Thursday, December 15, 2016

Getting Off The Grid - Time For Sharing From The Homestead




When you are trying your best to live on what you grow and raise it can be hard to buy gifts for people during Christmastime so I do things a little different.

I share what I canned all year, the jams and jellies, and I bake! Fresh cookies, pies and Cakes.

So far I have been extra nice and giving. One guy, the electrician, left with a case of jams, jellies and pickled tomatoes. Tony`s sister left with a little more than a case of jams, jellies and pickled vegetables and pickled eggs. The angels from Birmingham that loaned me a car left with a sack filled with jelly and sugar free jams.

I baked a batch of cookies, that means five different kinds, and I gave my favorite Alfa agent a plate full, next was the preacher and his wife they are in their late 70`s but helped me when I needed them and I always give them cookies at Christmas, another delivery is for this elderly lady that is the greeter at walmart, she is 85 years old and her husband is 86 years old. I went to the door and I seen her arm in a sling, she had fallen and broke her arm. 

I have a few more elderly people to visit this coming week to leave them a gift of cookies and a few more to leave pies.

I love homemade anything as a gift, not just food. Once I got a painting of two red birds for my birthday gift. Another time my step mom made me a quilt and Tony`s mom crocheted me this big beautiful dolie. I have to say I loved all of those so much I still have them. Another time someone planted a tree in my name through the Arbor day foundation. 

Are you sharing your homemade gifts?

If you would like to know how to make all these wonderful cookies and the best coconut pie ever! Check out the recipes :

Sinful coconut pie


Orange sugar cookies





Chocolate oatmeal no bake cookies



Peanut butter no bake cookies
https://niume.com/post/188254

And



Peanut butter crispy cookies



Enjoy!


By Andria Perry
Photos by Andria Perry



Friday, December 9, 2016

Getting Off The Grid - Wintertime




December 9,2016

This is the first weekend of extremely cold temperatures in my area, Anniston, Alabama. A couple days down into the 40`s and nights around 25 degrees but being Alabama we will recover and have the normal temps back in a couple days, those would be in the 50`s and 60`s for daytime highs and 30`s to 40`s for nighttime lows. Actually its not uncommon to see the 70`s around Christmas and of coarse the rare snow flake is also possible.

After not having rain for so many days the rain finally came when December arrived. With that rain I now have the greens coming up, only to get killed back by the deep freeze. I am hoping that some of them make it and I can have a good mess of greens grown on my land.


With the rain the sweet gum trees dropped their leaves, leaving behind the pods.




The hickory tree also dropped its leaves and a few nuts, they are not huge but to a hungry nut eating animal its food. I love them but they are so hard to break and pick, I have not learned an easy way to remove the nut, yet. I am thinking about collecting all the nuts I can and taking them into the woods and planting them, make for some really good lumber one day.


Back in the fall I had to chose my job over the homestead, something I did not want to do, because of the drought I needed to stock a few things for wintertime and I had sickness to hit the family hard. I did not get the greenhouse up as planned.

What should I do this winter to help myself for the coming spring? 

I will plan the food plots. I am almost 100% sure I will be doing the planting alone the upcoming year and I can adjust the growing to my needs. There is no sense in growing only tomatoes when I need green beans and other vegetables, plus I am not in need of hot peppers so a couple of plants will be enough.


I am learning how to grow just the right amount of plants for my needs, I am used to growing a lot and giving plants away, I need to think wiser and not be so wasteful. 

As far as getting the solar power bought and installed I have not done either. I have to make sure I will live here for a long period of time before I make that huge leap and investment. I am still thinking I need to down size my space.

Many things to think about because life throws in many curve balls.

Have you accomplished anything on your homestead this December 2016?





By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry

Monday, September 12, 2016

Can It Be Done? - Getting Off The Grid



Can It Be Done? - Getting Off The Grid


What to do? 


Life is just happening right now and its spinning out of control, work and work and then more work on top of that work.

I am not even talking about working toward my goal of getting off the grid either, it seems I am being pushed more to use the grid and depend on it.

Is this a sign? 

The garden is now looking more like its a part of the lawn, I have a few bell pepper plants left and those are small, and the fall squash, I get some without worms and some with, I am tossing as much as I am harvesting.

I cannot seem to find the time to get the area plowed for the winter greens, at this point I am not sure if I can get them into the ground and growing before the cold temps get here.

Greenhouse? Nope! That is the impossible dream at the moment, not just the finds but the time to build it.

