April 17, 2015

Get Started Homesteading: April's Projects

Please forgive the extreme tardiness of this post! Life has been happening like crazy around here and there's still some huge things on the horizon. So while I catch my breath from the former, and wait patiently for the latter, I bring you this post in the humble spirit of "Better late than never."

April is here and I'm excited and anxious for this time of sowing!


  • Cleaning Schedule
-If you don't already have one in place a cleaning schedule is a wonderful place to start. Everything runs so much more efficiently when the home is managed each day in bite sized amounts, rather than trying to play catch up each weekend.
  • Go Green
-The sad fact: Most of the things we use to clean our homes and create a safe environment are the very things that make our homes toxic! Commercial cleaners are loaded with all sort of chemicals that are linked to things like respiratory problems, skin irritation, and blindness or even cancer. The internet is a wealth of information for homemade cleaners. Use discretion. Even things like vinegar can cause harm if insufficiently diluted (it can erode grout) and it shouldn't be used on marble as it can corrode it over time. Keep an eye out for some of our own favorite cleaning recipes in the future!
  • Take it "To-Go"  
-I'm not referring to food here. Get a bucket or tote (Or two if you have 2 stories) to hold all of your cleaning products and tools. This will help you to quickly clean room to room without having to go back for different tools or cleaners.


  • Get Dirty!
-It's time to get planting things like beets, carrots and greens! One of the parts we've all been waiting for!
Before you start dumping seeds of all kinds everywhere and laughing like a mad woman take time to read about each of the seeds you intend to plant so you can be sure the time and conditions are right. This will vary from plant to plant and zone to zone. You can find your zone HERE.
Keep track of everything you choose to plant in your garden journal.


  • Consider an outdoor Kitchen
-This isn't some crazy huge remodeling project. This is a space for efficiently cleaning your garden goodies, spending even more time outdoors and canning when an indoor kitchen would be far too hot and muggy. Consider it a way to cut energy costs! A grill or propane cooking range and outdoor sink would get you where you want to be heading! At a minimum your outdoor kitchen should have:
-Burner for canning pot
-Counter to place jars while you're filling them
-Sink with a bucket below to catch draining water
-A hose (Preferably attached to your sink)
-Optional: An additional burner to cook your jams or sauces on while you are heating your canning pot!

Photo source:Here and Here


March 9, 2015

Get Started Homesteading: Raising Starter Chicks

I bet raising your own chickens has crossed your mind a time or two (or maybe it hasn’t). Have you thought about it and wondered how hard it would be or if it was worth it? Want the inside scoop? I am so very pleased by the chickens that we have raised up from chicks. They grow up to be happier, healthier and tend to lay more eggs. We are currently raising our 8th round of chicks. So this comes with quite a bit of experience and wonderful memories behind it.

This is going to be a long post so it may be best to pin it for later referencing.

Benefits of Raising Chickens from Starter Chicks

  • Delicious, homegrown eggs and meat
  • Pride in self sufficiency and sustainability
  • You know exactly how they have been fed and raised
  • Your family and friends will love getting your extra eggs
  • You can sell your extra eggs $$Cha-ching$$
  • Chickens raised organically in a free range, foraging environment will grow healthier and produce more nutritious eggs and meat
  • Pets for your children that serve a purpose

Chick Selection (Breeds and More)

The local feed store that we buy the starter chicks from are already separated out into pullets and cockerels. If the chicks are not separated out you will have to separate them out when they get 3 to 8 weeks old. Since I am not very good at sexing chickens I tend to leave that to the professionals and buy them pre-sexed.

If you are raising the chicks for egg production you will want to choose chicken breeds that will have a high egg production rate.

Some of the breeds we choose are:

  • Australorp
  • Buff Orpington
  • Delaware
  • Plymouth Rock
  • Rhode Islands

If you are raising the chicks for meat you will want to choose chicken breeds that will mature quickly.
So far we have only raised Cornish Hens for meat.

To select the breed that will work well for you, do some research. Some things to consider when researching are:

  • Egg production rate
  • Suitable for meat production
  • Foragers well for food
  • Climate tolerant
  • Temperament

Brooder Set-Up

  • 1-50 gallon rubbermaid tub (this is what we use and love, you can use something you have on had that will contain them but still have enough space which we will talk about later)
  • Newspaper (hand shredded for the bedding)- other options are a bale of grasses, or wood chips (make sure they are not chemically treated or dyed)
  • 1-2 water bases& plastic jars(you can use a mason jar in place of a plastic jar)
  • 1 Chick feeder tray & slide top
  • 1-2 Brooder (heat) lamps& bulbs
  • Room thermometer

Brooder Space

Depending on how many chicks you are raising you may need a larger tub or a second tub. You will need about 6 square inches of space per chick.

