Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Homesteaders New Year’s Resolutions

As we sit contemplating the sparkling LED lights of our Christmas tree our minds have turned to a great many things besides the lights. The green that is temporarily absent from our wallets. The blinking red lights of the wind farm and the possibility of future bulk energy purchases. The upcycled, thrifted, and often reused items that have gone into our Christmas celebrations. The cellulose insulation that was blown into all our exterior walls over the summer (it has the highest level of recycled content in the insulation industry). The green grass in the bright sun of summer. Solar energy packages for private homes and the insane cost of being tied to the grid. Our garden sleeping silently beneath the winters snow and the seed catalogs which dare us to dream of spring. Summer camping, mosquitoes, and tornado skies. Then sadly we are snapped back to reality by our freezing feet, cold noses, and slightly numb fingers from the subzero temps we are having and our inadequate heating situation.

All that dreaming did lead to hours of conversation about what worked and what very pointedly does/did not. What we would like to change or add and how to accomplish it. Skills we want to learn and crafts we wish to improve upon. Trips we want to take and how to manage things while we are away. All of which eventually became our homesteaders resolutions for 2014. It is a relatively short but intensive list as much of it will occur over the summer.

Our 2014 resolutions

1. Property improvement to our 1918 farmhouse. First A Winter time necessity a good furnace and heat registers to improve air flow. Next, moderate changes to the tornado shelter otherwise known as the half basement, which include fixing the leaking foundation and installing privacy screen and a porta-potty set up. Finally and actually it’s probably going to be the first thing to get done...paint the interior...after blowing in insulation this past summer the walls are ugly.

2. Garden redesign--the current set up did not work with a 'treat it like it’s broken' ankle injury and we lost a great deal of it by default. We are going to be taking a permaculture course to help with this. The redesign will also more than likely include letting it lay fallow this year, adding a surround or green house to keep out feral cats and possibly submersion to extend the growing season. Still the seed catalogs are calling out with all their glorious promises of new life.

3. Improve our canning and hand crafting skills.....practice, practice,, read, read...cook, eat, stitch, cut, sand, nail...take the plunge try NEW things.

4. We have also resolved that as much as we love home and garden we should probably vacation occasionally to avoid burnout. That means managing animal/property care while away and since we have not vacationed in quite some time we need to figure out a good plan for this! Luckily we have grown kids. However this also means not adding anything new. The chickens will have to wait another year. In the meantime we can read, build a good coop, and talk to our neighbors about proper care, feeding, and wintering requirements for our area.

5. We have resolved to be busy but live life slower. We have time to acknowledge the setting sun and the feel of the earth upon our skin. We have time to make plan and build bit by bit or to change directions and follow a new path should one present itself. We have time to be of service to our neighbors, to watch our kids and grandkids grow. We have time for starlit skies, cocoa by a fire, and learning what our ancestors knew to be timeless truths. We have time to merge two types of lives in this crazy fast paced modern world where this newsletter can reach you in an instant. In short we have time to grow our web based business, our family, our homesteading skills and our garden too.

Lastly we would like to point out how important it is to continue to strive to learn new skills no matter where you are in your journey and that winter can be an excellent time to do this. We will be taking a course and endeavoring to learn more about permaculture prior to doing our garden redesign. We are doing this course over the winter months when we have more downtime in order to really study it. It's also a great time to learn to knit, crochet, sew or simply indulge in those things that can become a rarity in the busyness of moving the furniture to clean underneath, cleaning the coils on the back of the fridge, clearing the lint hoses on the dryer, washing the tops of the door jams and window frames, reorganizing the pantry and so on. You know the fun stuff! Of course there are still stalls to be mucked out, a rabbit to be maintained, winter watering on warm (over 40*F) days, seasonal decorating, and whatever the new year brings along with it.

Wishing You a Bright and Prosperous New Year

As always you can join the Facebook group, like the Facebook community page, and visit the website. All of these are conveniently called “Kaya Self Sufficiency”. I hope you have enjoyed this post and I hope you are getting better at providing as much as you can for yourself and for your family, group, or community.

