Friday, June 8, 2018

Getting Off The Grid - Living A Double Life

The double life means I am half way in between two worlds,The world of off the grid ans free and the world of go buy it and forget about using what is free. 

Some days its hard to not just give up and move back to the city and live paycheck to paycheck. To forget about all the work involved in growing, the back pain and bug bites.

Then I taste something you cannot buy, something I made that no one makes, and I think " I got something no one else has, I can survive if I ever have to, alone, with my knowledge."

The Homestead :

I look out the window and I often wonder how did I get here? Then I remember I prayed about it and that is how I got here. 

The work is continuous. The grass is always in the garden and the plants share the space.

I still have to get the dogs another area fixed with fencing, Its getting hotter by the day and they need the complete shade. I am sure the cay will not like them getting closer to his area.

The Garden :

Yes this time of the year is all about the garden! I am excited to say that the second round of tomato plants are now blooming. The first round is still giving small tomatoes and hanging in there. The third round of tomato plants are ready to be re-potted, I did many of them but its a big job and will take a lot of time, I will get there.

The bell pepper has babies. The eggplants look better but still are struggling in the garden.

All the okra, squash and cucumbers are growing well, even in the grass.

I have some of the herbs I planted coming up, I am sure its parsley even though the marked got blown away.

I have began to gather blackberries, a half pint or pint at a time.

I also gathered more chamomile blooms and honeysuckle. 

The stockpile :

I have not made anything the past week for the stockpile, however, I have bought more 1/2 pint canning jars, since $2.00 coupons are out and a dear friend have me plenty. Just over $3 a case is awesome for jars.

But I did go fishing, had a meal and froze a meal. I guess that counts. I intend on filling the deep freezer with more fish, however, I would live to learn how to preserve fish by drying or canning. 

Click here to learn : How to clean bream  

The Learning :

With all the rain I have seen many new mushrooms that I do not know. I take a picture and I watch for the spore pattern, of its dark never eat those. I did not get to see the pattern because I forgot it outside and the wind blew it on the ground. I have seen many "no no`s" like the red mushrooms and the solid white death angels that I look at but I don`t touch.

The thing with mushrooms they are here one day and gone the next. This makes it hard to identify which is which.

What do I need to learn? besides how to preserve fish, How to manage kudzu! This evil vine is taking over a piece of land. No not here at the homestead, thank God!

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Getting Off The Grid - The New Plants Are Thriving

Its been less than two weeks since the garden was planted with the "sow directly in the soil" seeds were put in and I am happy to say that all the seed were good this year.

If its the good Lords will, I will have enough food for myself and more than enough to share with others.

The Homestead :

This time of the year its all about getting the seed up and the plants growing, but there is another problem that absolutely wears me out and that is the grass, if not tended to each week it will be grown up and out of control, especially when we have just the right amount of rain, and we have.

When you think you have a nice spot cleaned off, the next day every week known to mankind will be right there in your face, poison or not, it has to be tamed. 

The Garden :

I am proud to say that I do have a garden in this year. I was not so sure that I could get it plowed, this also makes me think of other ways to grow food instead of the traditional "plow the field." The grass is going crazy this year and it seems impossible to keep it out.

The first round of tomatoes that I planted inside has about played out, they have me plenty of small tomatoes. Now I have the next round in the garden and they are growing nicely. I also have round three seeds up for late tomatoes, they will be planted in the garden in a couple months.

The squash are fast growing and fast to die out, they already have their bigger leaves coming out.

The okra is up and thick but I won`t thin it till its a little bite bigger.

The cucumbers are also up and very thick, same as with the okra I wont thin till they get a little bigger.

I have two rounds of bell pepper plants as well, the oldest that I started indoors back in the wintertime are about to bloom while the smaller are now growing nicely in the field.

I have noticed that I have many passion flower vines, aka May Pops, I need to mow that area so I might try to dug a few up and move them elsewhere.

I am so excited to see the blackberries turning red, means in a week I will be knee deep in those briers picking the ripe berries.

The stockpile :

The past week I did not get to home can anything since I worked away from home most days and then worked out in the fields the days I was home, but I did collect!

I collected the rose petals from the other rose bush, if they were a couple days old I grabbed them. 

I think I got all the honeysuckles around here so I will be on the look out at the other house and land.

I also picked more Chamomile blooms for future teas. 

The Learning :

Since I had to have an outdoor facet changed the yellow flag got smashed down, I knew it was good for something as a medical treatment so I took down a book and read that you use it in lotion to heal up rashes and the skin.

I also learned that I am stronger than I thought I was and that with God and determination anything is possible.

By Andria Perry
Photos by Andria Perry

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Getting Off The Grid - Planting And Spring Canning

My Winter Tomatoes

Usually most farmers in my area, Central Alabama, plant on good Friday but this year that fell in March and way into April we had cold nights, some areas under a frost warnings. So, we are now planting in May just to be safe.

Seems everything has came alive and green, we even have full shade under the trees, green grass underfoot.

The Homestead :

The past few weeks have been full, discovering what the Spring has to offer. As some know, a few plants are around in spring and that is it so take advantage of what nature has to offer.

Chamomile  aka wild daisy

Wild mushrooms and greens that thrive and disappear with the heat, the spring flowers to make teas.

The Garden :

I did have plants sowed from seed in the winter ready to plant, Cabbage, tomatoes, sweet green bell pepper and egg plants. They went into the ground this week. 

