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Archive for the ‘First Generation Learning’ Category

Your Custom Homestead

At only $4.99, this looks like a terrific little eBook for all of us – the frustrated wanna-be homesteaders!

What if… you could fulfill your homesteading dreams without having to relocate?

What if… you could start a journey towards a simpler way of life where you are right now?

Wherever you live right now– THAT is your homestead.

Contrary to popular belief, a homesteader doesn’t have to be someone who lives on hundreds of acres with the perfect red barn and white picket fence.

They live in apartments in the middle of the asphalt jungle. And in suburbia with mini-vans. And on a few acres on the outskirts of town.

Your Custom Homestead takes you through a 21-day process of moving closer to your homesteading dreams, no matter where you may live.

In this 79 page eBook, we’ll examine different motivations for homesteading, define exactly what modern-day homesteading means, and then work through the prepwork and actual processes of accomplishing a homesteading lifestyle that will perfectly fit your unique situation.

I’m definitely going to check it out – it has information on making the most of an unlikely location, planning for (future) farm animals, and many other topics that are right on my “To Do” list.

And a great bonus? You can have it however you want!

Buy the .pdf version

– or –

Buy the Kindle version

If you hurry, you can also enter to win one of three copies (.pdf) from GNOWFGLINS.

(Links in any posts may contain affiliate links, in which case your purchase helps support the maintenance of As For My House – and we thank you!)

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Laundry Update and Reviews

The hand laundry continues, with much slow progress along the learning curve.

Here’s a few things I’ve learned so far about the process, and the products.

Breathing Washer, Rapid Washer, or laundry plunger.

When I started my journey, you may recall, I went with an inexpensive rubber toilet plunger (new!). A plunger is a plunger, right?

Wrong. Of course.

The rubber plunger lasted through just a few weeks of hard use before it gave out – the rubber isn’t designed for that much bending, all the time.

The breathing washer has been a lifesaver, and valuable investment. It is a sturdy plastic cone that doesn’t flex, so no stress on it that way. It uses pressure and suction to push/pull the water through the clothes, offering very effective cleaning.

Must have tool for hand laundry.

Clothesline Drying

Wolf got my lovely new clothesline set up in the back yard. We chose this one as a good balance between the right item and the right price:

On the advice of a friend, we installed it with a T-post in the ground rather than trying to dig in its sleeve, and added reinforcing dowels on each arm with cable “zip” ties.

I use good ol’ wooden clothespins to keep things from falling off every time a breeze blows by.

That part works like a charm.

Mississippi weather? Not so much. Brief but frequent rains, and high humidity, make drying outside sometimes quite challenging. Although I try to use it as much as possible, I am very thankful that we still have our gas dryer hooked up and available!

But let’s go back to the washing for a moment…

Wringing

We had purchased this wringer:

…and Wolf set me up a lovely little laundry stand with a utility sink, the mounted wringer, room for a bucket to gather clothes in from the wringer, and room underneath for storage (or, in my case, the cat boxes!).

He bought the utility sink at Lowes, then had to build a table to raise it since we’re so tall. The side also needed to be reinforced to support the wringer, and it needed a more functional drain/plug. It now lives in the “mud room / laundry room” by the back door, using the same plumbing connections the washer used.

Other than some challenges with finding a drain setup that works in that sink (which was designed for just a rubber stopper), the laundry station setup has been working out very well.

The wringer? Not so much.

First, a picky complaint: the description states, and the photo shows, wing nuts to adjust the tension. It did not, however, show up with wing nuts. Luckily, Wolf replaced the “plain nuts” that were included before I ever even saw it, and I went about doing laundry.

But the design is seriously flawed.

When mounted on the side of the laundry tub, the rollers are, obviously, dangling over the tub (allowing the water wrung out to go down the drain). Over time, due to friction rubbing the finish off, and constant exposure to water, the ends of the rods quickly start getting tiny rust specks… Which are then ground off at each use, and the greasy, rusty water drips off — right onto the clean laundry waiting to be wrung (or the next load just placed in the tub).

Over time, now, the black paint on the arms has worn all the way through, and those surfaces are rusting as well, resulting in more “gunk” in the works – which is now also creeping in along the rollers (soiling clothes as they are wrung), rather than “just” dripping down onto the clean clothes below.