We also are currently running a fund raiser to offset our internet costs. This will be done once each month. We will sell ten or more shirt with assorted designs and sayings on them. This year's theme is "Dirt Shirt" and revolves around playing in the dirt. You can purchase January's design here. Just click the picture below:

Friday, November 22, 2013

Farmer’s Cheese

I recently had a gallon of milk start to ‘turn’. I really did not want to waste it. Here’s what I did with it….

·         Milk
·         Vinegar
·         Salt (optional)

·         Pot to boil the milk in
·         Spoon to stir the milk
·         Cheesecloth or something similar to strain the curds
·         Colander or similar to hold the cheesecloth
·         Container to strain the whey into if you want to keep it

1.       Pour your milk into a pot that will not leach anything into your milk.
2.       Bring it to a boil while stirring constantly so that the milk does not burn.
3.       As soon as it comes to a boil, turn off your burner but leave the pot there.
4.       Slowly add two teaspoons of vinegar per cup of milk.
5.       The milk will then separate into ‘curds’ and ‘whey’.
6.       The curds are your cheese and the whey can be used in many other recipes if you want to save it.
7.       Let this sit for at least ten minutes to let it separate better and cool down a little.
8.       Place your cheesecloth into the colander and wet it down a little to hold it in place.
9.       Pour your curds and whey through the cheesecloth.
10.   Pick up the corners of the cheesecloth and bring them together to make a ‘pouch’ of cheese.
11.   You can now hold it over your sink or container and squeeze a little to drain a bit more or you can hang it up over your container to drain no longer than about twenty minutes.
12.   Once it is roughly the consistency you want, open up your pouch and add salt if you want or any other flavorings you find interesting.

13.   Knead it together a bit and then put it in your storage container.

Some folks like to put it into a mold in order to make neat shapes.

Viola! Cheese!

 As always you can join the Facebook group, like the Facebook community page, and visit the website. All of these are conveniently called “Kaya Self Sufficiency”. I hope you have enjoyed this post and I hope you are getting better at providing as much as you can for yourself and for your family, group, or community.

Friday, October 11, 2013

One Long Crazy Summer

Whew! Here it is almost Halloween and the blogs are scarce. It's been one long crazy summer.

May found us getting the garden up and going until the last week when we moved grown kids and the grand baby back home at short notice. For all those folks who have said "There are only three of you, why buy such a big house?" This is why! We bought this house as a part of our long term "life preps". Life preps are those preps that you would generally find yourself planning for anyway. Buying a house is a big one in and of itself but have you made plans for aging parents, grown children struggling in a bad economy, grandkids, extended stay visitors, etc...? I am not certain our house would bear the load of both aged parents and grown kids with kids but it will adequately handle each on their own for a while.

June was also occupied with the garden and moving children. Sadly the garden went in really late and only part way. It was really, really hot in June and everything in it got cooked so I don't feel quite so bad. Our grown kiddos moved back out mid-June. Are you counting? That's two full moves in 3 weeks. We also worked on the house a bit. We removed the linoleum circa 1933 and 1968 from the 16'x8' laundry room. Underneath we found a beautiful never walked on 1933 wood floor. Our youngest child started horseback riding lessons in June in trade for our mucking stalls, yard work, and whatever other tasks we can do in trade. This was also the month The Mr. was gone for a week on a fencing job and the month of the scouting trip. Oh and Father's day, a Birthday and our ‘Town Festival’ was at the end of the month too! We won an awesome art print in the raffle. It was a very busy but very good month!

