Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Water, Water, where is the water?

Recently I was encouraged to watch the National Geographic series "Doomsday Preppers" and so I watched a few clips online. Then began researching some of the blogs online of Preppers just to see what forms of food storage they are using, since I am into food storage.

Well, I watched this one episode on youtube where a woman was talking about some issues with cardboard cases of plastic bottled water. It was interesting in that she spoke of seeping plastic jugs that damaged the cardboard cases of nearby stored items.

So this got me thinking about ways you'd want to store water, if you had the space. Clearly plastic has many draw backs,

in my view due to it being plastic. But what would you safely store water in?


Glass as recommended by

Plastic Buckets?

Lets face it, not everyone has a fresh water well, so many people would depend on some other form of water storage when they can't just turn on the tap. Not just "Doomsday preppers" either!

Today was one such example or should I say reminder.

Yes, today I was tested and I got a big fat F!!!

Today we woke at 4am as usual, to find we had no power. Should have expected it since the weather alert has been out since yesterday telling us of the storm. But I failed to storage ANY water. Not one drop (other than what was in the toilet tank).

So we wake to find we can't make morning coffee

or make any other item that needs water. Yeh, I was sitting in the dark with my little candles beating myself up and laughing at the insane lack of planning I had just done!

The most vital item outside of food and I had not stored it! I should have known better as its always something we tend to store before a storm, but for some reason I had failed to do so and the result was we couldn't make coffee. I realize coffee is not necessary for life, but it makes a cold morning much easier to cope with. So now I am seeking ideas for storage of water. Not the plastic jug system as I'd prefer to stay away from plastic water containers. But perhaps glass bottles stored in a root cellar might work.

With water being so critical in so many ways, from flushing toilets to adding in cooking, its just smart in South Dakota to have some around for power-outage moments like we had this morning (and had earlier in the week).

So to all those doomsday preppers & others; I recommend shutting your power off for a day or a week and see just how prepared you really are! Better do the trials now, rather than when you really need it. Just a suggestion.

ITEMS needing Water:

baby formula
brushing one's teeth
flushing a toilet
and the list goes on....

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Returning from the Sales

I went to our local grocery store and we purchased various grocery items on sale. One of the items I purchased was a couple cartons of 18 count eggs. I figured I'd try a format of egg preservation that I heard about. It was aired on "Doomsday Preppers" and in the show the woman was putting up into storage eggs by taking and rubbing cooking oil onto the shells to coat the eggs.

Now this may sound odd, but I remember years ago, as a little girl my aunts having eggs that they insisted we not wash. We could "rub" the dirt and droppings off, but we weren't to get the eggs wet. They always talked about how it would destroy the protective coating.

Well this recent episode reminded me of those old comments from my childhood and I thought, perhaps my aunts knew something about what they were speaking. After all both of them sold eggs throughout the county. They always had eggs, regardless of the season.... so clearly they knew something about having laying hens and eggs year round.

So today, I decided to try the concept. If I'm able to extend the life of the eggs by even a few weeks. This would increase my saving greatly since it would mean that when eggs are on sale, I could stock up. We use eggs for breakfasts and for cooking ingredients in various recipes, so eggs are a staple that really deserves some budget adjustments.

Its sort of odd this year to be buying eggs, since a year ago, I had hens laying more eggs than I could cope with. But its a good lesson in frugal spending.

We also purchased other food items we tend to use regularly, including our favorite pre-made spaghetti sauce. I not only purchase name brands, I also like to purchase the less expensive versions and use them as bases for other dishes. I find this to be far more economical then producing my own spaghetti sauce from scratch when it comes to buying each of the ingredients from the store and mixing them into my own version at home. Buying however either the name brand versions or generic store varieties when they go on sale, in larger numbers just makes sense.

By catching the sales and stocking up during the sales, I may end up going home with 5 jars of spaghetti sauce, but its added to numerous boxes of various pastas that I purchased in previous sales situations. The result is I'm pinching those pennies and stretching my purchasing power.