The work-around we have come to is that Wolf completely disassembles and cleans all the interior bits of the wringer about once a month. Meanwhile, I wait between each load of wash (and rinse) for the drips to dry up and stop before cleaning out my tub and beginning the next load. It’s an awkward situation, but it is what we have to work with for the time being.

The company from which I bought the wringer didn’t seem concerned with my feedback, declaring that they have sold “thousands” of these over the years. They say that, while not perfect, it is made in the USA and they are proud to offer it. I feel they are likely missing the point: I imagine that most people use the wringer for weekends at the cabin, or other intermittent or light use. It still bears noting that under heavy, full-time use, it has the above (serious) issues — my suggestion was not that they stop selling it, only that they add some clarification to the description.

The manufacturer of the wringer, who previously chatted with me by both email and phone about his design ideas for related products, did not respond to my two emails on the subject, nor to an inquiry by a mutual friend.

Wolf is working on a way to rebuild the wringer that will solve this problem. He had actually hoped that the wringer company would be interested in such an improvement, and it could be manufactured this way for the benefit of a larger population. Since that’s not the case, he will do a “one-off” rebuild of my existing wringer, and I, at least, will be happy.

So, on we go.

Learning, and in many cases, building, everything from scratch…

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Baking Bread – REALLY From Scratch!



Yep, we finally put the pieces together!

We took our lovely wheat from our recent bulk order…

And ground it into flour in my brand-new NutriMill Grain Mill.

Then we used the EZ Wheat Bread recipe from Everyday Food Storage (we’ve been using her EZ White Bread up to this point).

(Nick actually made one batch with our fresh-ground flour prior to this, but used the recipe we’ve been using for white bread. As you might expect, it was rather short and dense).


Anyhow, off I went, piling the ingredients in the bowl.

Here’s my lovely assistant, the KitchenAid mixer, doing all the “hard labor” part of the job.

After that, it rises in a bowl for about an hour. It took a bit longer, as it was (surprisingly) chilly in my kitchen.

Then punched down, shaped in to loaves, and left to rise in the loaf pans for another hour or so.

Here are the loaves, after that second rise, ready to go in the oven. I didn’t do a very good job of dividing the dough in half, did I?



So, into the oven they went.

We had tweaked the time and temperature a bit on her white bread recipe, but since this was (a) a different recipe, and (b) a new oven from when we worked that all out, I decided to go with the (higher) temperature listed on the recipe.

I didn’t think it was quite done, but it had to come out before we got to “charcoal” on the top.

Sitting there, buttered and shiny, it sure looks good, doesn’t it?

But, alas…

It was not, in fact, done in the middle.

While I was, naturally, very disappointed in the waste, as well as not being able to enjoy the fruits of my labors, I do realize that this is a learning process.

Although we have been baking our own bread for several years now, we have stuck with one “tried and true” recipe — and we went through this same process in the beginning getting it worked out, too.

So, today, we are back at it.

The flour has been ground, and the mixer is churning away.

We’ll lower the oven temperature 25 degrees, and extend the baking time a bit. I’ll keep an eye on things and see if it look like it might still need foil over the top, as well.

Hopefully we’ll have a delicious treat later this afternoon. One step further down the road…

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DIY Adventures – Fig Preserves


I had so much fun making jam that I felt confident in making the leap when one of the ladies I shop with often at our local Farmer’s Market said she was taking pre-orders for her figs.

I got two gallons of the lovely things, which she said would be about nine pounds.

Wolf suggested fig preserves, which was a treat he remembered his grandmother making. After much debate – since I had no idea what I was doing – I settled on this Judy’s Fig Preserves recipe. Mostly just because the lemons sounded good.

After washing and removing stems, the first real step is to pour the sugar over them and let it sit there and “stew” overnight. Since I don’t have a stockpot or anything similarly large, I ended up using my new (huge!) pressure canner (pot part only).

I wasn’t sure how much that was really going to accomplish. But what do I know?

In the morning there was definite evidence that there had been THINGS going on. So we proceeded to the actual cooking.