Sown straight into the warm dirt were okra, cucumbers and squash seed. Living in the south they have plenty of time to grow and give a wonderful harvest.

In pots I have Marigolds but they are still to small to go into the garden.

I have basil and I am potting those into their forever pots so I can harvest anytime and bring them inside for the winter to continue to thrive.

I also have a second round of baby tomatoes on pots for the second round of tomatoes, yes I can do two crops per year.

The blackberries are plumping up and in the next couple of weeks I will be picking those. 

The stockpile :

This year is going to be a little different than the years before. I am planning to only home can jelly that is not available in the stores. So far I have Honeysuckle and Rose Petal, some I will attempt to sell at the farmers market.

I have also home canned my first wild mushrooms, after learning for a year or more what can and cannot be eaten, I felt confident to eat and home can these. Dryad`s saddle, there are no look a likes.

And good old poke salad, aka poke weed and poke berry. I have always ate this every spring since I can remember so this year I am taking a step up and I have home canned poke salad. 

All of the above do take a lot of time to clean and make but I think it is worth every second, its all free! No buying seed, no watering and no digging. 

For recipes and home canning click :

I made sure to get the last of the winter kale picked and home canned before the new garden was plowed, I hope to collect new greens soon.

I am also picking the wild daisies to dry, that are actually chamomile, for teas to treat medical problems.

The Learning :

I have to say that the month of May had been a very interesting and learning experience. 

I have went back to primitive picking and gathering in the wild. Taking what mother earth has ready to eat, each and every month of the year, hopefully.

I have been doing research online and I am making my own essential oils, I have my fingers crossed that the first try goes well. I will update the accomplishment or failure and what went right or wrong.

What is happening on your homestead? 

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Dryad`s Saddle Mushrooms - Preserving Wild Mushrooms - Getting Off The Grid

When I say get off the grid I do not mean I will go live in the woods and live just off the land, I will have technology and air conditioning, even a washing machine. What I want to do it have what I want and power it with solar power, water from a well and most of my food grown by me. Therefore I am reducing my cost of living per month as much as possible. 

Learning to collect food that grows naturally is the best, its free and the only cost is putting it in jars.

After doing a years research I have decided its time for me to begin to preserve mushrooms that I have collected off my own land, Spring is the perfect time to collect mushrooms and preserve them for the whole year, if they last that long before getting cooked.

A few days ago while picking poke weed, aka poke salad, Tony found mushrooms that we have not seen or did not recall seeing, so he picked two small mushrooms and we brought them home to look them up. I personally love the guy that runs the YouTube videos at I have learned so much from him. 

What Tony had found was Dryad`s saddle mushrooms and this is one of the best to pick for beginners because there is no other to confuse this one with. When I heard this I was thrilled so next I looked for blogs on cooking them, watched a few videos and combined all that knowledge. For the video about Dryad`s saddle click Here  

One cook explained that she did not like the texture of the honeycomb spongy underside and I knew right away I would not either so I scrapped that off, easily with a knife. Another man showed to stick a fork into the mushrooms underside, if the fork goes through its what you want to eat, if it does not dehydrate that part to make powder for soups and stews. All of the people that knew about Dryad`s saddle said they tend to dry out cooking to add water to keep moist.

This is how I used their knowledge.  I home canned a couple batches and I dried a couple batches. 

Step One :

Clean the mushroom! 

No one tells you around the tiny little bugs that are on all mushrooms. I treated them just as I would any green I picked from my garden. I filled the sink with cold water and added a whole bunch of salt.  The salt kills the bugs. I allow them to soak for a good 15 minutes. 

Next I pull the plug and let the salt water out and rinse them off.

I turn them upside down and I use a knife to scrap off the honeycomb pores. This comes off easy.

Then I slice chunks off, put them into a plate and I cut off the tough part and set aside.  I cut the mushroom into small bite size pieces, what I would like in spaghetti or on my mushroom Swiss burgers and other dishes I use mushrooms in. 

I then put them into a pot of water and cook them 10 minutes before home canning.

With the parts that the fork would not go through I take a very sharp knife and I slice it very thin and I put it on trays for the dehydrator. I dehydrate them on the jerky setting (165°) for 12 hours. 

Step two : 

Preserving the mushrooms.

Home canning 

Always first I sterilize my jars, I use half pint, and set them aside. I put new seals inside my lids. I prepare my pressure canner with hot water and a spoon of vinegar.

I cook the mushrooms for 10 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon I divide the mushrooms into 4 half pint jars (I guesstimated how many) and added enough liquid to one inch head space, added a pinch of canning salt and wiped the jar rim with a clean cloth. Applied a lid and put into the hot waiting pressure canner.

I processed the mushrooms for 30 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.

Making Mushroom powder

After I have dehydrated the tough parts of the dryad`s saddle mushroom I decided to make powder, I can add a spoonful to soup and stews for flavor, or even to gravies.

I simply put a hand full of broken up pieces into the grinder and let it go till it was powder, I allowed it to settle a minute before opening and doing it again. For me it took three times since I had three racks.

Label a ziploc bag, add the powder and roll the air out, seal. The store in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. This keeps all the moisture out. 

That is how I have preserved my first Dryad`s saddle mushrooms. I hope you take the leap and try wild mushrooms as well.

You Might Also Like : Cooking Wild Greens

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry