Self-reliance in food, to me, is being efficient enough to provide food for myself and family without having to rely solely on the grocery market(s) to provide my main foods. Every year I plan to become more and more self sufficient. This is my first year at becoming self-reliant for the entire year. In the past, I have canned and provided extras or things that interest me but would purchase other canned vegetables that were relatively easy to pick up from the store. I am focusing my energy on harvests in spring, summer and fall to provide through the winter and back around to spring. This will be an exciting documented journey of my learning and deveopment aspects of food reliant living. In addition, I find it important to include financial savings and drawbacks, responsibility and education shared with my children, and addressing the health side affects of my own food preparation and storing. In the world we live in, most people drive to the super market to pick up all their grocery needs. We trust that what is on those shelves is quality. But rarely do we reflect to ask, is it? Time is such a factor in our daily lives especially on this topic. The book "Who Moved My Cheese," comes to mind. We are all so busy and the last thing we want to do is spend time milking a cow. But just because we all do not have the time to do this does not mean we wouldn't buy it raw, unpasterized if it were available. That's the problem. It isn't readily available. Milking farms have decreased 88% do to taxes and regulations on their products (Farmageddon). Meanwhile, there are only a couple power houses that run our food distribution chains. Not that its a full blown monopoly but it certainly shuts the small farmer down. In a nut shell, that is why it is difficult to get natural, healthy foods without the ridiculous pricing that goes with it. However for me, I am chosing to dedicate the time while raising my babies. I also happen to have a fascination with growing, milking, harvesting and producing products in their most natural state. I cannot claim to be a hater of convenience but through self-reliance and planning, my goals are to make food and store food for the convenience of making healthy meals at home. I currently make most meals at home but have a vision of storing home grown foods through canning and freezing so I do not have to purchase these items from the grocery store throughout the year. Canning in general will take much planning for this next year. I plan to can around 500+ quarts of all different types of vegetables, fruit, jams, etc.. I also plan to harvest my honey and freeze the meat that we butcher. Though we have one deep freezer, I will need to purchase another one for all the goodies I plan to freeze for winter months. It is also necessary to find a cold storage (perhaps in the garage??) for my squash, potatoes, onions, etc. I would eventually like to have a root cellar but I don't think I can squeeze that in this year. Therefore, I think I will let it neatly become a problem until my husband 'thinks' of a great idea to build me one. Farmer's Markets is where I will sell off my excess of goods and creations. It will be a great experience not only for me but my children to take part in. I hope to have a country store within a couple years for a physical building where I can educate and sell my natural products I have grown, wool I have spun, harvested beeswax and honey, and other bi-products I can create. *See Farmer's Market tab to see where I will be this season!
01/03/2014 Year One - Self Reliant
I did it. And it is empowering. My husband and I moved from convenient-reliant to self-reliant living this past year. We have so many new projects to enhance our self-reliant ways, but we did so much this past year. These are just a few: bees, egg layer chickens, meat chickens, pigs, more gardens, big perennial garden etc. New animals for 2014: sheep (dual purpose- meat wool), 3 times as many pigs, more egg layers (cause they're fun), lots of meat chickens spring and fall. This year's focus was on butchering skills and how to perfect the process so I can do large numbers effectively and quickly. New projects for 2014: 1. Better more permanent fencing for chickens, pigs, and all the animals. 2. I would like to make a cob lean to shelter for the animals. It isn't necessary because of the woods I have but why not. 3. Clover/alfalfa sectioned feed plot for the free-ranging beauties. 4. Add two more colonies of bees. It's addicting. I love bees. 5. New herb and tea garden. 6. REALLY wish I could put jersey cow on this list, but realistically probably not this year... Unless of course it was free and then I would just let it live in my basement. 7. Make a cob oven and outdoor food work bench. 8. Plant lots of new varieties/heirlooms fruit and veggies. 9. Build a strawberry planter... or three I meant. 10. MULCH like crazy! 11. Start a meat club/CSA- that's a work in progress. I might just use an email system where I raise meats for those that want healthy meat. If you are one of those in the area be sure to send me your email. I will be doing meat birds/chickens this spring. 12. Continue to grow my online business modernroots.org/country-store and grow it via the Farmer's Markets. I LOVE FARMER'S MARKETS!! Great way to get homemade, healthy, local foods. By the way, if you haven't tried my soaps, body butters, or salves...no time like the present ;) 13. Finish insulating and siding my chicken coop. 14. Finish my process for making bio-diesel. I got the process itself down, but now it's quantity I need. If you are a restaurant owner/know someone that is and have non-hydrogenated oil - please consider selling it to me :) There are two large companies here that take all the restaurant oil- I just need a couple restaurants and I'll pay ya. They usually pay between 4-8 cents a gallon. We can talk :) We bought a truck with a dump bed and lift so I can maneuver the oil in the winter too. There are lots more projects I have but these are the main ones I'd like to accomplish. Many people want to 'lose weight' for their new year's resolution, but if their overall goal was to become healthy and change the types/quality of food they eat- it wouldn't just change their weight but their lives. In fact, the lives of those around them too! Talk about a New Year's Resolution. By the way...I am still researching breeds that I want for the animals I have listed. I like heritage breeds but am up for almost anything that is stellar so leave a comment with your favorite you raise OR one that you think you would like to raise and why!!