They will need to move into larger living quarters if:

  • They have little room to spread out and exercise or sleep
  • The brooder floor gets dirtier faster than you can keep it clean
  • They run out of feed and water too quickly

Brooder Temperature

We use the red bulbs because they emit gentle heat and can stay on all the time without disturbing the chicks sleeping patterns.

Set up the brooding area in advance and get the temperature around 95 degrees Fahrenheit. You may have to play around with the height/distance of the brooding lamp to get the desired temperature. We keep our brooding area in the garage so that there is a more stable temperature for the chicks.
Once the chicks are in the brooder you can reduce the temperature by about 5 degrees each week until the brooder is at ambient temperature.

Happy chicks that are warm and cozy will wander freely throughout the brooder area.
Chicks that aren't warm enough will crowd or huddle near the brooder lamp and may peep loudly, have sticky bottoms or diarrhea.

Chicks that are too warm will sprawl out all over the brooding area trying to get away from the brooder lamp. They may start panting as well.

Food and Water

We use the slide top with holes to prevent the chicks from scattering, sleeping in or pooping in their food.

Chicks need food and water at all times. For food we use chick starter crumbles. We keep 1-2 water jars in the brooder. Keeping the water at one end and the food at another will help keep the chicks active. Each chick will typically eat around 10 pounds of feed during its first 10 weeks of life.

Some reasons to use a medicated chick starter feed is if you raise the chicks in:

  • warm or humid weather
  • large quantities of chicks at a time
  • the same brooder for more than 3 weeks
  • the same brooder one batch after another
  • an unsanitary area

**I always recommend using a non-medicated, GMO-free, organic chick starter feed though.

Brooder Maintenance

Once you get it all set up you will have to do some maintaining. The most obvious thing to maintain are food and water. These 2 things must never run out. One of the other things to watch for is brooder cleanliness. 1-2 times a week you will need to change out the bedding. It may require changing more frequently the older they get.

Length of Time in Brooder

It is not recommended to put the chicks in the coop with other chickens until their feathers come in and they are no longer fuzzy. By moving them in too soon you can create an unwelcoming environment for the young chicks. The chickens may try to pick the fuzz off of the younger chicks by pecking at them. Once the chickens start pecking they might not stop and it could take a turn for the worse. Once they have been moved you want to observe the interactions between the chickens to ensure bad behavior is not a problem.
If you are not placing them in with older chickens you can move them into the coop sooner.

**Let us know you like this post by sharing it with your friends.

**Do you have questions? Post them below!

**Do you have a favorite breed of chicken or different set-up? We would love to hear your comments and input in the comments below.


March 7, 2015

Get Started Homesteading: March Goodies

Welcome to our "Homesteading" series where we'll all be walking through monthly tasks and guides towards self sufficiency and homesteading!

In case you've missed our earlier posts you can find them HERE and HERE

Let's get started!
March came in roaring like a lion and I don't know about you, but it definitely added to the excitement factor for this years' adventures. I love the storms and the feeling of the earth crackling with the life it's soon to bear.

The ground is starting to warm up, so now is the time to get some dirt under our nails. (Finally!)

For The Home

I hope ALL of you already have this done, but in case it needs to be said:

  • Make a budget

I COULD make an entire post on this topic alone. However, I'll just leave a few "seeds" for you to handle. Debt is BAD, always. Don't buy something unless you have the cash to buy it with, period.
Make sure that whatever you do buy is quality. We've learned the hard way in this area. We didn't want to wait until we had enough cash saved, but we didn't want to use a card either...so we bought the cheapest version of X we could find. Typically it started falling apart shortly after. "Buy nice or buy twice." is the saying my husband and I have tried to adopt into our mindsets, and it's helped us in more ways than one!

For The Garden

  • Start Seeds Indoors

Depending on what exactly it is and what your weather/garden beds have been like, you may want to get started on establishing a few of you crops indoors.
A few things to consider are a grow light or standard shop light, some good potting soil, plastic wrap and patience. Here's where you can start to really get to know your plants so take some time to learn who to start them. Or is you should start them indoors at all. Some plants are finicky about being moved around.

  • Plant in your garden!

Again, this will depend on the recent weather and the crop you're hoping to plant. Take time to get to know each plant and their profile.
Another thing to consider is raised beds are warmer sooner than mounded beds.
There are tons of unique styles and ways of gardening, Raised, mounded, green manure, row covers, worm beds, succession gardening, germination, companion planting etc.) It can make your head spin, and it can stop you from doing anything at all.
Don't let the fear of failure keep you from moving. Gardening isn't a place for perfection. It's a place of trial, error, testing and continuously learning. Embrace the processes. I've heard it said that "No failure, is actually a failure on gardening." It's new wisdom and experience.