July ~ saw yet another full move on the fourth, but glad to help out a friend. That is 3 moves in five weeks! It must have been the summer of moving as this friend moved again in August. We were bummed that there were no fireworks due to the fire danger but there was the town festival the last week of June so it wasn't too bad. We spent most of July trying to get caught up from June. I'm afraid we never really did. We got a small pool, put up our tent and had a vacation in the yard. The gardening finally continued after numerous issues with feral cats and moving dirt and replanting. The horseback riding continued and we struggled with getting the house put back together from all the moving. The shed got a makeover and is now part bunny part seeding/potting area. The Mr. fixed our AC/HEAT PUMP and a week later we had an energy audit done. The house, being a 1918 fixer, failed miserably! Oh and I fell on the basement stairs, twisted my ankle, thought hey, no big deal, I'll just ice it. Umm...well, no, that was an emergency room trip the next morning.

August ~ah, the month the rains came, the basement flooded and as such got a good rearranging. A BIG thank you to the MR. for that! I spent the month with my foot in a walking BOOT because while it was not broken I was told "It’s bad enough to treat it like it’s broken". Did you know that nerves only grow back at the rate of one millimeter a month? It's really hard to garden like that! Ssshhhh, don’t tell the DR. I was walking! Well sort of. Actually I was a good girl and spent most of the month on the sofa with my foot elevated and iced while I crocheted. Sleeping unfortunately was not so easy and my poor MR. was suddenly overwhelmed with the amount of stuff needing done.  The m'inion was also less than happy because my unusable foot equaled no horseback riding lessons. To our enormous surprise though the month flew by and it was time to do the back to school shopping before we knew it. Other happenings in August included picnics with friends and having our fridge replaced. There was a huge delivery window on the new one, four plus hours, and it had to be empty on delivery in order for them to remove it. Getting rid of the old one was part of the deal with getting the new one so no recycling or repurposing could be done either. Anyway this started us on a hunt for enough ice chests to hold everything in our fridge for untold hours. Did I already say "It's good to have friends!"? This is yet another time I was happy to be with/near people instead of out in the country on a lonely dirt road. I'm not knocking self sufficiency or the country life. It’s a fact that I wish we had a bit more land and were on the out skirts of town just so we could have hoofed animals, which we confirmed we cannot have this summer but it's good to have a group of people around just in case. The MR. was gifted with a chicken coop that was a trailer in a former life and will be a gypsy wagon in its next life if all goes well. August started us on the process of weatherizing our house as well. The first step was cutting access holes and replacing the wiring in the attic.

September ~ Yay! School started. In the brand new super secure school they built on the hill. So secure my in fact our kiddo got locked out retrieving something from the playground. Cannot say we're thrilled with the higher taxes, the schools design or its prominent placement on the hill. We get tornados but that seems to have escaped the designers notice. On the other hand the heating and cooling systems are geothermal and we can definitely support that. Labor Day came and we got not one but two years of Fourth of July fireworks because hooray the fire bans were finally lifted. We also had to undo all that arranging we struggled to get done in July. Everything in the house that was on an exterior wall had to be moved a minimum of three feet from the walls and not block access pathways so they could blow in insulation. It wasn't until we did this that I realized every single room has an exterior wall. Our dryer also went out...thank goodness for the clothesline! So, not so much sitting with my boot in September. Thankfully I was switched from the walking boot to a brace about half way through the month. By the third week of September we had had several crews and large trucks in and out of our place doing the insulating as indicated by the energy audit. We were certainly ready for the follow up audit. Hmm. Still not as good as they wanted. Sigh. We moved yet more stuff and insulated some more. Finally they were satisfied with the results and finally I was released to be back on my foot with normal but limited activity...A.K.A. don’t overdo it! Ack! 8 weeks out of the garden plus a bunch of rain and I could barely find it. Half our stuff had already gone to seed. And last but not least, we have been asked to write a short monthly article for a homesteading newsletter and we’re going to give it a try. Sometimes scheduling is easier when you have a ‘boss’, LOL!