Food storage?

I have not canned or froze anything in weeks. However I did buy four pounds of carrots yesterday and two and a half dozen of eggs that I will try to get home canned today. More pickled eggs and more pints of carrots for meals or to add to soups is not much but its better than doing nothing.

Savings?

I can bet that this coming month the savings on the electric bill will not be much, since I am working so much I am having to do laundry at night again, meaning I have to use the electric dryer.

One or maybe two nights the hot water heater was left on by another member of the household, that is a real power sucker!

Should I give up my dream to be Power and water bill free for the rest of my life?  Should I not worry with a garden and buy my food? Should I continued to be a slave, getting a low income and just surviving month to month for the rest of my life?


Well, I dont know. But..... what I do know is that anything worth something is always, I mean always hard work.

Life pushed me down and now I am back up dusting off the seat of my britches.

By Andria Perry
Photo By Andria Perry

Friday, September 2, 2016

How To Pickle Eggs - Getting Off The Grid



How To Pickle Eggs - Getting Off The Grid

Many people off the grid or getting of the grid have chickens and collect eggs daily, if you do not use them up or freeze those eggs, or do not use a freezer because of the power usage on the solar, then you can pickle  the eggs! 

I have to say that I will try many recipes, some passed down and some new. But I have this bad habit of changing the recipe to better fit my tastes. Some recipes call for more salt than I consume in a month, some recipes call for so much sugar it`ll rot your teeth with just a sample.

First you have to pick the size of eggs you would like to pickle, I prefer medium because I can get six eggs per pint jar or one dozen per quart jar.

You don`t have to home can pickled eggs, you can just make a batch and put them in the refrigerator, they will keep well for a month when covered in a plastic container or in a glass jar. 

This is my tested and approved ( by everyone that has ever ate one of my pickled eggs) recipe, this will made one quart or two pints.

12 medium size eggs

One white onion

2 cups of white vinegar 

1 tablespoon of pickling spice

1 teaspoon of canning salt

2 tablespoons of white sugar.

Place eggs in a cooking pot and cover with water, bring to boil and cook for five minutes.

Peel onion and slice into thin slivers, set aside.

Remove eggs from heat and drain the hot water, carefully not to burn yourself, and run cold water over the eggs. 

Peel the eggs and put them in clean sterile jars, or the container for th refrigerator, by layering, a few boiled eggs and a few of the onion slivers till the jar or container is filled. 

In a stainless steel cooking pot add the white vinegar, pickling spice, canning salt and sugar. Bring to a rolling boil, turn down the heat to medium low and simmer for five minutes.

Pour the hot liquid over the eggs and onions. 

Note: if you want you can add a couple drops of red food color because the eggs will be brownish from the spices, I do not. Also you can strain the spices from the liquid, I do not.

For canning : Fill jars leaving one inch head space, wipe the rim clean with a damp clean cloth. Add lid. Put in  a water bath canner process five minutes. Remove from canner onto a cloth and allow to cool completely before storing in a cool dark place.

For refrigerator : Let the cool completely before covering with the lid, then refrigerate.

And that is how you make pickled eggs at home! 

Do you make you own? or do you buy what the store has to offer? 

By Andria Perry
Photo By Andria Perry

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

How To Clean Large mouth Bass - Getting Off The Grid





How To Clean Large mouth Bass - Getting Off The Grid

I was presented with a couple of largemouth bass and one crappie but the catch to getting their catch of the day was that I had to clean the fish myself.  I learned how to clean largemouth bass by watching the men doing it for years and years. Being off the grid and a woman alone, you should know how to catch and clean your fish.

If they were just going to be eaten by me I would not have fillet any, but since I do and they do not like picking bones I did fillet the largemouth bass and left the crappie whole and all for me.

To clean a large mouth bass you`ll need a fork and a very sharp knife and water to clean up with.



First you`ll want to scrap the scales off, you can do this by scraping from the tail up toward the head. This will be messy.



Next you will remove the fishes head. Place the knife just behind the gill and at a slanted angle cut the fish on one side and then flip over and do the same on the other side. Pick up the fish and "pop" the bone in half.




Most of the guts will come out with the head, but take the knife and split from the lower fin up to where you removed the head now you can check for any that was left behind.



Now lets fillet the bass. Place the knife at the top of the fishes back, as close as possible to the top fin bones, make the cut keeping it flush with the fin bones, slowly work your way into the fish with the knife and pulling the fillet back as you go to see what you are doing.