10/08/2013 Status On Self-Reliant Season
Ok, so I've been a little lame on writing my next blog but I promise I've been busy. So far this year I have accomplished LOTS and am so proud that I am putting my dismay of food products the USDA deems acceptable into action and becoming self-reliant in food. I have canned about 150 jars of veggies, pickled stuff and fruits. I plan to do a little more but will freeze most what comes from now on.
Besides canning I have frozen lots of blanched, fresh veggies. We recently bought two large freezers in addition to the medium sized one we already have. They will be specific to the foods we put in them- such as meats, veggies/fruits, and pre-mades (breads, pizzas, waffles, etc) each with a different freezer. Love it! Organized and easy dinner plans :) I can technically say, it's butchering season. Yay! Healthy meat. I am so excited to try my pork that I have been raising non-corn and apple finishing. We will be butchering this coming weekend- I'll be sure to post the process on that. My meat birds will be butchered sometime in Mid to late November. I want them to be about 7-8 lbs each. I have read that the meat is most delicious at that weight so we shall see. We plan to slay a few deer in archery season too- we love venison and it's one of the best meats for you to eat.
We (Mr. Hunky and I) have been researching Charcuterie and pig butchering- the process of curing and uncuring/smoking meats. HOLY MOLY, learning curve! But that's what self-reliant living is all about, learning and becoming skillful at the hobbies and things that make us rely on ourselves. Currently, I'm getting my garden beds mulched and ready for planting next spring...even at the end of the season when most people are exhausted from the harvest, I am just so darn excited to order seeds again. Ha ha, life is fantastic --seeds make me ridiculously giddy, sorry bout that. I am also still harvesting veggies, squash and melons. That's great and a blessing. I can run out and grab a couple handfuls of beans for dinner- over the summer that really cuts down on the grocery bills. Plus I'm getting the best of the best for less! I promise I haven't been drinking :) The pallet chicken coop is complete on the inside... Yes, complete on the inside. Egg layers, meat birds, and a feed room all separate. The outside needs to be sided yet and we might insulate the sides just a little bit- I also might build a rocket stove in the interior. But as for now, my lovely ladies have a nice, new, permanent home. HONEY! I almost forgot, 1.5 weeks after spinning and bottling...I am sold out! It went so fast!! I extracted 4 gallons of honey and left each hive 9 frames to survive on during the winter months. I guess from speaking to other beekeepers, that's a lot from my two hives. And I must admit -it's true, the honey you harvest on your land yourself is sweeter and the best honey you've ever tasted. I was just so excited to share this raw honey with others in my community. Local, unheated, unfiltered is best. I have piles of winter projects and am excited for when the snow starts to fly. This is officially the first time I've said that. I like the snow until January 1st and want spring January 2nd. Not gonna happen here in central Minnesota so I am getting my lists going for indoor projects like learning to spin wool (lambs are on the list for next year), sew recycled grocery bags from plastic feed bags, make my canning room under the basement steps some shelving, do some house updating etc. I might add that my Farmer's Markets have been fun and very successful. It's so fantastic to mingle with like-minded people and get to know my community better. They really are awesome. My online country store is also doing well and I love shipping all over the US- helping others with skin issues or just making super awesome soaps for people to purchase is more rewarding than I ever thought possible. If you haven't ordered yet... do---You are supporting a homesteading dream ;) **For those that are on their way to small farming or as I like to call it...purposeful animal husbandry, failing is inevitable if you want to be truly good at what you become. For pics of this blog, search 'Status on Self Reliant Season'
9/4/2013 Update self-reliant
