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.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Drudgery is um... errrr... Good?

My world mixes modern life and rural homesteading with a disability to create something no one quite gets. Recently I had a moment created by this weird triune when I didn't know if I should laugh or cry. Unfortunately this was created solely as the result of speaking to someone else. I was explaining my life, our family choices, etc..., when they said "so drudgery is um eeerrr good?” Well um excuse me! My life is not Drudgery! Well I suppose some people would find it to be full of dull, irksome, and fatiguing work that is uninspiring, menial, and laborious. Doesn't that describe just about everyone’s life at some point though?

Frankly it sounds a lot more like our life before we moved than now but yes I suppose it is hard work at times. We sweep and mop the floors. We hand wash dishes. We compost the kitchen wastes. We line dry clothing. We shovel dirt, hay, poop, compost and snow. We chop down trees with an axe. We prune bushes by hand. I sit on the ground in the garden and pull weeds by hand. The lawn mower is an old fashioned reel type push mower. We cook from scratch. Attempt to home can jellies, pickles, and other foods. Animals get fed, cages get cleaned. I crochet, knit and sew. Books are more important than TV. I suppose the fact that we prefer it that way can be a bit much for others to absorb sometimes.

It’s no secret; we moved to small town America because we wanted to! Honestly though we are nothing but city folks with minimal experience in things of limited practicality. We were trained to sit in cubicles, work a manufacturing line, and to specialize in specific areas. Those jobs are now gone. There is definitely no American call service center or manufacturing job in our area of rural America. Truth be told not being people of business or doctors or lawyers or some other highly academic profession we were sub-par in the city. Now of course we are far below the scale of knowledge of long term 'old time' country folks and most of our neighbors as well. Trust me the road to adjustment can be steep and winding. We have a little footing having grown up with elders who gardened, crocheted, knitted, cooked, painted, built things, made things from leather and being far from monetarily wealthy taught us how to make do with what was available. We are slowly making friends, trying new things and being willing to learn by trial and error has helped a lot too.

In this case I'm sure it's not the first time someone has looked at it as DRUDGERY. In fact I'm certain had you asked me when I was nine I would have said it was the ultimate in drudgery. However, I've realized after giving this particular conversation a lot of thought that Most of the Adult U.S. Population is lazy....and that they don't want to be reminded of how lazy they are....this includes the author of this least sometimes. I have missed a few modern conveniences and/or questioned the merits of things like kitchen composting, line drying clothing, or the non-use of power tools. I have not really thought of those things as drudgery though.

We choose to do them voluntarily. We balance things as much as we can. I line dry clothes but we have a dryer. I compost kitchen scraps and readily admit there are days I would give anything for a garbage disposal.  I can guarantee the MR. would love a riding mower and snow blower. We really aren't that different from anyone else except we made a choice to try to use as many human powered tools as possible. It doesn't mean we oppose chain saws it just means that they are not the first go to tool in the shed. It also doesn't mean we hand sew all our clothing; we do have an electric sewing machine. Being converts we don't completely have the old time skills needed for homesteading or self sufficiency at this time. We are still learning and gathering basic supplies. Heck we don't even have the proper tools to shovel manure really....or umm fork to pitch hay...our knowledge and experience are lacking enough in the rural arena we couldn't even really barter for goods and services in a meaningful way at this point. Never mind the fact that bartering hasn't taken hold here as form of commerce. All we have is a goal to pay the bills, keep plugging away at the learning, help others when we can and prepare in the best way we can for the worst with no idea of what the worst could even be.

I find it odd though that we generally catch more flak from the people who live in the city. The People who are uninformed and tend to view it as drudgery. I have been told that we are too old, too broke, don't have enough viable skills, are over qualified, or that we are simply physically unable to live the life we have chosen. Apparently to some folks no matter what we say or how carefully we work to create a blend that mixes modern life, rural homesteading and a disability with small town life and a family to create a unique world that creates harmony and happiness in the best way we know how it will be seen as a life not worth living. You know I think that may be ok with me because today I saw a rainbow for at least a full thirty minutes and sadly even if the folks who sparked this blog noticed the rainbow I doubt they really took the time to fully appreciate it in all its glory and wonder.  It's true: this life is not for everyone.

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.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Commitment and New Challenges

I've mentioned before that I have a disability. Unfortunately it tends to affect everyone in my sphere in some way, including you! Families, friends, Homesteading/self sufficiency, and blogs require a commitment. Commitments can be hard for me to make and harder for me to keep so unfortunately things don't always flow as smoothly together as any of us would like. Some days and even for full weeks everything I hope to accomplish can be brought to a standstill. On the best days though everything merges into a colossal river of ebb and flow moving along with life and all nature in great harmony. Honestly though most days are somewhere in between the two.