When you get passed the rib cage stick the knife all the way through to the other side and slowly cut to the tail, keeping flush with the bone.



Once you have the fillet off the bone you will need to remove the rib cage section, it still has bones.

AND that is how to clean a large mouth bass!



Now lets go inside and fry this nice mess of fish.

Wash the fish thoroughly with cold water and keep the fish in the water till you are about to bread them.

Get the good old number 8 iron skillet out and add enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom about 1/2 inch and put on the stove top at medium high.



Place around a cup of flour into a deep bowl, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and mix together.

Dip the fish into the  flour coating well and drop into the hot oil. cook a few minutes on each side, or till golden brown.



I do not feel you need any more seasonings because the large mouth bass, and crappie, will make your mouth beg for more!

NOTE: Nothing is wasted when taking a fishes life to feed us, I use the guys and heads as fertilizer. Just dig a hole and plant them, nature will do the rest.


By Andria Perry
Photos by Andria Perry

Sunday, August 28, 2016

At A Stand Still - Getting Off The Grid



At A Stand Still - Getting Off The Grid


August 28,2016

Owning a large section of land and trying to maintain it and work out in the world is not an easy task, especially for one woman, Even when I do hire help. Learning is a part of life and learning to balance one with the other is the biggest learning process of my life.

I am now going to declare that the month of August HAS to be the rest month for me here in Alabama this year. I have a row of yellow squash and its battle the bugs time, they are winning. I have a couple cucumber planted in flower pots, another battle of the bugs. Its either to dry or to wet to till the garden to sow the fall greens, since August is about over, I will see how kind September will be for me.

Another learning process is "learning to do without items that require power."

As I have mentioned before I put up the clothesline to bypass using the electric dryer and for the most part I have done really good with this process and I have even seen a large nose dive in my power bill. 

I also unplug the office stuff, the printer, computer and even the lamp. 

Unplugging the kitchen too! No microwave unless I really have to and this one is the hardest to stop. I had already made it a habit to unplug the coffee maker years ago, and since I do not have my appliances on th counter tops, none are plugged in. One thing I have been doing again is using the hand can opener and the hand mixer, I don`t use either often but when I do I want to go with no power.

Another hurdle to overcome is how will I heat the hot water for baths during the winter? I have an electric water heater and I am fortunate to have an off and on switch ( like a light switch) to flip when I am not using it in this place, but what about when I go off the grid completely? How will I manage the hot water.

The process continues as I will be off the grid one day soon.

By Andria Perry
Photo By Andria Perry

Friday, August 26, 2016

How to Can Mushrooms - Getting Off The Grid


How to Can Mushrooms - Getting Off The Grid


Today was one of those days that you get every now and then, while shopping I spotted a sale on baby Bella mushrooms and I jumped on it.
Seventy nine cents a package and they were fresh! I bought six packages.

Canning mushrooms is very easy and worth the little trouble involved. 

You`ll need :

A pressure canner, canning jars with lids and rings. A large cooking pot, a slotted spoon. 

fresh mushrooms

water
 
canning salt

Fruit fresh

Lets get started.



Put the mushrooms into the sink and fill with water, soak the mushrooms a few minutes to loosen up the dirt, rinse them well in cold water.

Slice the mushrooms and set them aside.



Put the pressure canner on the stove and add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to three quarts of water, turn the heat on to get the water hot but not boiling.

Put the mushrooms in the large cooking pot and cover with water, bring to a boil for five minutes, remove from heat and fill your sterile canning jars with mushrooms and liquid, 1/2 teaspoon of canning salt and 1/8 teaspoon of fruit fresh , leaving one inch of head space.

Wipe the rim of the jars clean and apply the new canning lid and ring.

Put the jars into the pressure canner. Process for 45 minutes. 

Remove from heat and allow to cool in the pressure canner, after about thirty  minutes the valve should be down letting you know its cooled enough to open. Remove the jars to a towel and leave till completely cool. Check seal on top, if its down in the middle its sealed properly, if it " pops" its not sealed. Store these in the refrigerator and use within a week.



Having your own home canned mushrooms gives you the freedom to know what is added, you can control the salt and leave off the fruit fresh.

How to use your home canned mushrooms:

I like to drain them and add to my spaghetti or pizza. I also like to use the mushrooms and the liquid to make homemade brown mushroom gravy. 