For the Kitchen

  • Get started on your Preservation Game Plan

Simply put, what are you planting? What do you want to preserve? When does it ripen?
Again this will take knowing your plants, planting them at a good time, and a lot of watchful patience. Do you have canning jars? If not, now would be a good time to start collecting!

This acts as a basic outline that should be broad enough for everyone to use rather than going into basics for each specific plant anyone may have decided to plant that year! We live in the information age, and it's still free! (For now.)

Until next time, Enjoy the Journey!


February 20, 2015

Recipe: Hamburger/Sandwich Buns

Nothing says summer like BBQs with juicy, tender burgers. 

We love these buns in our house because we can control the ingredients and there is nothing better than a freshly baked bun. Super quick and easy, you can have these done within 2 hours. These buns are also great for sandwiches!

We usually use all purpose flour for these, but you can trade in some whole wheat flour to make them chewier and more hearty. Just make sure your total flours add up to 4 1/2 cups. Also, replacing all of the sugar with 1 Tbs honey makes a nice change too!

Soft Hamburger & Sandwich Buns

2 Cups warm water
2 Tbs yeast
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs oil or butter
2 tsp salt
4 1/2 Cups all purpose flour (or mix of AP and whole wheat)

In a stand mixer or large bowl, proof yeast in warm water with sugar until bubbly. Mix in oil, salt and half of the flour until well incorporated. Add remaining flour and knead until smooth. Dough will be sticky. Cover with a towel and let rest 30 minutes.

Turn down out onto a floured surface and divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and place onto a large cookie sheet. Sprinkle tops with flour, then press each ball into a large, flat disc about 1/2 inch thick. Let rise for one hour.

Bake at 400 degrees for 12- 15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove and cool on a rack.


February 18, 2015

How To Tea Stain Fabric

Sometimes things go a little... unplanned.

I was about to start the pattern we are using for our Pretty Pioneer Apron (which you can find here) when I realized that I had not acquired enough trim. Great.

This is what I get for buying fabric before I found a pattern. 

However, thanks to my pack-rat tendencies, I had enough of a different lace trim in my sewing stash. Only problem was, it was a stark white and what I needed was a nice cream color.

A quick cry for help to my fellow Pretty Pioneers and Heather told me "you could tea stain it!". Of course! Why didn't I think of that before? This is why I love our group.

So here is how I went about tea staining the white lace to create a beautifully antique-looking trim. This will work for just about any cotton fabric, and maybe a few blends.

First, make your tea.

 I used 8 tea bags in about 2 quarts of water. Bring the water to a boil, then remove from heat and add the tea bags. Let steep for about 5 minutes, until you have a nice dark tea.

Pre-wet your fabric in a bowl of water. 

This step is important as it will help your fabric to evenly soak up the tea. Wring out the fabric and then slowly lower it into the tea, making sure to evenly distribute the fabric so it doesn't clump up. Push down with a spoon to fully submerge it.

Set a timer for 5 minutes.

After five minutes, check on your fabric. You can rinse a small corner of it in running water to check the strength of the stain. Mine wasn't quite right, so I left it for another 5 minutes, 10 minutes total. You can go longer if you'd like a deeper stain. Since I was going for cream, 10 minutes was perfect.

Remove from the tea and squeeze out the excess. 

Then pop it in the dryer to set the stain.

Once dry, rinse in running water to remove any excess tea, and then dry again.

You now have a beautifully tea stained piece of fabric, perfect for all of your pioneer sewing projects!

- Meg

February 16, 2015

Get Started Homesteading: In the Kitchen

This is the place where most of the magic will happen. You want to make sure this space is efficient and well rounded, or you'll certainly risk being overwhelmed and burned out.

Shop your stores

Take a look at your stores. What do you have canned? Frozen? Dried? etc.

  • Take an inventory and make note of any gaps to fill.

This will help us build an efficient and very personal system for our family's likes and needs. We've allowed the supermarket dictators to provide our family with the food we used to provide for ourselves. Do you really want THEM being responsible for the essentials of human survival in regards to your family and loved ones? I don't.
In having your own garden, and preparing your own foods within your kitchen, there will be quite a bit more work involved, but there's also a beautiful simplifying that takes place when you're preparing your own foods. No more clipping coupons for foods you really shouldn't be eating anyway. And no more being overwhelmed with the mass of Pinterest recipes you'll never make

  • Get to cooking what you have at home.

