2 gallon of Greek Yogurt for around $3. This is roughly 1/4 the cost of buying the same amounts and requires very little hands on time.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Homemade Bath Salts

Bath Salts

The Players

  • 1/2 cup Epsom Salts (or 1/4 cup Epsom Salts + 1/4 cup Sea Salts)
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/4 cup dried Rosebuds
  • 5-6 drops Essential Oil of Rose Geranium

The How-To

Mix together and add desired amount to warm bath. (You may want to use a tea ball or muslin bag, to keep the rosebuds from clogging the drain, if you think that might be a problem.)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Making Your Own Laundry Detergent

There are two options when it comes to mixing your own: liquid or powder. Liquid can be a little more versatile, since you can (carefully) add essential oils to give it a nice scent, but powder is easier to make, since you won't have to use the stove. Whichever way you go, you'll want to gather the following ingredients: your favorite (not too heavily-perfumed) bar soap, borax and washing soda. That last one-washing soda -is in the same family as baking soda. It has just been processed differently; it's sodium carbonate-two sodium atoms, a carbon atom, and three hydrogen atoms-whereas baking soda is sodium bicarbonate-the same ingredients, but with a hydrogen atom replacing one of the sodiums. It is much more caustic/alkaline, with a pH of 11, and while it doesn't give off harmful fumes, you do need to wear gloves. It is found in the laundry section of most supermarkets.

Liquid Detergent

1 quart water (boiling)
2 cups bar soap (grated)
2 cups borax
2 cups washing soda

1. Add finely grated bar soap to the boiling water and stir until soap is melted. You can keep on low heat until soap is melted.

2. Pour the soap water into a large, clean pail and add the borax and washing soda. Stir well until all is dissolved.

3. Add 2 gallons of water, stir until well mixed.

4. Cover pail and use 1/4 cup for each load of laundry. Once it's cool, add 5 - 7 drops of your favorite essential oil per gallon. Stir the soap each time you use it (it will gel).

Powdered Detergent

2 cups finely grated soap
1 cup washing soda
1 cup borax

1. Mix well and store in an airtight plastic container.

2. Use 2 tablespoons per full load.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Live Christmas Trees - an Addition to your Yard


Getting a live, balled in burlap Christmas tree instead of a cut tree is a great idea, because a live tree will last forever in your yard. Instead of paying the big bucks for that cut tree, you can buy a balled tree for usually less money. It will live on for many years.

Long before that tree came into your life it has spent many a winter outside in the cold, and that's what it prefers. So with that in mind, keep your tree inside for as short a time as possible. After you buy the tree and bring it home leave it out in the weather until your ready to bring it inside. Don't keep it in your garage. Even though unheated, your garage is dry, too dry for a live tree.

First thing you should do is dig a hole in the yard where you are going to plant your tree after Christmas. The ground might be frozen after Christmas so dig the hole as soon as you get the tree. Be careful not to make the hole too deep. Once in the hole the top of the root ball should be at least one inch above grade. Planting a tree too deep will kill it.

Put the soil from the hole in a wheelbarrow and park the wheelbarrow in the garage to keep the soil from freezing. That way when you plant your tree you'll have loose soil to back fill around the root ball.

Once inside keep the root ball watered, but not submersed in water. Water the tree by pouring water over top of the root ball, leaving an inch of water in the bottom of the container. It helps to keep the root ball covered with plastic to retain the moisture between waterings. Check the water level daily and water as needed. Do not let the root ball dry out.

Right after Christmas (Boxing Day is not too early to ensure the tree stays alive) get your tree out of the house and into the hole immediately. Even if the ground is frozen, get the root ball of the tree into the hole and back fill with the soil you removed from the hole when you dug it. If that soil is frozen and you can't back fill the hole, still place the root ball in the hole and cover the root ball with leaves, straw, something until you can get the tree planted properly.

Do not fertilize the tree. Give it a chance to get acclimated to it's new home. I rarely fertilize any plant in my landscape and they do just fine.

Good luck and Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Frugality on the Road to Self Suffciency

Here are a few tips I've picked up over the years to keep food fresh.

Lettuce - never use a metal knife to slice a lettuce. The metal will turn the remaining lettuce brown and make it less appealing. Instead tear it with your hands or use a plastic knife.

Pasta and rice - keep your dry goods fresh and free from insects by storing them in a glass jar with a lid along with a bay leaf

Sliced fruit - keep sliced fruit like apples and fruit salad looking fresh by storing them in the fridge in water and lemon juice.

Cheese - wrap cheese tightly and keep in the fridge. If mold does appear it will normally only be the edges, which can be easily sliced off. If a block of cheese dries out, store it in the freezer and use it grated in your recipes (it does not need to be thawed).