Enter October ~ the weather has turned colder. We had to pull the remainder of the garden due to freezing. Thankfully it really wasn't that much. The circuit breaker for the clothes dryer has been replaced and we have a working dryer just in time for snow. The m'inion has finally resumed riding lessons. Scouts are back in session. I have a bunch of Christmas projects in the works. My ankle still hurts but is getting better. The Mr. is losing weight, volunteering at the church and happy. Our friendships are a bit stronger than they were and by the end of the year we will have another grand baby plus two more new little ones to cuddle up when we see them. Of course our house is still in a shambles from the weatherization and painting has now been heaped on top of the to-do list as there are now drywall patches in every room of the house. It will be nice not to have to ask someone else for permission or approval of the colors. I am sure I have left some things out but I am grateful to have had such a busy and productive summer.

I do realize that I probably could have blogged while sitting on the couch with my foot up but the pain medication didn't really make for a fully functional brain. I can promise you a full blog on the weatherization experience soon though so be sure to look for it.


As always you can join the Facebook group, like the Facebook community page, and visit the website. All of these are conveniently called “Kaya Self Sufficiency”. I hope you have enjoyed this post and I hope you are getting better at providing as much as you can for yourself and for your family, group, or community.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The New Renaissance

Have I mentioned how much I hate the terms used to describe my interests? The terms used to pigeon hole and classify us, separating us into different groups instead of uniting us. Words like Prepper, survivalist, homesteader, and even self sufficiency. You know I like here we go...

The Merriam Webster definition of homestead is
1a :  the home and adjoining land occupied by a family
b :  an ancestral home
c :  house
2:  a tract of land acquired from United States public lands by filing a record and living on and cultivating the tract

A homesteader is the person or persons doing this and homesteading is the act of doing it.
The only definitions I could find for and Survivalist come from Wikipedia and Google but I feel like they are accurate.

A prepper is an individual or group that prepares or makes preparations in advance of or prior to any change in normal circumstances or lifestyle without significant reliance on other persons (i.e., being self-reliant), or without substantial assistance from outside resources (govt., etc. ...)

The definition of survivalist comes in assorted flavors and types.
Survivalism is a movement of individuals or groups (called survivalists or preppers) who are actively preparing for emergencies, including possible disruptions in social or political order, on scales from local to international. Survivalists often acquire emergency medical and self-defense training, stockpile food and water, prepare to become self-sufficient, and build structures (e.g., a survival retreat or an underground shelter) that may help them survive a catastrophe.

The many types include safety preparedness, wilderness survival, and self-defense. As well as those focused on readiness for disasters such as military attacks, bio-chemical warfare, collapse of the economy or natural disasters like floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and blizzards. There is even a group called Rawlesions who allegedly follow the teachings of James Wesley Rawles.

None of these terms really apply to me. I think I prefer the term renaissance. Merriam Webster defines it thusly.
a :  the transitional movement in Europe between medieval and modern times beginning in the 14th century in Italy, lasting into the 17th century, and marked by a humanistic revival of classical influence expressed in a flowering of the arts and literature and by the beginnings of modern science
b :  the period of the Renaissance
c :  the neoclassic style of architecture prevailing during the Renaissance
often capitalized :  a movement or period of vigorous artistic and intellectual activity
:  rebirth, revival

In addition the Oxford Dictionary says-(as noun a renaissance) a revival of or renewed interest in something: example...rail travel is enjoying a renaissance.

In particular I interpret it as "A rebirth of humanism and cultural achievements for their own sake through a period of vigorous artistic and intellectual activity expressed in the arts, literature, modern science, and technology through renewed interests in things and cultures of the past."  I've really been thinking about it a lot and what we need is an integration of the old ways with modern technology. A merging of past and present that creates an appreciation for life in its simplest form and strives to create and sustain a way of living that honors all life in the circle not just us. Imagine what DaVinci would think of our world; Miraculous inventions but no beauty in our hearts. That is not who we are and it's not the future we want either.