Another area people often fail to consider is catching the sales when fresh produce are on sale. Yes, its true you can only eat so many green peppers in one sitting, but it doesn't mean you can preserve those green peppers or onions or cucumbers or other fresh veggies in your own gourmet pickle recipe or freeze them for later use (depending on the vegetable).

One method you might consider testing out is Brine-cured pickles. You can find recipes for brine-cured dill pickets or even sauerkraut. You might even consider making your own salsa or chutney. The sky is the limit and with produce in season, especially those that come into "season" in other parts of the nation and thus being placed on sale at our local stores, you can push your family's budget and add a bit of gourmet to your frugal dietary habits.

Solar and Winterization

With us still in the grip of winter, its easy at this time to think about projects for summer that would benefit the house hold budget.

Recently I started looking at the creation of more effective thermal curtains. While you can get curtains at numerous local stores that claim to be thermal, I find the rubberized backed curtains don't really cut it in South Dakota, for denying the wintery cold drafters coming through.

So I've been looking at ways to seal off my windows at night, in an attractive format, that would give my interior home a more pleasant feel than simply putting an interior layer of plastic on my windows.

Past winters have generally meant tacking down plastic sheeting on the exterior of all my windows as well as plugging any gaps or holes along the window trim and house with caulking. This helps greatly in the Gallery house in the past, but its curb appear is far from appealing.

But the outside tends not to be quite enough, when we reach the deepest part of winter. Often we have to include a second layer of plastic. This tends to be the over-the-counter plastic sheeting that can be tightened to a clear glaze appearance with a simple hair dryer. Its often available in Wal-mart and Do-it-yourself centers.

While it keeps out the cold, the problem of visibility is a major problem and attractiveness.

So the quest for something that looks attractive from the outside and attractive from the interior of the house is critical.

This has encouraged me to begin studying deeper the topic of "thermal curtains".

One solution I have been investigating is the creation of "thermal shades" which would be rolled up during the day to allow in sunlight, but lowered during the night and secured with velcro strips along the window trim's edge. This shade would be made with layers of fabric (for visual appeal) and a type of insulation consisting of 1 layer of 5/32" polyethylene bubble that is sandwiched between two metalized, low emissivity surfaces.

One roll of the insulation would cover all the windows in the house, thus making it economical to consider the material for shade construction.

The shade would be sewing together, sandwiching the insulation in the middle of the shade, leaving only the fabric material visible from the home interior.

This shade would fit behind the traditional curtain and valance, so it would protect the house from loss of heat during winter nights, but with it being able to be rolled up out of the way, it would allow winter's low light to still flood the rooms.

Another option being experimented with is the inserting of bubble-wrap into window areas to add insulating factors, but leaving it uncovered, so that light could still enter. This method may work well for greenhouse settings, three season porches and other areas were we want to not have to deal with curtains being opened and closed.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Putting up for Livestock

Recently I watched some clips from the "Doomsday Preppers" series on National Geographic and thought of the flaw some "homesteader" types have regarding raising their own livestock.

While most Preppers are putting up food for themselves, many are failing to consider the needs of their food producing livestock. Many have livestock currently, but are stocking seed stock for their own garden production needs, but not the necessary feed grains to care for the livestock needs.

An example of this is the feed often fed to laying hens in family homestead situations. This feed is generally commercially made feed.

Finding the dietary needs of laying hens and chickens, for example, in general can be quite interesting.

Today's modern day poultry industry will give quite vague answers as to the needs of chickens. Often claiming that its too complicated to answer because of the diversity of poultry and their sizes, breeds, sexes and ages all play a role in determining their dietary needs and thus make it impossible for the commercial poultry industry to answer the question of the needs of the birds.

This of course is quite strange, since the chickens are no more diverse in their sexes, diversity in sizes and breeds than any other domestic livestock. Yet other livestock industries seem far more willing to provide livestock owners with greater detail of dietary needs of the animals in question.