What kind of day we're having as a family often depends on what kind of day I am having. It influences chore distribution, activities (including the fun ones which I often miss), moods and attitudes, and yes even what gets done or goes undone. This is not new and it's not a sob story; I’ve had it for years. It is now something that forms a deep part of who I am, what I believe, and why I'm striving to become more self sufficient. It is directly responsible for my conviction that we must live within our means, try to live sustainably, naturally and in harmony with the earth. It drives my desire to help the mister as he helps others to be prepared for emergencies and learn to live a natural self sustaining life even as it restricts my actions. It leads me to feel an urgency to prepare more thoroughly. To make sure there are easy meals, information is shared and available, everyone knows where things are and how to do things. In short to make sure all the ducks are in a row and everything is ready in case of emergency or just a really bad day.

We have lagged behind in some ways in large part due to a recent lack of funds and after a week on the sofa with vertigo my instincts are screaming very loudly that we need to prioritize around putting the ducks back in order. I have a feeling some rough times are coming and that this spring and summer hold some nasty stuff in store for me as the weather continues to be erratic. It makes one ask, what good can I be and what good can I do? The answer is simple. I am a lot of good because I am very much like you! I can help because sometimes, like me, maybe your heart is fully committed but you still work a 40-50 hour a week job and just can't get things done as planned because you still have many other things requiring your time and attention. Perhaps, If you honestly admit it, you're not always 100% committed to doing your preps, making plans, showing others, cooking, cleaning, etc., simply because you hope you will never need them or are just tired and need the rest. I personally do this because I have found it makes my life easier in the long run. It's true that we need to prepare for the rougher times in life and that we all need to be ready for emergencies. How you interpret that can vary immensely and for me it includes those bad days as well as emergencies. The good I can do is great. It is great because I can show what we do and how I adjust things so they are more flexible. We garden and have some of our own grand plans of how to do that better. We want to have chickens, more sustainable energy, and to recycle/repurpose stuff when we can. We want to expand our knowledge and skills and do things the "old fashioned" low tech way while still maintaining some modern technology.

Lastly, I really feel that I need to stop ‘playing nice` with this blog because it helps no one when I do. I need to take off the carefully crafted generic dullness that is aimed for everyone and show the practical day to day stuff that is going on or is needed. It is important to keep in mind I'm not a Prepper. I'm not a planner. I'm not a leader or a teacher. I hate homemaking. We don't have farm animals or even chickens at this point. We live in a small town not the city, suburbs, or off the grid. I cannot even honestly make a full on commitment physically to getting this blog written. What I am is a mom and wife working with her family to try to make things better while we learn new skills. In light of this and the fact that summer is coming I have a few new things up my sleeve to try. Wahoo! Get ready for the ride.


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, April 26, 2013

What’s for dinner?

Today I am taking one of my favorite meals and breaking it down into a list of what you'd need in your pantry or food storage in order to make it in an emergency.

This is the recipe
Cheap easy enchilada meal
·         1 can beanless chili
·         1 small onion chopped
·         1 can tomato sauce
·         1 can sliced olives
·         1 small can mild enchilada sauce
·         1 can pork n beans (this one ingredient is very important!)

Mix all ingredients together
Then layer in a 9x13 inch casserole dish, corn tortillas, enchilada mixture, and cheese - repeat until all is used and top off with cheese.

I add a thin layer of ground beef, diced tomatoes and green chilies to mine and omit the olives but many other substitutions can also be made.

Cover and bake at 350 in over for 1 hour. When I bake this in a regular oven I do not change the cooking time or temp because it ruins it. I have however had it come out quite fine when cooked in a crock pot on low for about 3-4 hours. When cooking in the oven take the cover off at the last 10 min and if you can sprinkle with crumbled tortilla chips during that last 10 min.
Let cool for about an hour otherwise it’s pretty messy.
Cut into squares.   Top with sour cream, plain yogurt or whatever you want.
Very good as leftovers too! Holds together very well after refrigerated!

I picked this because it is a meal that goes a long way and you can keep most of the ingredients on a shelf over a good long period of time. These are just your standard size cans from the grocery store and the last time I made it the ingredients cost me around $8-$10 USD with the following items.

