Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Weekend Homesteader Ideas, July-September

This is a continuation of my review of my weekend homesteading ideas and goals inspired by The Weekend Homesteader by Anna Hess and her and her husband's blog, "The Walden Effect."  I haven't looked at this list in five years. Let's see if I've accidentally achieved any of these goals. My original notes are in italics.

Fall planting - Look into! Ever on my list is a fall planting of spinach or other things that we could harvest into winter. Still haven't done it. Laziness and busyness. Maybe just laziness.

Freezing food - Improve. Vastly. I don't remember what kind of food-freezing we were or weren't doing five years ago, so it's hard to know if we have improved in that area. I currently don't feel that we need to improve, so either our habits have changed or my perspective has. probably our habits, because here's what we regularly freeze:

We often are able to cheaply acquire large quantities of bell peppers and white mushrooms, more than we can (want to?) eat fresh before they would go bad, so we slice and freeze them and use them later for pizza and stir fry. We cook the mushrooms first, but the peppers go into the freezer raw. We've also frozen whole hot peppers, which need to thaw only a little bit before you can cut them up for cooking. When our raspberry bushes produce abundantly, we freeze quart-size bags of those. Excess strawberries, too. My preferred method for all of these is to spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze them for a couple of hours (or longer when I forget!) until they are solid, and then tumble them into a plastic freezer bag. Then the berries or veggie slices do not freeze in one big clump, and I can easily remove as many or as few as I want from the freezer bag later.

When bananas ripen faster than we're ready to eat them, we peel and freeze them whole. Frozen bananas make smoothies like milk shakes. We freeze mason jars of cooked pumpkin flesh and fresh-pressed apple cider. The trick with freezing in mason jars is to allow plenty of head room for the water in the food to expand as it freezes. If the contents begin to expand beyond the jar's "shoulder," where it starts to curve inward like a bottle neck, the pressure will break the jar. And of course, we freeze LOTS of peeled, cored, sliced apples, typically treated with some lemon juice and that's it.

We also keep a couple of ice cube trays on hand for freezing certain foods. Chopped basil in olive oil, for example—it tastes like summertime! Or wine for cooking—but alcohol doesn't freeze completely, so the wine ice cubes tend to become a wine slushie in the freezer bag. Ooh, and speaking of slushies, we still have some cubed watermelon in our freezer, which, thanks to its light texture and high water content, blends into a perfect watermelon slushie (or frozen margarita) with just a little lime or lemon juice.

Hanging your clothes out to dry - check! but consistency! Oh, am I excited to report on this item! Last summer we purchased a five-line retractable clothesline and didn't use our dryer all summer long. My mom used to tell stories of hanging clothes out to dry even in the winter, when they would freeze solid on the line. You knew the sun had dried them when they started flapping in the wind, ice-free. Unfortunately, our backyard gets almost no direct light from the winter sun; whatever's frozen back there stays frozen. So, we're back to the gas dryer until warmer and brighter days, when we can resume line drying 100%. The real question will be, how did our clothesline weather the winter weather?

Budget - Look into. We don't strictly budget month to month, but we do live modestly and therefore within our means, and we are able to put away some savings (some mentally earmarked for vacation perhaps) and retirement contributions. We are interested in saving money, but most of the saving-money-advice out there is stuff like, "Bring your lunch to work one day a week; switch cable companies." Um, we already pack our lunches every day and get free TV via antenna, so...

Could we be making our money work harder for us by meticulously delegating every penny to investments and whatever? (See, I don't even know.) Probably. But this harks back to the June topic of "your real hourly wage." Money is not a hobby on which I wish to spend my time. Once in a while we delve into it—for example, how much have we been spending on groceries?—to explore if our spending habits have changed or need to change. But in general: Can we afford our bills? Can we buy people gifts? Can we contribute to charity? Are we saving for retirement? Do we have a cushion for emergencies? Can we treat ourselves to an occasional fun expense (hobbies, dining out)? All set.

Seed saving - some, check. More? Er, still just saving my own cilantro seeds, because they're so easy, and depending on the type of onion, seeds or bulbs. If I really want to be self-sufficient, I should improve this area. Come zombie apocalypse perhaps.

Drying food - some. More? We dehydrate a few batches of tomatoes and apples at harvest time and sometimes sweet potato slices for dog treats. I have a dream of dehydrating tons of stuff, making my own dry soup mix or something, but freezing food is quicker and easier, so...

Building a chicken coop or tractor - no can do. Still no can do. City regs.

Rain barrel - look into, want to. Len's aunt had an extra, so we got one for free! We hooked a soaker hose to it and buried the hose in the front bed among the herbs, asparagus, onions and strawberries for slow watering on dry days.

Eating seasonally - check, when it's growing season... This is something we could be doing more purposefully, as opposed to coincidentally.

Canning - only a little. Our apple canning is fairly voluminous, and we've dabbled in other fruit preserves depending on supply, as well as some pickles. I am interested in canning more, but it's a hobby we seem to be able to expand only little by little. I suppose that's enough.

Bringing your chickens home - n/a. Still not applicable.

Voluntary simplicity - hm. Having researched this idea a little more, I believe that we are in many ways (but not in every way) living in voluntary simplicity. An important distinction is that some people can voluntarily live simply (modestly) in order to more greatly enjoy life as they see fit, but other people must live quite modestly because they cannot afford to live any other way. This is not to say that the poverty-stricken do not or cannot enjoy anything, but rather to acknowledge the difference. We live a simple life with the goal of squirreling away some vacation funds while another person's goal may be to keep from losing their house. We are fortunate to be able to choose simplicity for our own purposes.

Weekend Homesteader Ideas, January-March
Weekend Homestead Ideas, April-June

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