Homesteading for the Average Jane

An average mom, trying her hand at suburban homesteading!


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Snow on my suburban homestead!

Well yesterday we got our first snow of 2014. Last year we got none and to be honest it isn’t something that happens very often here since we live on the boarder of TN and GA, and in a valley. When we do get snow it is a disaster! We don’t have lots of salt trucks or snow plows so our hilly roads and neighborhoods become impassable very quickly. So today I am home with the kids.  The view this morning was beautiful!

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Our little yard had about 2 inches of snow. The view down the street was a pretty one and my husbands little car is covered! He has already taken out our 4-wheel drive suv to go to our local fire hall where he volunteers and is a medical first responder. So I ventured out early this morning to get some pictures, do a few chores, and enjoy the snow before the kids got up.  The first thing I did was check on my winter-sown seeds….they are looking good, getting their first freeze and watering when the snow thaws.

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Then it was time to take care of some local wildlife! I put out some dry cat food for the local strays since I am trying to build some trust to capture them and have them fixed in our local feral cat program.  Then I noticed that both my bird feeders were empty. So I filled them up.

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Just now I saw a beautiful cardinal at my front feeder but I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo! I really feel like keeping wild birds fed and happy is important because they help with pest control, provide hours of entertainment for my cats, and are beautiful of course!

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My straw bales are also doing well! As you can see, they are just hanging out…slowly decomposing! Very soon I will be getting my stakes set and my trellis ran over each roll but right now with temps in the single digits I think it can wait a little longer!  Later today I am going to makes some chicken soup and get my indoor seeds started! So expect another post soon!

 


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Winter sowing…seeds get first snow!

So it is January 28th, 2014 and we were hit with a little snow storm! It was fast and furious! And I know many of you would scoff at 2 inches of snow but for lower, middle Tennessee it is a big deal. Anyway, after days of freezing temps we finally got some snow and my winter sown seeds are the benefactors.

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As you can see there is some snow inside the jugs and around the tops, as the temperature increases over the next few days (it is supposed to be in the 50’s by Saturday) the process of freezing and thawing will continue!

 


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Seeds for Winter-Sowing Going out TODAY!

So I showed everyone to how I made my containers for winter-sowing. With the help of my daughter, LBug, I got all my hardy seeds sown. Since it is 14 degrees outside we decided to work at the kitchen table.  HINT: I keep a crib sheet that I use to cover my table for messy projects like painting and potting, then I can just toss it in the wash!

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We put about 3 to 4 inches of organic potting soil in each bucket, the soil was already pre-moistened, but not too wet, since it set out in the rain! Make sure that the soil is loose and not packed down so that the roots can form. With this process it is not necessary to nick or soak seeds. The freezing and thawing they will go through over the next few months soften the seeds and prepare them for germination.

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We did space seeds that need spacing and others we spread across the top and covered with about a 1/4 inch of soil. This go we are starting the following seeds:

  1. Broccoli
  2. Cauliflower
  3. Brussels Sprouts
  4. Cabbage
  5. Spaghetti Squash
  6. Bibb Lettuce
  7. Head lettuce
  8. Crookneck Squash
  9. Zucchini
  10. Parsley

I plan to start some tender plants in March and April the same way but it is just too cold right now. I am also starting some of these plants indoors. Since I am new to starting plants from seeds I want to have several options! When the seeds are sown all you need to do now is put on a piece of duct tape to keep the tops closed and remove all the lids.

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Next find a good spot in your yard. I chose my patio because it gets good afternoon sun and some shade and is protected from the wind. I put them all up on a table so that they are protected from neighborhood dogs and such. Make sure they are accessible to the rain and snow!

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* It was not snowing the day I put them out! This is a few days later…

As you can see I placed them in the back yard on my patio table. I can keep and eye on them out the kitchen window and they get the sun and weather exposure they need.


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How to prepare Containers for Winter-Sowing

I have very limited space for seed starting, so this year I have decided to experiment with winter-sowing. I first learned about it from Pinterest and winter-sowing.org. Right now I have around 20 containers and I am starting a variety of seeds (hardy to zone 7b ). Here are my containers!

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I cut each jug around the middle until I got to the handle, this becomes the hinge. Then I used a permanent marker to label each jug with it’s contents. On the day I actually plant I will add the date. I also write the plant and date on the bottom of each in case the tops get sun faded.

Next I had to put some drainage holes in the bottom. I realized rather quickly that punching holes in the bottom would take forever and I would probably lose a finger doing it with a craft knife! So back to winter-sow.org I went and it suggested using a soldering iron or heated screw driver. I chose the soldering iron. My husband does some wiring work so we happen to have one. It made the job a breeze!

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It only took a few moments for each milk jug. Tomorrow I will fill with potting soil and seeds! Stay tuned!


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Spice Cabinet Disaster!

I will admit, my spice cabinet is a complete disaster! I don’t know how many times I have purchased a new spice just to find that I still had some in the cabinet, or how many times I have searched for a spice and not had it, or had lumps on my noggin from jars falling on my head! So I decided it was time to do something about it!

So this is what my cabinet looked like before:

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Could you find anything in there? Oh and did I mention I about 4’9″ so I also have to drag out a step stool to even reach the second shelf. So my solution was to install an organizing rack onto my pantry door. It is right next to the stove and in plain sight so I can find what I need with ease.

This is how it turned out…

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I know it doesn’t look like a lot of spices but they are 2 deep! And they are down low enough for me to reach. Now my cabinet looks like this:

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Look at that empty space! I did use the bottom self for those rarely used spices for canning and seasonal dishes. I also added a small basket for all my spices that come in pouches (which are much cheaper, by the way). Now I have 2 empty shelves to work with and I plan to use them to clear some things from my counter tops.

Now some people may not like having their spices out for all to see, but with 5 children and a small kitchen I will take function over form any day!


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Homemade Laundry Detergent

Over the years I have tried several homemade cleaning and household products. Some have been huge successes and some not so much! So I don’t like to post about them until I have tested them adequately and know they are cost effective. About 8 months ago I got this recipe from my sister and I have been using it since then! Last week I found that I was scrapping the bottom of the bucket and had to make some more!

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These are the ingredients that I use and the price of each…I bought them at my local Wal-Mart…the only place that sales them all.

1 Box-20 Mule Borax   $3.97

1 Box- Arm and Hammer Baking Soda $2.24

1 Box- Arm and Hammer Washing Soda $3.24

1 Tub- Sun Oxi-Clean Powders $5.47

1 Purex Crystals  $3.97

3 Bars-Fels-naptha Laundry Bars $0.97 each

I always begin by dumping my dry ingredients into my handy 5 gallon bucket. Then I grate up my 3 bars of soap. Now my sister has an old food processor that she used and it made the soap really fine but I found that l like hand grating my soup with a cheese grater. It leaves bigger pieces which seems to make a little more suds in the wash. Plus you work up a good sweat grating all that soap! Then it is just a matter of blending it together. I just use may hands, reaching down to the bottom of the bucket and bringing the contents to the top until it is well mixed. I always save my scoop from the oxi-clean to measure my detergent. I use one scoop per load and yes, I even use cold water. I just toss in the detergent when I start my water and give it a minute to dissolve. I have never had any clumps or residue on my clothes.

This is what it looks like all finished!

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In total I spent…$21.80. The last batch lasted me 8 months and that is with a family of 7! I don’t know the cost per load but I know that is a lot of savings! So give it a try. It cleans great, smells great, and is very cost effective!