Open your fridge

Take a look inside and lets do what we did for our pantry. How many bottles of condiments and sauces have you managed to cram in the door? Get rid of them. You don't need exotic sauces for the meal you cooked once months ago with no intention of cooking again. That's a waste of money and space. You'll find that the flavor of your own staples far surpasses that of any store bought brand. It feels so much better eating something that you made. You know every last ingredient. You don't need to worry about how it was processed or the undercover chemicals that may hide behind innocent looking names. Relish in it!
We want to focus on streamlining our systems and doing more with less. Take a general stock of the food throughout your fridge, even the food that you've left to rot in the back.What about the freezer? How have you been using the foods you have on hand? Before you gear up for more food preservation, you need to commit to using the food you already have. Freezers and fridges aren't created to hold your food indefinitely.

  • Invest in containers

There's no need to go overboard now. Pooling resources together with some friends and like minded people and buy in bulk as possible. This will cut costs significantly. These will be canning jars and food grade buckets for holding dry food stores in bulk, such as flours and beans. Half gallon, one gallon and 5 gallon buckets are the most practical. You can use these to store things like:
Flour *Keep in mind some flours go rancid more quickly than others, so don't buy these in large quantities if you aren't prepared to use them. Wheat berries, nuts* buckwheat groats, brown rice and beans! *Some nuts such as walnuts can go rancid quickly. It's best to use within 2-3 months for freshest flavor. Store in the fridge or freezer to extend flavor.

A place for everything

Do you have a good amount of space set aside for all your canned goodies? Don't worry about the exact amount of space just yet. This is just something we want to consider. We'll have a better idea of the size of space we'll need after delving into the preservation planning in march.

Now, write down all the bullet points and let's get crackin'!
Your home system will be a reflection of you, and those you love; uniquely.


Come along with us on this journey by following us on Facebook or through email using the form on the right.  

February 13, 2015

Get Started Homesteading: In the Garden

You want to jump on the wagon of self-reliant and more sustainable living, but you aren't sure what that really looks like or where to start.
Getting started may not be the "fluffiest" step but it's certainly the one that holds the most impact.

Growing Food - In a Garden - Yourself

Don't bail on me just yet, we're going to walk right alongside you on this one. Step by step, broken down into manageable tasks each month.

Some of us will be sharing how we grow in apartments and some of us will be displaying full beds and beautiful gardens. So yes, this is for EVERYONE!

January is over but I'm type A; we can't move on without also completing January's assignments or the entire year, and universe will crumble into oblivion.                                            

Choosing to homestead/ home-make in the traditional manner is going to be hard work! It will definitely get harder before it gets easier. There will be days when you question your reasoning and are tempted to give up and give in to the lure of leisure, luxury and convenience.
Don't get me wrong, homesteading isn't all about asceticism either. In fact there's a lot to be said for the many rewards of "householding". There's certainly beauty and charm in it.

But nothing worthwhile comes without blood sweat and tears.

We're going to be in the trenches with you.
I'll give the assignments in bullet-point form for convenience.

  • Take a Personal Inventory. I'd highly suggest you grab a dedicated "householding" journal/binder.-
  • What is your level of commitment here?
  • What does homemaking really mean to you?

This life isn't the place for huge egos and accolades. No one is going to praise your latest achievements with a pay raise. You don't get PTO, or promotions. This life is all about serving, learning, working and loving. Loving those around you through your labor. If you have a martyr complex, you may need to take some time to seriously reconsider what all of this means for you.

How do you feel about *really* being at home?

Not just being there because the stores are closed, not just being there to relax, not just being there just because, but REALLY being home to work and run an efficient machine. More importantly, finding the balance between that efficient machine and creating a safe haven and place of rest.

Walk your space

Again a dedicated "householder's" journal or binder would be especially helpful. Walk your space and visualize what you would like to see in your garden. Look at each specific area and take note of the location as it pertains to the hours of sunlight, any sort of run-off, shade, protection from wind if needed, etc. Take note of these things and visualize what you want to bring to fruition.

  • Map a garden

A "to scale" map is absolutely recommended. Get out a large piece of paper and map your yard or garden area to scale. Start mapping out your beds' size and location.
Keep a journal for your garden. What you plant, the yield, etc.  There will be mistakes. Don't let your fear of mistakes keep you from moving. The best way to learn, is by doing! Make sure everyone is on board, at least MOSTLY.

  • Grab some seed catalogs

Figure out what your garden will grow!
You could cut your seed or start order in half and still have more than you can handle.
Here is our favorite *FREE* seed catalogs -

  1. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds - http://www.rareseeds.com/request-catalogus/
  2. Seed Savers Exchange - http://www.seedsavers.org/Catalog.html
  3. Bountiful Gardens - https://www.bountifulgardens.org/inforequest.asp

Now, write down all the bullet points and let's get crackin'!
Your home system will be a reflection of you, and those you love; uniquely.


Come along with us on this journey by following us on Facebook or through email using the form on the right. 

Don't forget to check out the other posts in our Getting Started Homesteading series.