We are a new breed. We are going back to the homestead and nature based lives. Lives that are slower and more deliberate. Relearning skills our grandparents and sometimes great, great, great grandparents knew. However we are integrating them with modern life. Using food processors, dishwashers, pressure canners, sewing machines, GPS, and even the world wide web regularly in our homesteading. I call it a renaissance because more and more it seems our desires are just so out of place with the more, more, me, me, lifestyle of endless greed and acquisition. We have had too much and too much of it is in the end irrelevant! We just don't fit any longer. We find ourselves questioning everything. Everything from why to where and when has been and is once again being debated. In the end the world we are used to has squeezed us out. Forcing us into a brand new world. A world we could never imagine. We are in a world being reborn. Like all births there is tension and pain during the transition. Ask any mother; you’ll generally find that afterwards birth pains are sort of hazy in their memory while the joy of holding that new born for the first time is crystal clear. We are like that. The birthing pains have and still are resulting in a great many disagreements.  The most noted drawback is the same one we had in the city, money. We live in what most refer to as abject poverty, seeing only the dollars involved, they see it all as a negative thing. I admit it sometimes feels that way but to us it’s become simply a part of that hazy memory of lattes, bad news and endless consumerism. What is crystal clear to us is that we're in a much more stable position than before.

Our rural area is so rich in community and has given us much. We have so many good memories to replace the old ones.  Looking at our current life is indeed like holding that new born and seeing all the possibilities it hasn't yet dreamed of in its eyes. The differences are dramatic. In the city we suddenly found we could not afford even the basics of food, housing and electricity. It took a while to take an honest look at things because we are so programmed to believe that where we are and what we are doing is the way it should be that even though we saw the change coming we didn't think it could really be any different. The demands, stress and pressures of that lifestyle were not good for us. Here we are content. Here we are buying a home not renting. Here we are able to live within our means. Here we have the pleasure, release, and resetting of the ancient cycles that exist in all peoples that the garden and contact with nature in all its various moods and elements provides. Here we are aware of our connection to the earth, the food chain, and all that has been and is eternal. Here we are finding not just a lifestyle but a life in harmony with other life. We know we'll do everything we can to nurture, strengthen and protect it.

Therein lies the biggest difference my friends. Crops. Cycles. Success. Failure. Hope. They are all in tune with the planet and the universe. We as a species were meant to be in tune with the earth just as every other living thing on the planet is in tune with it. When we return to the earth we return to ourselves.

We don't have to choose technology over earth or vice versa. We can live lives that honor the earth yet integrate technology. We can create without destroying. We simply need to dream up and work out better ways of doing things. That requires knowledge. The people who know technology, machinery, energy, etc. do not know the earth and they must if they are going to find innovative solutions to the problems we face as a species. Likewise we cannot just shut ourselves off from those technologies that help us expand and grow. We are all going to need to learn. The beginning of change has to be a return of the people to the earth and we are without a doubt the first of those people. Relearning what our grandparents knew and using modern equipment to accomplish it.  Here is where a new way starts. Here is where our true potentials to create miracles for ourselves, the planet, and generations yet to be dreamed of starts. We are on the very cusp, the beginning of the beginning, so here’s to a new renaissance!


As always you can join the Facebook group, like the Facebook community page, and visit the website. All of these are conveniently called “Kaya Self Sufficiency”. I hope you have enjoyed this post and I hope you are getting better at providing as much as you can for yourself and for your family, group, or community.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Valuable Lessons

As I sit here drinking my coffee this morning I am lost in a sea of frustration. Frustration over a project where I know I could have purchased something similar and comparable to the end result for less money. It is very evident in this case that the cost of the raw products needed, yarn and material, has exceeded the cost of purchasing a pre-made store bought item. In my frustration over this project with the material costs and altering my desired pattern to fit my allowed materials budget I find myself wondering if I am compromising the overall goals of self sufficiency?