·         1 can beanless chili
·         1 can tomato sauce
·         1 can sliced olives
·         1 small can mild enchilada sauce
·         1 can pork n beans
·         1 can diced tomatoes
·         1 can green chilies
·         1 medium yellow onion
·         1 pkg. 30 count corn tortillas (I only used about 15)
·         2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Any canned food without a pop top is suitable for pantry or long term food storage as long as you are vigilant about rotating your stock so the oldest items are used first. If it has a pop top I prefer to use it within 90 days or by the use by date whichever comes first.

As you can tell there are three items that are not really pantry items. Tortillas, cheese, and onions. So let's talk about those.

Onion-- If you do not have fresh onion available that is ok I have made it without onions. I have also substituted with both onion powder and dehydrated onions, seasoning to taste. It still came out fine.

Tortillas however are a main ingredient. It’s a good thing tortillas are relatively easy to make fresh. You will need a cast iron pan and a varying list of ingredients depending on what type of stores you have and what type of tortilla you choose to make.

The easiest and the one requiring the least supplies is this recipe for basic corn tortillas.

1-3/4 cups masa harina + 1-1/8 cups water.

Mix together masa harina and HOT water until thoroughly combined. Turn dough out and knead until pliable and smooth. If dough is too sticky, add more masa harina; if it begins to dry out, sprinkle with water. Cover and allow it to stand for 30 minutes. Separate into 12-15 balls. Preheat a cast iron skillet or griddle to a medium-high heat. Using your hands pat each ball flat to the desired thickness and size. Place tortilla in preheated pan and allow it to cook for approximately 30 seconds, or until browned and slightly puffy. Turn tortilla over, brown on second side for approximately 30 seconds more, then transfer to a plate. Repeat process with each ball of dough. Keep tortillas covered with a towel until ready to use.

Masa Harina is a flour made from hominy. It is available in the ethnic sections of some stores or at markets specializing in Mexican food. You may find it under its major brand name Maseca or being called Harina de Maiz. It is not equivalent to corn meal and they are not interchangeable.

If you desire to make a corn tortilla with cornmeal you'll need a few more ingredients.
·         3/4 cup cornmeal
·         1-1/4 cups flour
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         2 tablespoons vegetable shortening or oil
·         1 cup boiling water

Put the water on to boil. Combine the dry ingredients. In this case the cornmeal, flour and salt. Using a metal cup to measure the water if possible, measure out the boiling water but do not add it yet. Plastic melts and glass sometimes shatters so a metal container is the safest bet for this. In an emergency a soup can will do. Place the shortening in the bowl with the dry ingredients. Pour the boiling water over everything and stir it up with a fork. You will Stir and stir and stir some more before it turns into dough because it will lump up quite a bit. Allow the mixture to cool. Divide the dough into 10-12 lumps about the size of golf balls. Flour your hands a bit and Pat the balls into the desired sized and thickness and lay the tortilla down on a hot dry skillet. When the underside of the tortilla is dry with a few brown spots, turn it and cook the other side.

The flour tortillas are a very similar recipe and process.
·         2 cups all-purpose flour
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         1 teaspoon baking powder
·         1 tablespoon shortening
·         1/2 cup water

Combine together flour, salt and baking powder. Work in shortening with a fork until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the water and mix until the dough can be gathered together. If necessary, add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the dough comes together. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let rest for 15 minutes.
Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and roll into rounds. On a lightly floured surface or with lightly floured hands flatten and stretch each round into a circle about 7 inches across.
Cook on an ungreased skillet over medium high heat until brown spots begin to appear. Keep covered until ready to serve.

The pantry ingredients you need for tortillas can be as simple as Masa Harina and water or as diverse as cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, vegetable shortening or oil and water. Generally speaking this recipe works best with corn tortillas but in a pinch flour ones will do.

That leaves just the cheese which I admit you can omit though it is a bit sloppier as the cheese helps to hold it together. I myself prefer cheddar or pepper jack cheese but nearly any cheese including farmers cheese works in a pinch. You may also choose a freeze dried or dehydrated cheese as an alternative. There are a few I've found to be ok to cook with. On the bonus side If you or a neighbor have a milk cow you can make your own farmers cheese pretty simply but that's a lesson for another day.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Butter: Shaken, Not Stirred

In my own opinion, butter done by hand seemed to have a better flavor than when using the electric mixer. Maybe it’s just the slight extra work that goes into it though. Either way works well and is quite tasty.

Once again, your ingredients are one pint of heavy cream and salt, herbs, or spices to taste. Your tools this time will be a quart sized canning jar with a good lid, a largish bowl, a spatula, and your storage container. Are you ready? Here we go!