We cooked, and cooked, and cooked…

Was it the pot? The wrong temperature setting?

It seemed to take a long, long time to get to the point where the figs were even beginning to turn transparent. The 2-3 hours listed in the recipe was not even close.

Then we had a problem of not knowing when to “say when”. When most of the figs are mostly translucent, is that it? Or are you really trying to get all of the figs all the way?

At some point – something like 6-8 hours later – we stopped cooking it. I canned as much as I could do in a single batch in my water bath canner (5 pints and 2 half pints, since I ran out of pint jars), then put the rest (2 1/2 more half pints!) in the fridge for immediate use. (So we also got a greater yield than the recipe suggested)

The preserves are, overall, a success.

They do have a bit of a strong, bitter taste. I attribute this to overcooking, but Wolf pointed out it could simply be the character of the particular figs we had. He says it does largely resemble what he remembers from his grandmother’s kitchen.

This post was shared at the fun Titus Twosdays Linkup:

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Seeds Away!

The first things in the ground were the strawberries. Since they came as a plant, we went ahead and put them in the ground Friday evening after we brought them home.

Seeds we wanted to do in the morning, which left out Saturday (4H meet for Nick) and Sunday (Church), so we geared up to go as the start of a new week…

The larger seeds I set to soak before everyone was even out of bed, and we all had a fun time putting most of our garden in the ground.

We planted:

  • Watermelon
  • Summer Squash
  • Cucumbers
  • Onion
  • Potato
  • Garlic
  • Shallot
  • Horseradish
  • Nasturtiums
  • Tomato
  • Butternut Squash
  • Bush Bean (half)
  • Pepper
  • Lettuce (half)
  • Carrot (one quarter)
  • Marigolds

The Bush Beans, Lettuce, and Carrots we are staggering, so that the harvest will be spread out.

We also had not yet received our Corn and Cowpeas, which just arrived.

I have two squares marked out for Spinach, but in getting down to the details for each plant I realized that it was too late to plant spinach, a cool-weather crop, for a late-spring or early-summer harvest. We’ll have to hold off, and plant what would normally be the second wave of spinach – planted after the worst of the summer heat, and harvested later in the fall.

Maybe there’s something I can do with those squares in the meantime – perhaps I’ll look up the beets and radishes from the seed assortment, which I had not planned to grow.

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Dig the Dirt

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Garden Plotting

Using the Square Foot Gardening method, we’ve decided to go with two squares, plus a third square with just sweet corn.

Nick has made me up a lovely Visio garden layout diagram, so that we can think things through now, and keep track of what we did for future planning.

Here’s what I’m thinking so far:

What do you think?

I’m waiting on the corn and cowpeas I ordered from Monticello (yeah, we’re going to grow the plants from which Thomas Jefferson ate – how fun is that?), but other than that we have everything listed here ready to go…

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Preparing to Try Gardening

Sounds serious, eh?

I’ve never “gardened”.

Houseplants, yes. Water the lawn and mow it, yes.

“Garden”, no.

But if we’re going to make Contentment (see our explanation page, and posts about it) a reality, it’s going to take quite a bit of farm know-how.

So I figure I better work on knowing how, now.

I’m starting with the most-recommended book in my informal survey of gardening friends:

I have to make a few decisions such as –

  • Where to put the garden in the yard
  • How big to make it (in this case, how many “squares” to create)
  • Dig into the ground only, or build raised beds on top?
  • How best to make a fertile plot of of this horrible, sandy soil (what needs to be added)

All before we even get to the fun questions, such as choosing which crops to grow!

I sent for the Free Catalog from Gardens Alive, which includes a $25 coupon (not a sponsored endorsement, just sharing a deal!). Using it, I got their 10 pack of seeds, since they meet my primary requirement of being open-pollinated / heirloom varieties. I may not be saving any seeds this year, but I know that that is part of our future.

I want to eat the food the way God designed it, and I want it to reproduce itself self-sufficiently – also the way God designed it.