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Rotten Fruit - Getting Off The Grid


 
 
 

I have to say that I was disappointed with all those peaches, most of them had worms so I got one batch of Cinnamon peaches before I gave up, I was working myself down for nothing. Four half pints was it.
 
 

I moved on to the next project for the night and that was Spearmint jelly. I still had enough of the juice left to make one more batch so while Tony was out I made it, seems that the smell bothers his COPD. I got seven half pints.
 

 
And last was the figs, I made them two ways because sometimes I want figs for a dish and not full of sugar as they are for preserves. I canned four pints whole figs in light syrup and then I made twelve more half pints of fig jam with lemon zest.

For a total of 27 jars of home canned fruit/ jelly/ jam.

I do have to say I am happy that the newly planted yellow squash, They are getting bigger everyday. 
 
 

The two large flower pots of cucumbers I have are now running and blooming! I miss having fresh cucumbers in my salads. I will have to make sure the pest don`t chow down on the plants. 
 
 

I mentioned to Tony that I needed to get those few bushes cut down with the chainsaw so that I could get the greenhouse up and he said okay he would help me, since he does NOT want me to use any type of chainsaw. He added how Mr. Wright had his greenhouse with a double layer of plastic ( Mr. Wright was a friend and he owned several greenhouses, made a living selling plants). I do remember how my mother built hers and I would love to have it made like that one, and with a double layer of plastic.

I think I will have a couple weeks between cleaning the dead garden up and tilling it for the Fall planting of kale, turnip greens, collards and mixed greens. If its Gods will I will have another wonderful year of greens for me and everyone else.

I will continue to harvest herbs, sage and basil,  leaves for infusions of healing plants.

I also need to finish the cleaning up around the garage and the small shed, A snake was killed less than 20 feet from my back door. I don`t want that to happen again. This is two years in a row I have had snakes that close to the house.

Nothing exciting on the homestead today so I will take a day to relax.

By Andria Perry
Photos by Andria Perry

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Kindness - Giving And Receiving - Getting Off The Grid


 
 
On this journey of mine I am learning more than I could have ever expected to learn and one thing that I am receiving is kindness for the small things I do but I never expected anything back. Kindness, giving and receiving. Getting off the grid is more than just the homestead, living off what you grow and getting solar power and well water. What people see on T.V. is just what the how wants to show the public, yes they do show some struggles but they never show how much you get back when you share what you have, no matter how small or big.


I am not passive nor aggressive toward people, I treat each person differently because we are not all the same. Some require more attention than others, some give and want nothing in return, some want everything and will not give anything. That is just how this world works.

The past month I have been blown away by the acts of kindness I have received for the little acts of kindness I have shown, I will have to admit its all been from men but they are all elderly men, with wives, except one.
 
 

Midday yesterday I got a call from a number I did not know, so thinking it was one of those calls, Tony answered doing the crazy voice but it was another man that we know, the apple and pear tree man. He had called telling us we could have all those small peaches if we wanted to try and make something AND he has me some jars. I was shaking my head yes to those peaches while Tony was still on the phone so he would say yes. When I got there the jars are new and still in the box! I had assumed they were the jars coming back from me sending food, I told him " you did not have to buy me any jars!" and he said " I feel bad I have so many of your jars now still filled with food." Then while I was there he told me that in a couple weeks, when ripe, I could have his muscadines and other fruits! This  older man lives alone, I do not know what happened to his wife but I know all his children live in other states, he told me he has one daughter and had wishes all his children was girls :)
 
 

Tony called the man who plowed the field back in the spring, I fed him a good meal and sent a plate of food home with him, I also sent my home canned fruit spreads and relishes. He asked for no money, just a favor if patching his roof that is leaking by the chimney. Well Tony got sick and has not been able to fix that for him but Tony still calls him, last night he wanted to talk to me so I took the phone and I was asked " what size jars do you use?" I explained that I use all sizes but for the most part pint jars for vegetables and half pints for jams and jellies. He told me he has my jars but they got mixed in with their jars and then he said " I may just bring ALL the jars to you." I was blown away! I told him they would get used and that I would send some back filled with foods.
 

 
The fig man. I send a little produce every now and then and out of no where he gives me his figs. I know that they, him and his wife, have been sick with heart problems and both are diabetic now. They want nothing back but I send jars of pickled eggs and things that are not sweet, but they have always expected the Christmas cookies!

So, the old saying is true! What you put out now, kindness and giving freely from your heart, will come back to you when you least expect it.
 
 

Now what to make with all those small peaches? Pickled? Peach butter? peach jelly?