Screw Tops - Always buy screw top bottles and save them to store your homemade goods in. They are also great for storing dehydrated foods.

Leftovers - never throw anything out, most leftovers can be added to something else to make a completely separate meal or frozen for later use.

A few frugal suggestions for using leftovers are:

Cooked vegetables - can be used in soups, pies, or as potato toppings

Stale bread - bread pudding, toasted and used as croutons on soup.

Left over meat or fish - used as ingredients for a chilli, added to fried rice or stews.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Homemade Moisturizing Cream on the Cheap

Homemade Moisturizing Cream

200mL shea butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon organic coconut oil, softened not melted
1 teaspoon organic extra virgin olive oil (evoo)


With a hand held blender, beat shea butter until creamy, about 30 seconds.

Add in softened coconut oil and evoo and beat again until incorporated.

Scoop into a jar and voila.

Spread a dab or two on your hands. Use it as a hair treatment, apply a small amount to damp hair, keep it there for 10 - 15 minutes (or overnight) and rinse.


Other ways to use the moisturizer:

as a diaper cream
as a natural sunscreen
to add an extra glow to your cheeks

Add in a little vitamin E to the cream for even more skin therapy.

The possibilities are endless! Shea butter has become my new obsession. Wouldn't a little jar of this cream be a fabulous gift idea for a friend? All natural and organic products for under $15!

Borrowed from: from The Seasonal Family, an unrefined blog

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Your Man Reminder :)



This is funny but, oh so important and it will help you learn.
Please check your breasts my women friends!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Deviation from the norm - December 10: Total lunar eclipse

This eclipse will be fully visible from Alaska.

The Moon will enter the penumbra (A partial shadow between regions of complete shadow and complete illumination.) at 2:32 A.M. AKST (Alaska Standard Time, which is 4 hours behind our time here in Ontario, Canada) and will leave the penumbra at 8:32 A.M. AKST.

The eclipse will be partially visible from parts of North America: Central and western areas will be able to observe both a penumbral and umbral (The complete or, perfect shadow of an opaque body where the direct light from the source of illumination is completely cut off.) eclipse.

The Moon will enter the penumbra at 3:32 A.M. PST ( Pacific Standard Time) and the umbra at 4:45 A.M. PST. A penumbral eclipse will be visible from most of the East Coast, starting at 6:32 A.M. EST, just before the Moon sets.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Making Your Own Jerky


Jerky should be made from lean cuts if possible. For making jerky beef or, deer is ideal. After trimming the fat, sinew and membranes from the meat, marinate it overnight. Use one of these recipes I have included here. They all work well. Or, you can experiment with your own.

Slice the trimmed meat into long strips about 1/4 inch thick. If you work with slightly frozen meat it will be easier to slice. Slice the meat along the grain or, along the muscle fiber to make chewy jerky. Cut across the grain, or, across the muscles, to end up with more tender jerky. I prefer the cross grain slices.

Easy Jerky Marinade
1 cup of pickling salt
1 gallon of water

Mix the brine well and allow the strips to soak for about 24 hours. Pat them dry and place in your dryer at 155 (if you have a thermostat).

Jerky Marinade

1/2 cup of soy sauce
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground hot pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. hickory smoke-flavored salt

Cajun Marinade

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. Cajun spice

The longer you allow the meat to soak, the stronger the flavors.
To test for doneness;
Take a piece out of the dryer and allow it to cool.
Then just break the piece in two. It should not snap in two.
Rather it should bend and splinter and break, much like a green stick will do.
There you have it.... jerky made your way without the weird stuff they put in the store bought jerky.
You can bag and place in the freezer but, you don't really need to. But, it does add storage life to the jerky.
In this house, it doesn't last that long!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Not Self - Sufficient but, Frugal

