Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - Preparing The Fall Garden

Grown  over garden area
August 23, 2017

I planned today. I knew I would mow an acre of the grass an then I would start in the over grown garden area. I am preparing a spot to be tilled so that I will have a fall garden of greens.

Here in Central Alabama the weather usually does not get cold till around January with February being the coldest so I have four months to grow and reap the benefits of kale, collards and turnip greens. And as far as collards are concerned they sometimes will last until springtime. I am in hopes of home canning a few cases of kale for the coming year(s) as I am down to just 10 quarts from the last planting in 2015 / 2016 season, I did not have many to survive the 2016 fall planting due to the drought. 

2016 fall kale

This time it was harder to prepare since I have not had a mower for the whole summer, it just was not feasible to push mow that area, but today I took it slow and easy and mowed down a wide section of the four feet tall grass and weeds. I had left a rolled up older water hose in the garden, last year was the drought and I did try to save the plants and the grass had hidden it, I knew about where it as so me and Tony walked that area and he found it. 

It was impossible to pull up through all those weeds and grass by hand so Tony got his truck and drove to the garden up to the hose pipe and looped it around the towing ball and he pulled it out. It had already dry rotted and it was old and now out of the way. I was glad to see the truck had more than enough room to fit between the grow over grass and the okra plants, the area I took a lot of time to prepare.

It feels strange to mow grass in August, usually this is a dry and crispy month but this year its as green as Springtime. 

But before the tiller can be used it needs a simple repair and my uncle agreed to do it for me tomorrow and then that area will be ready to be tilled, raked and planted. 

I picked another pint of okra and four cucumbers, one red tomato. I seen plenty of bell peppers but I want them to get bigger so I left them for a couple more days.

Looking back two years ago at what I wanted was a shock to me. I still have not got that greenhouse but I do have many windows to make a wood and glass greenhouse, or I could go the cheap way with plastic everything and I would buy it all.

This is what I wrote in my journal :



Getting Off The Grid- Those Bushes And A Greenhouse


There are two things that I have been wanting since forever and thats a clothes line and a green house . 

   After thinking about it a very long time I know now exactly where I want the green house . No I have not said much about it to Tony or anyone  . I will just have to start buying a few building items here and there . I know how and I am sure I can do it but with a project this big I will need another pair of hands . I may do a single side slant roof so that I can add on later if I want a bigger place .

   I mentioned that I was going to begin to clear out a spot of bushes that are grown over into this yard by 10 to 12 feet but thats all I said and he replied " you will see how much room is taken over when they are gone " . . I would love to start my green house as a 10 x 12 room and grow food all Winter inside . 

   Clearing bushes is no problem for me as I used to own a landscaping company , I even cleared out the lot that my sister bought and now lives on , with her help . I have a spot we want to burn out so I can pile the brush there , its a wad of honeysuckle and poison ivy vines .

   Now the clothes line ! The last rental house that was repaired I had two posts left over , 4 x 4 x 8 and we had cement left over from these posts for the fence .  You guess right if you was thinking I am going to dig me a couple holes and make my own clothes line .

    Using solar to light the house , dry the clothes and heat water is my goal . A clothes line is considered a solar clothes dryer :) its as green as you can get ! Here in central Alabama we only have a couple months of super cold weather around January and February so it`ll be used a lot .

     It is the perfect time to put in a clothes line too because I am putting Rosco in the fenced area and he wont pull all my clothes off the drying line .

By Andria Perry

So much has happened since I wrote this but it shows that I am trying to get to where I want to be, even 2 years later. Well, Last year I did get one thing I wanted. 

Read more about that here : The benefits of hanging out laundry 

I am guessing that I did not get my clothesline till Spring of 2016 by the date on the article but that is how life is, things come at the right time. 

Do you plant a fall garden where you live? 


By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry

Monday, August 21, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - On A Need To Know Basis

Muscadine vines with green berries




August 21, 2017

Although I have always wanted to live free sometimes it takes more than just doing it, after all you can take the girl out of the city but not the city out if the girl, you have to learn how to do things, how things are made and such. With learning you takes steps forward and steps backwards. Learning  and getting that experience is more than learning how to plant for food or how to hunt or raise animals for food, its living through the unexpected weather and predators.

I chose to read and learn, so I buy books. Some ask me why do I buy the book and not just look it up online and I always have to answer " I may forget and If I do I wont have to walk all the way back home, or inside, and sit down and look it up, because if I have the book I can read what I forgot there on the spot."

This past week I received two more books in the mail I bought from Amazon. 
 


 

One is something I want to do in the coming Spring and that is tapping trees for making syrup, maple will be the first. 
 
 

The second is a DIY book for building, although I know "how" to build this and that its always good to have someone else`s perspective on how to do it, plus this book actually tells me how many pieces  and what size of lumber I will need for a project. 
 

This weekend I took off working around the homestead, however I did home can seven pints or seven meals, I made vegetarian chili. Sometimes its a good idea to take a break and do something else. Yes it was to help add to the stockpile, fishing, but for a little fun too, I did not catch any fish so I went for a swim.

Two years ago I began to get serious, so I began to write about how life is hard and when its easy. This is the first entry of my journal of getting off the grid :

Getting Off The Grid - Live, Love And Laugh 

August 10, 2015

I am beginning a new journey in life and I want to share my steps with you. Whether its good news or a complete failure.

