Sometimes all you need is a bit of motivation….and a lot of accountability. This guest post comes from Kimberlee at Old Walsh Farm. Her family committed to learning 52 homestead skills in one year, and here’s how they did it!
Harvest day comes with a lot of preparation: sharpening knives, preparing the tractor, pulling out the meat grinder and cleaning every inch of the kitchen in preparation for a full day of chaos.
All of our pork processing is done at home for a number of reasons. Primarily, we like knowing we were responsible for putting pork on the table from start to finish, rather than outsourcing the less pleasant parts.
In a years time we get very close to our animals, and perhaps I saw Old Yeller too many times as a kid, but when the time comes, I’d prefer the moral responsibility of shooting my own pig. We’d also rather not put undue stress on any of our animals in transporting them to a processing facility. Since all of our meat is consumed by us rather than sold, there are no legal issues with home processing in Vermont.
There are few things that say “DIY lifestyle” more than making your own soap. Why then, is soap making so intimidating? If you can follow a recipe, you can make your very own soap. Follow these simple tips to avoid common soapmaking mistakes, and you can make the perfect batch of soap the on your very first try.
I dream of one day having a real root cellar. Not just for the romantic notion of a simpler time, but for practical reasons. It just makes sense. Storing a winter’s worth of fresh, homegrown food without using any electricity would give us an extra leg up towards self-reliance, and keep our costs down at the same time.
We already do quite a bit of impromptu root cellaring. Our storage method for apples works really well, and we’ve kept apples fresh for over a year without refrigeration. Apples are the exception and we’re had much less success with other types of produce.
I’ve decided that this winter I’m going to start planning ours, reading up on building plans and practices. I already did the research and found ways to preserve a whole pig without refrigeration, now I just need to plan a place to put that tasty pile of charcuterie.
While I’m doing my research, it only makes sense to gather it all in one place and share it with you all.
We have a lot happening on the homestead, and it’s hard to keep track of it all. Most of the time we can remember things day to day, but week to week things get a little hazy. Year to year is almost impossible.
When did the chickens start laying last year? Has production dipped? Is one of them sick?
How many tomatoes did we plant last year? How long did it take for the garlic to cure? How many apples does my tree produce?
If you’re trying to plan for your homestead food supply, keeping track of where you are can help you reach your long term goals.
Shiitake mushrooms are a great place to start for the beginning mushroom cultivator. They’re easy to identify, and simple to grow.
They also have a relatively high market value, both fresh and dried, which means that they make a good addition to your farmer’s market table.
Vermont’s not exactly known for its tropical weather, but even with our long cold winters, you can still grow and harvest your own chocolate indoors. The cacao trees below were grown from a pod harvested New Hampshire, and germinated in my Vermont home, both zone 4.
The New Hampshire parent tree grown by a friend is about 6 feet tall, and produces a crop of 2 to 5 pods per year, blooming in the summer and ripening mid-winter. That’s not bad, when you consider a tree growing outdoors in the tropics produces only 20 pods a year.
I was skeptical about growing ginger in Vermont. Isn’t ginger a tropical plant? But none the less, a decade ago I was gifted a ginger rhizome from a friend that had recently traveled to Hawaii so I decided to give it a try. To my surprise, it not only grew, it thrived!
In a shady corner of my drafty 1850’s schoolhouse home, my ginger plant completely took over a 20 inch pot in just a few months. Tall stalks reached 4 to 5 feet tall even in a shady corner during the winter months. That ginger lived 5 years with minimal care, and lasted through many harvests.
I love cider. The ritual of pressing it, enjoying it straight, fermenting it, canning it, mulling it and quite frankly just smelling it.
At 25 I knew what I wanted for my 30th birthday, and I started saving. Double barreled cider presses don’t come cheap, and they’re not particularly easy to make either. Even if you do choose to make your own, there’s quite a bit of cast iron hardware that will set you back roughly 1/3 the cost of a finished model, and then you still have to come up with the wood.
To celebrate our press (and my birthday) we had a cider pressing party, and everyone brought empty carboys, mason jars and just about every other container in the house along with buckets and buckets of apples. We pressed around 100 gallons of cider that day and converted it into hard cider, cider vinegar, cider jelly, cider syrup and plain old canned cider to enjoy mulled in the wintertime.
Herb infused oils are a great way to extract the potent medicine from herbs for use in soaps, salves, lotions and massage oils. While teas extract herbs in water for us to take internally, oil do the same work extracting medicinal compounds for use externally. A bit of dried herb and a carrier oil such as olive oil, grape seed oil or jojoba is all you need to get started.
What to infuse depends on how you intend to use the oil. Some infused oils are perfect for direct application, and in my house we keep a bit of calendula infused jojoba oil around for chapped skin and irritation. Fragrant herbs like lavender are great for creating bath oils and exfoliating sugar scrubs. Arnica flower infused oil makes the perfect massage oil for treating sore muscles.