But luckily chickens are more than willing to forage for food during the warmer months. Its only in the winter months that homesteaders need to consider the poultry needs, especially if they are depending on egg production deep into winter. Some frugal homesteaders have adopted the practice of raising meal worms and other insects as additional protein sources for their poultry.

Another frugal consideration is recycling your eggs you consume. Not the egg, but the egg shells that is. While few realize it, chickens can eat the crushed egg shells, which in turn helps them in obtaining needed calcium which is needed for their continued egg production.

Above I have specifically mentioned chickens, since they are one of the more common frugal home livestock animals. But don't forget your pets either, whether they are cats, dogs, caged birds, reptiles or aquarium fish.

In fact, if you are an owner of one of the two latter animal pets, you may consider raising your own meal worms to supplement your pets diet and reduce your own pet food costs. There are websites you can find that will teach you how to raise your own feeder crickets, meal worms or even soldier fly larva.

Whatever your pets or livestock might be, it's important when trying to determine what sort of needs you should stock or budget for. Not only to consider putting up for your family, but also you should calculate the feed needs of your pets & livestock.

If its cheaper to purchase whole grains for yourself and your animals; its worth considering doing so. Few people think about the "storage life" of commercial feed. Few feed companies tell their customers how long their feed actually can be stored. But the known storage life of different whole grains is available. Thus it may be wise to consider this factor when determining what is more economical for a frugal homestead.

Few people think of frugal living as including food storage and yet that is exactly what was done and should be done. To be frugal, one should purchase items when they are in season and store those items when those items are out of season. Whether you choose to mix your own livestock feed or purchase commercial feeds, stocking up when the prices are good is an important aspect of frugal budgeting.

Spring Fever in snowy February?

The snow is blowing across the yard outside, but I'm digging in the dirt inside! My young broccoli and brussels sprouts seedlings are busting out of the top of the seedling tray; long before the tomato and pepper seedlings have even begun to emerging from the peat pellets.

So today I felt it was a good day to do some transplanting. Transplanting into larger pots that is!

I have a couple medium sized flower pots with soil already positioned near the south facing bay window, so they worked perfect for the new seedlings. Each pot was planted with one or another specific vegetable plant. Broccoli in one pot and Kholrabi in the other. Since the two look so much alike, as they do to brussel sprouts its critical I keep them identified for later planting in the garden space outside.

Its not just my garden vegetable seedlings I'm doing some garden care with. My young citrus trees and even my house plants have been seeing spring changes.

My orange seedling tree, as well as my lime and lemon trees all have new leaves beginning to sprout. So it seems I'm not the only one anxious for spring.

My houseplants too have been putting on new growth, though due to the severe limitations of light, the stems seem quite spindly. But I see this as an opportunity for a veggie haircut! Instead of fighting the winter willowy-growth, I've decided to use it to my advantage. After allowing the growth, I cut the stems off and begin rooting numerous other plants for spring sales and donation purposes (I donate some to Habitat for Humanities Restore).

This practice keeps my plants within the limits of my own pots and also gives me a chance to pay-it-forward to others who love gardening and house plants.

How does this translate into Frugal Living?

By growing my own seedlings, I save money in the end, since TIME is what I have; not cash, to pay for greenhouse grown transplants at garden time in May & June.

We have become so accustomed to "convenience" we often forget it costs money. Money many of us could use in other areas of our budget. Plus it stops the impulse purchasing later in the season when we dream of a big bountiful garden.

Consider this... If you aren't willing to care for the seedlings, what is the likelihood you are ACTUALLY going to weed the garden and care for the larger plants? So you could consider seeds your training session when you have far fewer activities taking your time and attention away from the care of your plants. It helps you get in a habit that will need to grow and mature along with your garden's needs.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Carbon Footprints and Frugal Living

It can be a challenge to find ways to reduce one's carbon footprint but frugal living and reduction of one's carbon footprint has been made easier by resources such as the Brookings Area Habitat for Humanity Restore, thrift stores like Country Peddler Thrift Store.