Your first step is to pour the cream into the canning jar and make sure your lid is good and tight.

Now start shaking it up good and hard. I had to keep switching hands and movements as it took about fifteen to twenty minutes for the first change to occur. This is where it got really thick and quite hard to shake. Take a short break and rest your arms.

Now get back to shaking and shaking and shaking until you get to the sudden separation of the curds and whey.

Now pour off the whey and dump your blob into your largish bowl.

This is where you mush and squeeze the blob to get out the excess liquids. This time, I did not rinse with additional water.

Now add in your salt, herbs, or spices to taste, mix well, and put it into your storage container.

As with the last batch we made, your storage time will vary depending on the temperatures in your storage area or your refrigerator. Fridge storage will produce a rock hard chunk. If you want to use it for dinner, it will need to thaw from early morning. Once again, it will last three to four weeks in the fridge, just pay attention to the smell.

If you want to avoid the frustration of rock hard butter, you can keep it on the counter with well sealing lid. It will not last as long due primarily to the warmer temperatures. Also, being much easier to spread, it will be eaten much quicker. Leaving it on the counter will reduce its `shelf life’ to about a week or two. Once again, pay attention to the smell.


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, April 12, 2013

Easy Butter

We’ve all heard of butter churns. Some of us have heard the horror stories of children being punished by having to make the butter. This involved a very boring time pulling and plunging at the churn for hours on end. Even with these stories, one day I decided that I need to know what real home-made butter tastes like. I’d never had it before.

I jumped online and found that most of the recipes are pretty much the same with varying degrees of salt and some added assorted herbs. I decided to stick with as simple as possible for my first try. My list of ingredients is as follows: One pint of heavy cream, sea salt.

The tools you will need are an electric hand mixer, a largish bowl, and your storage container. Additional useful tools are a wire whisk and a spatula. If you would like, you can use some type of food service gloves. I did not have good luck with them so I got rid of them after my third time having to extract them from a fold of butter. If this is your first time, I suggest using only one pint of heavy cream, though you certainly can use as much as you want. The more you use the longer and harder the process will be. Now, are you ready?

Place your bowl on a counter or comfortably reachable surface and pour in the pint of cream. Place your mixer into the center of the bowl and start mixing at a low speed and slowly turn up the speed.

As you mix, the cream will slowly get thicker and thicker, first resembling whipped cream (which is exactly what it is).

It will continue to get thicker and you will notice little curds appearing. This is where you really pay attention as the change is sudden and can be very messy in the way of splash back. Keep a towel or cloth nearby.

This is where you switch over to your hand whisk as continuing to use the electric mixer will make a splashy mess. Your product will start to separate more and more as you whisk it. You will suddenly have a thick buttery substance and the liquid whey.

Once you have separation, I suggest ditching the whisk and using a spatula, or even just your hands, (the butter will get stuck inside the whisk and make your job harder) and keep stirring.

Now you form the butter into a more solid little ball and pour off the liquid whey and save it for future use (in most recipes that use buttermilk).

Here’s where the gloves came in useless for me. This is where it gets a little messy and the kids might have fun. You need to spread and press the butter glob onto the side of the bowl to get a little more of the excess liquid out of it. Then add a little bit of fresh water and do the same spreading and pressing process to rinse the butter a little more. This batch of water should be discarded, not saved.

Here are my gloves being a pain….

Now take your butter glob and move it to another dish or right into your storage container and add your salt if desired. Start off with a few pinches and slowly add more to taste as you mix it. It’s much better to ere on the lesser side than to suddenly have way too much salt and have to throw it away.

Make sure you mix it in well. You can also add in any other spices or flavorings you want during this step.

Now smooth it out into your storage container and enjoy! Here’s my finished yumminess!

Now, there are various arguments about whether you should use store bought heavy cream or fresh raw milk. I can imagine that there is quite a bit of difference in flavor and that using raw milk will taste much better. I live in Colorado though and it is very expensive, due to FDA laws, to obtain any decent quantity of raw milk. Do try to avoid ‘ultra-pasteurized’ as it will not work as well.

As for storage time, it will always vary based on the temperatures in your storage area or your refrigerator. I found that if it is stored in the fridge, it will get a hard as a rock and be very hard to use. If I wanted to use it for dinner, I took it out and put it on the counter in the morning so it would thaw a little by the time dinner was ready. It will last three to four weeks in the fridge, just pay attention to the smell.