Their 10-pack includes:

  • Blue Lake 274 Bush Bean
  • Detroit Dark Red Beet
  • Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce
  • Cal Wonder Pepper
  • Cherry Belle Radish
  • Danvers 126 Carrot
  • Bloomsdale Spinach
  • Early Summer Crookneck Squash
  • Brandywine Red Tomato
  • Sweet Burpless Cucumber Hybrid

We will probably not grow the beet or the radish, but will use the other eight as our first experiments with each of those vegetables.

Important things we’re considering adding include Corn, Blackeyed Peas, Pole Beans, Winter Squash, Brussels Sprouts, Garlic, Onion, and some friendly and edible plants like Nasturtium and Marigold.

Some things I’m anxious to grow we won’t start until we move up to the land, since they’re not annuals: Asparagus, Blueberries, etc.

And how do Strawberries grow in Mississippi? In Florida they’re an annual crop, since there’s no winter to speak of to create the dormancy period which would signal them to produce again… So, here, can I keep them going?

I plan to grow a few little trees in containers – like Clementines. Not sure whether I should start those now, or would the trip still traumatize them too much?

Yes, I’m totally overwhelmed. Likely I will end up throwing myself on the mercy of the garden department staff at Lowes….

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January DIY – Sew a Blind Hem

“January?” you ask…

Well, I confess things got off to a rather muddled start this year. We spent almost the entire month of January with some or all of us some or all the way ill… Not a lot got done beyond survival mode, and it is taking me a while to catch up.

You may remember back at the beginning of the year I made a list of 12 DIY Projects to Try in 2011 – one for each month.

I didn’t blog about it, but I actually did complete the project for January – sewing a blind hem.

I started by putting off anything scary by doing far too much research, including watching a ton of videos on YouTube. These are three of my favorites:

  • How to Sew a Blind Hem Stitch – made for making window trims, but the principles are universal.
  • How to Machine Sew a Blind Hem – from Expert Village.
  • Sewing Lesson: Blind Hem – from the Crafty Gemini (now following her blog!)

I already had a blind hem foot in the accessory box for my sewing machine, and I had picked up thread to match the pants already.

Then I just had to convince myself that there was nothing for it but to jump in.

I made several blind hems on a test scrap, and discovered that it’s really not so hard, once the “I get it” clicks into place. Unfortunately, for my first real project, I got a bit of extra challenge because the pants were just barely long enough on Wolf, so I was trying to make as small a hem as possible.

First I turned the hem up (inside), and pressed it.

Then off to the sewing machine…

Here’s two views of the finished hem – lighting adjusted so that you can see it better, or so that it blends away as intended.

And you can also see the results on my handsome model at the top of the post!

Keep your eye out for the slightly-less-belated February post coming soon, and then March will get us back on track, Lord willing…

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DIY in 2011

I was inspired yesterday by Money Saving Mom’s post, 12 Do-It-Yourself Projects I Plan to Attempt in 2011.

There are a lot of things I’d like to try in the coming year, as well… And I very much agree with her reasoning that it’s too easy to put it off without more concrete goals and planning.

Crystal’s idea was to decide on one project to do each month, and commit to doing those and blogging about them. Her choices are not too far off from things I’d like to try!

She mentions homemade laundry soap and homemade dishwasher soap. Those sound great, but I’ve tried the laundry soap, and it seems like it’s just not getting the job done with our icky water here. Ah, well…

Here’s my list so far:

January: Learn to sew a Blind Hem, and hem Wolf’s new dress pants.

February: Make From-Scratch Chai Tea. Yummmmm!

March: Make Homemade Hamburger Buns (Anyone have a fabulous recipe to pass along?). We’ve been making bread so long, it’s sad that we don’t already do this!

April: Plant some food-producing plants in a container garden or raised bed.

May: Make Freezer Jam.

June: Make Plum Jam (the “regular” kind) – these two should make for an interesting comparison!

July: Make homemade soap.

August: Make cheese (I understand Mozzarella is a good place to start).

September: Preserve something in the dehydrator.

October: Make Homemade Apple Butter.

November: Make a pair of fleece footie pajamas for each of the Littles. (Set in a zipper, make feet…)

December: Make Homemade Marshmallows.

There are many, many more things I want to do, but these are the ones that came to mind as just the right “significant projects” for this list.

Do you have any Home Ec projects you’d like to try this year?

“A goal is a dream with a deadline”

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