There are numerous thrift stores one can utilize to find ways to stretch one's budget. Specialty shops like Trendz is a great place for young families and frugal grandparents to find quality items for children and young mothers.

Another thrift store that carries more of a whole family sort of diversity of household items is that of Goodwill. Thrift stores don't have to mean "dumpy" clothing. You can find vintage clothing or trendy styles. You can find decorations for your home and even costumes for your kids Halloween or dress up clothes for play.

By shopping at thrift stores for clothing, decorative items, furniture and other items, you save more money and thus can stretch your dollars even further.

You may wonder how shopping at thrift stores can reduce one's carbon footprint. By purchasing products already produced and already shipped, we can reduce. Every step toward recyling, whether it is by purchasing thrift store items, or recycling newspapers and other refuse, it all moves us to a cleaner environment and reduces carbon use.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chickens and egg production in your yard

Have you wondered how to raise a few eggs for your family on a small yard or lot?

Most people think of chickens in farm settings, perched on a fence crowing. But that isn't necessarily the reality when it comes to raising chickens.

Chickens can be raised in healthy environments within a small yard, and you can control where they will be placing their droppings too (which can also help your garden compost!)

You can either build a chicken tractor, which is a mobile chicken pen and house, or you can build a small chicken house and run in a fixed place in your back yard.

Let us talk first about chicken tractors. A chicken tractor is, as I said before a mobile chicken house with pen or run.

The one we built was made from reclaimed lumber, reclaimed shingles and reclaimed plywood. The only thing we paid for new, was the nails and the hardware wire. Even the two wheels we used were reclaimed (bought from the Habitat ReStore in Brookings)

The benefit of a chicken tractor, is you can move your poultry to new feeding areas, but within the safety of a cage that keeps stray dogs, children and predators from getting to your chickens. The other benefit is the chickens fertilize the soil in the areas they are placed. Over wintering them in the flower bed area next to my house, means the excess of straw and droppings will create fertilizer for my flower beds that otherwise wouldn't get such nutrients. In the winter, the birds benefit from being sheltered up against the larger house, from the northwest winter winds.

This format works best for smaller numbers of birds, but if you choose to have more than 5 or 6 birds, it may be necessary to consider a larger hen house. One of the easiest ways of creating this small shed is to consider one of the garden sheds you can get from Lowe's or other Home Do-it yourself retail stores.

By creating a space for your own backyard poultry, you not only get to enjoy a few unusual pets, but also get free fertilizer for your garden and flower beds and some very delicious eggs to boot!

Chickens come in a great many colors, sizes, and physical types. You can even train them to accept being Lap birds, just like you would a dog! They will happily clean up the left overs from your family dinner, as well!

I first got introduced to chickens as a child, with my aunts raising hundreds each year. They had hen houses as well as broiler pens (i.e. chickens intended for butcher later in the summer season).

Few people realize you can raise chickens organically, without the use of commerically mixed "mystery feed" as I like to call the unidentifiable mix that is sold as poultry feed. Since the dog food fiasco with chemicals that faked proteins, and kills numerous pets; I no longer trust mixed feeds that don't list their ingredients precisely - let alone where those ingredients came from! I'd prefer to have a greater knowledge of my food's source. For this reason, I support the "buy local" programs and groups like Dakota Rural Action.

If you have never had chickens before, lets start with some basic information. There are numerous hatcheries out there that you can find online *1, *2, *3, *4, *5, that will allow you to order by mail. Yes, by mail, your new chicks.

Its important to read the details about breeds and find breeds that fit your situation. Not just what you'd like, but also what environment they will have to live in. If you are in a small postage stamp sort of yard, you don't want to get a group of cochin hens! These birds are HUGE in comparison to the average chicken, but quite beautiful.