My answers could be simple. I could say my yarn crafting and sewing are essential life skills that are necessary should TEOTWAWKI occur. I could say these projects are my hobby; they keep me happy and entertained for hours. After all not every minute can be taken up with gardening. I could make it all very complicated. I could say it keeps my mind productive and working at a higher level by computing the mathematics of material usage and proper cutting layouts to maximize both the life of the finished product and any remaining raw product thus preventing Alzheimer's and saving me money on doctors later. I could say it keeps my hands busy during times I would otherwise be unproductive thus making me more productive and evening out the cost to productivity ratio. I could say the value is all making and receiving a handmade product will without a doubt make the creator and the recipient very happy. I could say it’s essential to my very being as it provides a method of meditation that allows me to reduce the overall stress in my life while exercising both body and brain. I could say it is offset by money saved elsewhere in the budget by things like gardening. All these things are true to one extent or another yet when the rubber hits the road I still find myself feeling frustrated over the raw materials costs. I find myself trying to justify the cost of the materials far too often and yes I even sometimes have trouble justifying the amount of time and effort I put into some of these projects. I could just as easily pick something up in town or order it online.  So why bother? At what point do you surrender?

In this particular case I'm making an oversized blanket for a queen sized bed as a gift for someone who did me a huge favor. It is worth every effort and bit of care I put into it as I am very grateful for the assistance and work done by this person. It is a fact however that I could have purchased a similar item for less money than the cost of the materials required to make it myself. Now I fully realize that most of us choose this life style with less consideration for monetary gain than most folks do but it is still a part of this modern world that the money equation has to somehow work. At what point does cost enter in to the self sufficiency equation and at what point is homesteading/self sufficiency considered to produce adequate value if it is exceeding the cost threshold of breaking even?

As far as other projects go I do have a lot of re-use projects that help cut supply costs. I shop sales, thrift stores, use coupons, and do what is within my power to reduce the costs of raw materials for everything not just my crafting, including thoughts of spinning my own yarn. I think we would need more than just one lonely rabbit though and animals often require more feed than grazing can provide so I'm not sure it would really be cheaper given the quantities of yarn I use. The frugality of re-using items or picking from sales items and left over yarn stash can occasionally limit my design choices. Having a materials budget that doesn't stretch as far as my imagination can also produce not altogether unexpected frustration. Sometimes just when I think there is no good solution that is when I learn how self sufficient I truly am. It’s when I work through the challenges and limitations of making do with what I have to produce a pleasant result that I realize my own abilities, skill and creativity; for me this produces value!

Value can be judged in many ways. Value can be personal such as pride in a job well done or the awareness that you are capable of providing for yourself. It can be aesthetic coming from the uniqueness or artistry of an item. Value can also be societal or worldly such as a skill or specific knowledge, material worth like raw unmanufactured goods, and monetary worth. Value can also be largely perceptual and based only on how it is received. There are many facets to each of these and just as many ways to use or trade within the 'value' they represent. I guess in the end however it doesn't really matter if your self sufficiency comes out as an ability to use the money available to shop the best bargains, a talent for creating interesting solutions and designs, the ability gather raw materials and refine them, or the ability to manufacture finished goods in so much as it is simply being able to achieve your end goal through your own means. However that may look to you the value in it is the value you choose to find in it. So, yes, I'm frustrated over materials costs and changing my design plans but there is much I find of value. I value the knowledge of the craft and my own abilities. I value what I learn each time I have to adjust my plans and the pure challenge of making it work. I value the time I've spent in an enjoyable manner and the joy and appreciation I know the recipient will usually have for my work.

I have one other thing I have valued very much during this process as well; that is the people around me. My husband who has listened to my frustration and offered suggestions though he had no idea what I was talking about was a great help and sounding board. My oldest kiddo who knowing the recipient better than I do offered suggestions for designs and eased some of my worries by verifying the correct sizing. Lastly and perhaps most importantly my youngest child who has given me the chance once again to pass on my knowledge by choosing to learn a skill from momma. Thanks.


As always you can join the Facebook group, like the Facebook community page, and visit the website. All of these are conveniently called “Kaya Self Sufficiency”. I hope you have enjoyed this post and I hope you are getting better at providing as much as you can for yourself and for your family, group, or community.