By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry



Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Getting Off The Grid - Food storage update


 
 
I can say WOW when it comes to knowing what you need and what you get to put away, because the two doesn`t match at all. Living off the land with solar power is going to be something for me to conquer and when I want to get something done usually I do. Yes I do have my ups and downs with doubt, that is a part of feeling failure but keep going, regardless, till you make it. 
 
 

I feel blessed to have received free fruit, actually I have been given all the apples from one tree and I got 78 jars fill with seven different type of apple products. I am waiting on the pears but I put up around 100 jars ( quarts, pints and half pints) last year, I have not did inventory on those for this year, yet. Last Friday I was given all th figs from a huge bush ( big as a tree) and in two days I made 23 half pints of fig preserves. I made blackberry jelly and froze berries from the wild blackberry bushes. I made several types of zucchini preserves ( pineapple, orange and strawberry) and I would say at least 48 half pints.
 
 
 

But it seems all I am getting free is fruits and I take them and I can them.
 
 
 

Then I see the mint and I want to try this spearmint jelly, so I make a batch, seven pints and its really good, reminds me of Christmas and mowing grass at my dad house in July :)
 
 

I seen eggs on sale for $1.48 per two and a half dozen so I bought two flats =  five dozen and I made nine pints of pickled eggs because those are loved here and I can always trade pickled eggs for something I want. I plan to buy a few more flats and put away more pickled eggs at .60 per dozen!

I had room left in the pressure canner so I chopped four pints of potatoes and canned those for later in the Winter or when I come home from work dog tired and in need of a quick dinner, with most of th cooking part done its easy on me, plus its home canned and " clean" eating.
 
 

I am sure that the tomatoes are done/ gone/ dried up. I canned three more pints of salsa and then loaded the crisper with fresh tomatoes to eat raw.

I have food for months and months if need be in the deep freezer, I have okra, squash, zucchini, cabbage, green tomatoes, turnip greens,sweet potatoes,bell pepper, fish and deer. I also have mango and strawberries frozen. This year I already had to live from my stock and only on the stock when I had to live on one half of my income, I did miss junk food.

I have began to harvest sage, the new plants are now getting leaves big enough to pick and dry. I will also dry more mint and basil as the days get nearer to fall.

I need to make a trip up to sand mountain,Alabama, the growing place around here and buy straight from the fields. Buy What? I don`t know but no more sweets.

By Andria Perry
Photos by Andria Perry



Sunday, July 24, 2016

How To Make Fig Preserves - Getting Off The Grid


 
 
A man gave me the tree of figs. I am blown away by this kindness, so what to do? Make fig preserves! 

I made fig preserves two ways, first I did this version : I washed my half pint jars and warmed my lids, set aside.

2 quarts of chopped figs

4 cups of sugar

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup lemon juice

Wash figs in cold water and remove any stems.

Cover the figs with boiling water for 10 minutes.

Drain and chop, I chopped these in big pieces.

In a large cooking pot put the figs, sugar and water in and cook till the figs are tender and a syrup is thick. Add lemon juice and cook another minute.

Ladle into jar , clean rims and apply lids.

Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. 

Make 9 pints
 

 

Second version : Lemon figs



4 quarts of chopped figs

2 cups of sugar

1/2 cup water

1 lemon

Wash figs in cold water and remove any stems.

Cover the figs with boiling water for 10 minutes.

Drain and chop, I chopped these small pieces.

Wash and slice lemon thinly, remove the middle membrane and seeds, leaving a little flesh, then chop into small pieces.

In a large cooking pot put the figs, sugar and water in and cook till the figs are tender and a syrup is thick. Add lemon and cook another five minutes.

Ladle into jar , clean rims and apply lids.

Process in a water bath for 10 minutes.
 
 

That is how I preserved the figs I received this weekend, I do plan to make them two more ways as soon as I get more.

Figs are a special treat for me since this is the first year my small bush has figs but none of mine are ready, yet.


Friday July 22,2016 I got a call from a man and he asked " do you want some figs?" I answered with a "Yes!" and that is how it began. Getting off the grid is has a lot to do with sharing, the elderly gentleman was sent a watermelon and then not even two days later I was getting figs. So I made fig preserves. Then two days passed and I got the call " come pick`em" so I sent Tony to get the figs and I sent two pints of pickled eggs and that is not the end, his instruction were " come about every two to three days and pick them ALL!"

Caring is sharing. 


By Andria Perry
Photos by Andria Perry