HOLY MOLY, it's September! With the late spring and soggy rains to the dry and hot July/August I can't believe summer is coming to an end. From my hefty list of things to accomplish to where I am now, I can at least say... I've slept good at night :) Things that were on my list to accomplish this spring/summer/fall: 1. Sell my goods at the Farmer's Market to support my homestead (chicken coop, out buildings, feed, and animals). 2. Raise pigs corn free/GMO free. This includes fencing, water tank, & feed buckets. Butcher ourselves. 3. Get chickens. 4. Make a 12 X16 pallet chicken coop. 5. Get 2 bee hives. Learn about them, extract the raw honey. 6. Gardens! Make 12 raised beds in my large vegetable garden, make 3 other areas for vegetable gardening, make a perennial garden bed. 7. Can/store my extra garden goodies for winter. 8. Get meat chickens, butcher. Things I have accomplished thus far: 1. Been selling at the Farmer's market. I know that I want to support markets that are true farmer's markets, not commercial driven. I have been funding my homestead projects with the moolah I make off of my products that I sell... yes, check out my country store... you are supporting a good cause ;) 2. With the help of my hubs and dad, electric fencing was completed this spring. I bought my two yorkshire pigs immediately following and they are now about 200 lbs each. I have not fed them corn, just protein mix and LOTS of garden goodies. We plan to butcher beginning of November/end of October. I did get a meat grinder which I am very excited to use and make sausages, ground pork, etc. 3. We got 50 chickens- black australorps, buff orpingtons, Rhode Island reds, and welsummers. They are all laying now and it is quite fun to go on egg hunts daily. The Easter Bunny really needs to step up his game this year. 4. SIGH... the pallet chicken coop- it is still a work in progress and our chickens are STILL in the 8X20 enclosed trailer we have for things 'other than chickens.' But patience I tell myself, paaaaatience. My hubby is building it for me - with his demanding job, I get him to work on it a few times a month. But soon I believe I will be able to put my chickens in their permanent home. YAY! 5. BEES- these have been the most surprisingly awesome hobby this year. They are so easy and they do all the work. I just have to make sure they have water and enough room to continue to make wax/honey. I don't believe I will get the most honey they are capable of because they spent much of their summer making wax, but next year they will have about 90 lbs of honey per hive. I bet I'll get around 40-50 per hive this year. That's still pretty awesome. I'll extract the honey end of September. I still need to buy or make an extractor. I am going to try to winter my bees. We'll see how that goes. 6. Holy vegetables coming out every direction right now. Given we had a slow start spring followed by a rainy mess, my gardens are now doing very well. The perennial garden I wanted to do required a lot of work. So, I'll just give myself a big FAIL on that one. Yay me! But I have decided I want more medicinal plants in there that are useful for animals/humans alike. The problem with that garden area is one, it's tiered with very large bordering boulders and also it had 3 feet of rock mulch in it. We're talking 20 X 40 tiered, of 1" rock and 10 large bushes in this area. So taking the bushes and rocks out has been not a favorite task around here. BUT we did get my raised beds made- thanks again to the hubby and dad. 7. Canning. Holy moly, canning. I have canned lots of pickled beets, carrots, beans, plum butter, marinated veggies, spaghetti sauce, pickles, spicy pickles, dilly beans AND frozen peas, california medly (broc cauliflower carrots), broccoli, snap peas, carrots, corn and I'm still going. 8. Meat chickens are still on the list to do. I would really like my chicken coop done before I get them but that might not happen and I may just have to order them and keep them separated from the other birds until they are big enough to fend for themselves. I would like to get 40 meat chickens. I think that would last us the year or at least till next springish. So between lots of other craziness with the kids, friends, and my husband making me relax- I think we/I have really given it an awesome run this summer- reaping the benefits should continue to flow for another month or so and butchering season will come into play. That should be an interesting blog ;)