If you want to avoid the frustration of rock hard butter, you can keep it on the counter with well sealing lid. It will not last as long due primarily to the warmer temperatures. Also, being much easier to spread, it will be eaten much quicker. Leaving it on the counter will reduce its `shelf life’ to about a week or two. Once again, pay attention to the smell.

The salt in this recipe is not needed. It is only for flavor. I used it because I like it and I’ve become accustomed to it in my butter during my 45 years on the planet. As time goes by, I will be slowly decreasing the amount of salt and hopefully, eventually, not use any at all. I will also write another butter blog about my second attempt without the use of electricity.


As always you can join our Facebook group, like our Facebook community page, and visit our 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.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Rules of Self Sufficiency?

The way I see it there are a few main ideas in self sufficiency that everyone in the self sufficiency world shares. Zero debt,  providing the basic needs of food and shelter for oneself or ones community  by relying solely on oneself or ones immediate community, the value of doing and creating with one’s own hands, and living with a conscious awareness of how we are all connected to the natural world. I would say there are some basic attributes we all seek in our daily lives as well: Knowledge, preparedness, minimalism, cooperation and independence. People come to self sufficiency not as a life style but as mind set. So what is your mind set?

Do you seek Independence? Want a tiny house? Are you an urbanite with garden envy? A small town denizen with cow envy? A fully self sufficient land dweller living off the grid... with envy for the conveniences of the city?  What do you do about it? What are the "rules" of self sufficiency? How do you deal with the Urban to Rural transitions and things like Cow envy?

There are none! Not one rule! It is all up to you, it’s what you make it! The hardest part perhaps is deciding what is a reasonable expectation to strive for? These expectations can fluctuate greatly depending on your income and area; geographically as well urban versus rural. Many folks interpret self sufficiency as being completely low tech, low impact, organic, and in touch with nature as much as possible. Only consuming what they grow and raise themselves, with a more primitive life style. Others define it as contributing to a community goal such as buy/hire/sell local so that as a community they don't need as many outside goods and products, outside services or even outside energy sources.  Either way the goal is usually determined by your present location and abilities and your desired end result. Not everyone gets cow envy or wants to go off grid. In fact I'd wager a lot of people don't even want to live in a small rural community.

So my first and foremost suggestion as always is "Try it before you buy it!" and "start small". Plant a few veggies in containers before deciding to till up half the yard; It’s hard to get that grass back if hate gardening. Rent a house in a small town or out in the country before buying one. Make friends with people who participate in the things you are interested in. Talk to a 4H group. You could take the 100 thing challenge (click here for the book) or pack all the stuff you think you don't need or would need to get rid of if you plan to downsize your living space, put it in storage, If you find yourself at the storage unit multiple times in a month you either need to prioritize better or perhaps a smaller place is not right for you. Keep in mind you can go too far or be too extreme in your initial excitement. It's easy to fall in love with a calf. Shoveling out stalls and pens is much harder.  A lot will be determined by where you live but it should not completely limit you.

I will tell you that in my opinion you can still be self sufficient and live in the city. You will not be able to provide your own water or energy but there is plenty of potential to work for oneself, pay off ones property, grow a garden, barter or develop a co-op with neighbors who have skills you lack, such as sewing, carpentry or mechanics. In fact in the beginning most human establishments were tribal or clan type settlements and people relied on one another quite a bit while being able to do as much for yourself as you can is quite an accomplishment in today's society it's a relatively new thing.

In most cases when I say we are striving to become more self sufficient the reaction I receive is based on what others perceive that to mean. Their interpretation very often does not match mine. We have literally started life over in our forties... it’s sort of like we moved to a foreign country in the middle of the senior year of high school. Having been in our small town three years now we are finally getting settled in somewhat and beginning to concentrate on growing our goals. We are enlarging the garden and hope to learn to dehydrate and can a great deal of what we grow this year. I have extended myself into the community a bit more (not my strong point) and am working on networking i.e. making new friends! Many of my new friends have horses, cows, chickens, goats and various other animals. We do not thus the cow envy. We do however have a kick butt garden that many of my friends lack. We haven't learned to do canning yet, my friends know how to though. It's a great networking and learning situation. Believe it or not there is a five year old here in town who is swapping lessons. He is learning to crochet and teaching his baby sitter to knit. Our goals may not match yours and that is ok. The main thing is to figure out the main goals that are 'doable' for you no matter where you are. Pay off a debt, learn a skill, grow a plant, try something new, talk to your neighbor, or just read a book about 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.