Instead, if you really fall for these giants, consider their miniature cousins, the cochin bantam, for your small yard. This bird, is only about two pounds, unlike its larger "cousin" who tips the scale at about 10lbs. They will fit nicely into a small yard and bring a great deal of enjoyment to the family, and produce small eggs that are just as edible as the large store bought eggs.

Remember that if you want to have hens raising baby chicks in the future, you have to also have a rooster. Hens will lay unfertilized eggs regardless of whether there is a rooster, but the rooster is essential if you want baby chicks hatching in your backyard!

Many urban families are beginning to raise small flocks of chickens in their yards. Many cities are beginning to change their ordinances to allow small flocks of poultry. So its important to find out, before ordering chickens, what your city ordinances are and make sure your future fowl will make you run afoul with the law.

When it comes to feeding your feathered friends, you can go about it two ways. You can buy premixed commerical feed or you can make up your own mixes based on locally available grains and nutritional ingredients.

These may include: sprouts, stale bread (but not moldy), limp lettuce from your local stores, cabbage, kale, steamed potatoes, chopped up sweet potatoes, garlic, over ripe tomatoes from the store, boiled & crushed egg shells (recycling is good even for chickens), dried milk, cracked corn, corn sprouts, wheat sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, bean sprouts, chopped up winter squashes, and many other items. Remember that sprouts have a limited "shelf life" and stores have to get rid of those that have "expired" so they are a great source for poultry greens! Also bakeries are another source and restaurants for old stale bread, old veggies (both cooked or fresh). Make sure you boil egg shells before feeding them to your chickens, so as to make sure you aren't passing to them some illness.

Winter time feeding needs to include more of the carb selection mentioned above. The birds are needing to stay warm and still produce eggs for your table! So they need to be able to burn more calories to accomplish this! They are NOT on a diet so don't assume carbs are bad for them!

You can even give them some of your red worms mid winter or go to a local bait shop or pet shop and buy the feeder crickets

and meal worms to give the chickens added protein. The birds will love you for this dedication! Trust me, they will go nuts for it, and you don't have to necessarily touch the bugs if you buy a container of crickets from a pet store. They carry the crickets for lizards and other insect eating pets.

One source suggested this break down for chicks and chickens, based on the season and age of the chicken:

First Week (feeding 6x daily)

Wheat Bran
rolled oats
chopped, boiled eggs (one per four chicks)
chopped young stinging nettles
chopped plantain
chopped dandelion greens
left over lettuce leaves (chopped)
whey, skimmed milk or powdered milk

1st week chick worming protection

grated carrots
crushed garlic, with cottage cheese churds or whey

2nd week (feed 5x daily)

1 egg, chopped & boiled / 6 chicks
rolled oats, dry
greens, no longer finely chopped
cracked corn, (evenings)
worm recipe once every 3 days
fruit and veggie left overs

Week 3 & 4
(feed 4x daily)

1 boiled egg/ chopped / 8 chicks
steamed potatoes, chopped
substitute calcium source w. crushed egg shells that have been boiled to sterilize them
churd mix once/week
red worms or meal worms

Begin allowing them to run in confinement yard

Week 5-8
(feed 3x daily)

give smaller amount of rolled oats
give grain mix of 25% finely ground corn, 50% cracked wheat, 25% barley

8 weeks PLUS in age
(feed 2x daily)

allow drop door to open into run before dawn, so they can begin foraging for insects in run at day break, before bugs dig deeper into soil

after sunrise about 1 hr, feed mix (25% corn-50% wheat -25% barley) and greens to fowl

* steamed potatoes
* table scraps
* boiled, crushed egg shells
* oyster shell meal
and sand, grit and fresh water

Moulting Formula Feed

* Raw shelled sunflower
* cooked/steamed squash
* steamed potato
and feed mix

Forced Moulting Feed Mix (if you aren't seeing signs your birds are moulting/resting)

reduce nutrients for one week. Moulting will reduce egg production, but healthier eggs will result later and healthier hens too following "rest" period during moulting.