  • Vinegar uses;
  • Bring a solution of one-cup vinegar and four tablespoons baking soda to a boil in teapots and coffeepots to rid them of mineral deposits.
  • A solution of vinegar and baking soda will easily remove cooking oil from your stovetop.
  • Clean the filter on your humidifier by removing it and soaking it in a pan of white vinegar until all the sediment is off.
  • Vinegar naturally breaks down uric acid and soapy residue, leaving baby clothes and diapers soft and fresh. Add a cup of vinegar to each load during the rinse cycle.
  • Saturate a cloth with vinegar and sprinkle with baking soda, and then use it to clean fiberglass tubs and showers. Rinse well and rub dry for a spotless shine.
  • To remove chewing gum, rub it with full-strength vinegar.
  • For a clean oven, combine vinegar and baking soda, then scrub.
  • Clean and deodorize your toilet bowl by pouring undiluted white vinegar into it. Let stand for five minutes, then flush. Spray stubborn stains with white vinegar, then scrub vigorously.
  • Clean windows with a cloth dipped in a solution of one part white vinegar and 10 parts warm water. This works for dirty TV screens, too!
  • For brunettes, rinsing hair with vinegar after a shampoo makes hair shinier. Use one-tablespoon vinegar to one-cup warm water.
  • Soak paint stains in hot vinegar to remove them.
  • To clean drip coffeemakers, fill the reservoir with white vinegar and run it through a brewing cycle. Rinse thoroughly by brewing two cycles with water before using.
  • To remove bumper stickers from car chrome, paint on vinegar and let it soak in. Next, scrape off the stickers. Decals can be removed similarly.
  • Rid your refrigerator and freezer of bad odors by cleaning the insides with a solution of equal parts vinegar and water, then wiping dry.
  • Apply full strength vinegar to mosquito or other insect bites to relieve the itching. (Caution: Do not do this if the affected area is raw.)
  • To remove smoke odors on clothes, hang them above a steaming bathtub filled with hot water and a cup of white vinegar.
  • To prevent mildew, wipe down surfaces with vinegar.
  • Place a vinegar-soaked brown bag on sprains to ease pain and aid recovery.
  • Use a sponge dampened with vinegar to clean shower curtains.
  • To remove salt and water stains from leather boots and shoes, rub with a solution of 1 tablespoon white vinegar and 1 cup water. Wipe over the stained area only, and then polish.
  • To loosen a stuck jar lid, hold the jar upside down and pour warm vinegar around the neck at the joint between the glass and the top.
  • Rub cider vinegar on your skin to repel insects.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Food Dehydration


The drying of food as a means of preservation has been around a very long time. Many people around the globe have dried meat, fish, fruit and veggies when these things are plentiful for those times when they are not. From years past to now.

My first encounter with food dehydration was a friend's uncle who dried apple slices. The "machine" he used to dry the apple slices was a bit strange. It was an old car. He used cheesecloth covered trays he placed the apple slices on. The trays were placed on wood strips laying across the dashboard, the seat backs and the rear deck (window). The car's windows were rolled down just a bit to allow the moist heated air to escape. This made a pretty effective, if somewhat, bulky dehydrator.

Essentially, dehydration of food removes the moisture that provides an environment conducive to the growth of bacteria. Removal of the moisture results in a product that can be stored for months or, even years. (I have orange zest from 3 years ago vacuumed sealed still on my shelves.)

I initially purchased the small round dehydrator which is available at your local retail store down the block. It had only an "on/off" switch. I have since found out why the better dehydrators have a thermostat. (It gives you options in your drying heats. A very big plus.) Anyway.... I burned the first unit out. When I bought my next unit cause I was hooked on drying foods, what I thought to be a middle of the road semi-decent model of food dehydrator, lasted me just a couple of months past the warranty date. Was I pissed? You bet I was.

Now I don't own stock in the company nor, am I getting any kick backs from them.... but, I now own an Excalibur 9 tray dehydrator with thermostat and timer and have never been happier with anything in my life. What a real beauty! I highly recommend you get yourself one.

I learned how to dehydrate with the Yahoo group online. I have dried any number of things. Even things I never knew you could dry. I have done meat (jerky and liver treats for the dog), shrimp, berries, lemon and orange zest, veggies of every kind, tomatoes by the buckets full.... and making yogurt becomes a breeze using the dehydrator. Mine can even be used to dry wet things... like mittens and gloves during the winter.

I hope this has piqued your interest in trying this way to preserve foods. It's not at all costly to get yourself set up to do this. It's a safe and proven method to store those extras for those leaner times.

Friday, December 2, 2011

On the Road to Self-Sufficiency

After talking with a friend a couple of days ago...I got a real kick in the pants. Listening to her and discovering all she has been doing these past months to feed her family healthfully, I was saddened to think how much I have let it slip lately. So in that vein, I will again start blogging about what I am trying to accomplish.

Here's a couple of good resources for food preservation to start off with;

Putting Food By, by Janet C. Greene
Stocking Up III, edited by Carol Hupping, Rodale Press
Making the Best of Basics, by James Talmadge Stevens

If you are interested in setting up a long term food storage plan, there are some good computer programs available to help you determine how much to set by. Also do a google search for long term food storage. You'll be surprised at how many sites you will find.

All these sources can help to filling and organizing your pantry shelves so you can become more self-sufficient.
Next up; dehydrating foods

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