Winter Feed

* Steamed potato
* garlic water (2 to 4x /winter. Note no other water can be offered when providing garlic water, so birds will drink this medicinal water)
* Spouts of wheat, oats, corn, & barley
* mesh bag hung from rafters during enclosed winter period, with potatoes, sugar beets, fresh kitchen scrap, cabbage, sweet corn on cobs.

(this is said to help reduce boredom & pecking of each other)

Winter Feed

* feed mix (25% corn-50% wheat -25% barley)


* made by finely chopped garlic cloves (5-10 cloves/3 pints of water), added to water. Boil. Let stand 24 hours, then provide to poultry.

Winter Dusting Box

*Sand mixed with wood ash. Wood ash prevents sand from freezing together and also acts as a natural insect deterent in the process.

Frugal Farming in Winter

Farming in winter may seem like a contradiction, but farming is, after all, a year round process. Whether its one acre or several, farmers need to work the ground, the plants and its moister content or potential.

In this case, one of the areas I want to talk about is soil quality of a small hobby farm lot. In winter, while I can't necessarily till the soil, I can work to further promote my summer "workers" in the form of red worms.

Each winter, I bring in my rubbermaid tub that is 1/4 full of red worms, that will be the winter stock. The other 3/4s of the red worms are fed to the chickens as protein since they say they won't survive cold winters in the soil, like night crawlers.

By taking the time to "grow" my red worms over the winter, I am able to utilize the long months of winter, to rebuild my stock and use the worms to create needed potting soil for cuttings and garden seeds I start in the windows. These little farm workers also compost down various vegetable matter from my kitchen that otherwise doesn't go to my chickens. Additionally, I'm able to take any leaves and debris from my indoor plants and placed into the worm tub for additional nutrients.

If you are unfamiliar with the benefits of red worms,

you may wish to check out their benefits of these organisms in a organic/green household.

Davis Wiki, Redworms
What do you Feed Redworms
Worm Compost
Red Wigglers
Urban Composting

An indoor compost bin is just one way I work my soil and garden spaces during the winter. Another very productive format is to build in the fall, raised beds with storm window covers, to create "cold frames". These raised spaces will be free of winter snow in the early March period and thus will be able to heat up more quickly due to their mini-greenhouse environment created by the glass glazing provided by the reclaimed window.

This cold frame will become home to several cold hardy plants such as lettuces and various broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, Kale and karobi.

Another frugal farming method I take into component I begin to work more heavily with is coffee grounds. Few people think much about their coffee grounds after they pull the filter from their coffee maker. But this former waste should be going instead into either your compost bin or other collection point. Coffee is a RICH material for gardens and should never be wasted!

My mother used to save her coffee grounds and egg shells in an old coffee tin. Then she would crush the egg shells and add these items to her houseplants' pots. Each would get just a sprinkling of shells and coffee grounds. Then the plants would be watered, slowly leeching the nutrients into the soil. This was the only fertilizer my mother used on her house plants and even my horticultural teachers were always amazed at the growth her plants showed. So there must have been something in her technique.

Another frugal method I use for winter farming is that of the collection of seeds from fruit I purchase from the grocery store. I realize most people assume that everything they are getting from the store is "hybrid" and thus won't produce, but this assumption isn't always the case. Secondly just the challenge of sprouting something from a seed can be fun!

My most recent successful sprouting is that of quince seedlings. I take the seeds I want to attempt to sprout and place them in a wet paper towel. Then I place the paper towel into a recycled glass jar that I have the lid and jar. This is then marked to identify the seed variety I started. I then take the jar and place it in my south facing window and basically ignore it. The small amount of moister in the paper towel is the ONLY moister I provide the seed. The rest of the process is provided by the sun and condensation within the jar. After a few months, I check the various jars to see if I find any sprouting plants. Using this method I have sprouted orange seeds, apple seeds and quince.

Its a great way to teach children about how things grow and for them to learn patience since the seed will not change quickly, but takes a great deal of patient waiting.