First I want to say that living off the grid does not mean that I want to disappear in the woods and leave all contact with humans behind.

When I say I want to live off the grid I mean I want to be as self sufficient as I possibly can be, spend less money for things I feel I need in life.

I want to use what God has given us, free power with the sun and free water with a well, Seeds to grow food .

Over the years I have been slowly working my way to becoming more self sufficient by doing hard labor myself that includes digging ditches and push mowing the fields, digging fence posts and putting up my own fences and much more.

Growing a garden year round so that fresh foods are always available.

Drying or canning foods that are in season for later in the year when food may be low. 

I have also been learning more and more about natural medications aka herbs, barks and wild plants but I have so much more to learn in this department.

I am thinking about buying chickens for the fresh eggs and free fertilizer. 

Today is the day I put the fence up to contain the dogs, With the dogs enclosed I may be able to get a goat and chickens.

I have still yet to find a business for solar panels in my area or a well digger. I know I must invest money to not have to spend money. 

I have a long journey ahead of me and your are welcome to come with me.

By Andria Perry


As I look back I can see how far I have came, in some areas how far I have fallen behind.  I can see when I wanted to give up and when I was so happy and full of life. 

I realize that no matter where I live or move to I can take with me what I have learned living here and apply it there, even take anything solar with me.

I have learned to never give up on a dream, if you don`t know how to get to where you want to be, buy a book and learn. Only you can make those dreams come true. 

You Might Also Like : Getting back to Nature

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry

Friday, August 18, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - Making Progress


August 18, 2017

When you have to go to work and you run the homestead alone things can become hard, more times than not, but after getting knocked down time and time again I am back up.

I finally bought the equipment I need to get things back under control, everything I owned quit. That is usually how things happen all at once, makes a woman want to give up that is for sure. But that is not me, I may get down about it for a day and then I get to thinking about how to resolve the problem. 

When I got a rider going and I got the main living area cleaned I then had time to tackle the five foot tall grass with the push mower. The lower section of the first field was where I began, I got a good 20 x 20 section  cleared on Thursday and I will work on this area till I get it cleared because this is where I will most likely plant the fall greens.

The Garden

Although I do not have many okra  plants I am getting several quarts a week now, this week I picked four quarts we ate two and I froze two for the Winter months.

The cucumbers are coming on pretty good I actually got enough in one week to home can a case of Dill pickles. I only have a small section of plants but I am happy with the amount they are providing.

For More click here : How to make dill pickles



My sweet bell peppers are not growing as fast as I would like and I am managing to get enough to keep me from buying so I guess that is a good thing.

Those sweet banana peppers and the jalapeno peppers are making a few but nothing to brag about.

The new tomato plants that were put in the ground a few weeks ago have baby tomatoes, the plants are so little.

The Herbs

Last week I picked more sage leaves and laid them on the drying rack I use, its actually a cookie cooling rack. 



The spearmint is about to bloom so I will be doing a massive picking the coming week and I think I will hang it to dry. 

Next week on the list as well is picking blackberry leaves, I use these to make tea or add it to green or black tea for a flavor.

The Basil is very slow growing and I plan to separate and pot up plants for the inside of the house so I will always have fresh when I want, I do love this herb so I use it more.

I am new at growing Ginger and the stalks are dying so I will have to do research on how to harvest the ginger. 


The Seeds



My first try at growing sunflowers for the seeds. For the most part I got two huge flowers that made seeds, the rest were smaller with few seeds. I waited till the first head and stem was turning yellow and I could see the seeds were plump and striped before I cut it. This is my first so I am hanging it to finish drying inside since we have a rainy year and I do not want it mold. The next one I will wait a little longer to cut. 






Wednesday on the way home I stopped by the co-op and bought a couple dollars worth of kale, collards and turnip green seeds. I usually like these in the ground in September.

Its a live and learn world I am in.

What are you harvesting at your home stead? 

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Making Banana Jam, Dill Pickles And Fig Spread - Getting Off The Grid


August 12, 2017

Busy as a bee as they say, its August and that means to get in a hurry to get prepared for Winter. School already started back and the first crops have gone. Time to take a count of what you have already harvested and put up by home canning, drying or freezing and what you will need or want in January.

Bananas 

Each year it seems to be about the same month by month of what to put up and that is because that is that fruit or vegetables season, but one fruit we do not grow local is bananas but they are enjoyed here at this homestead and as always some get ripe faster than they are eaten so I looked up a few recipes to make a jam, a way to preserve and not waste the bananas. I did the test in my own kitchen and I have a nice flavored jam home canned, however I did alter the recipe because for one it was way to sweet, with bananas naturally sweet I had to reduce the amount of sugar.

Banana Jam - Makes 4 half pints

3 1/2 cups of mashed bananas

1 1/2 cups of Sugar

6 tablespoons of Lemon juice

1 cup water

A dash of Cloves - Nutmeg - Cinnamon.

In a large cooking pot combine water and sugar and boil for around 5 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. 

Reduce heat to medium low and cook till thick, 45 minutes. Stir often to prevent burning.

Spoon into prepared Jars and seal with new lids. 

Precess in a water bath for 5 minutes. 

Now you have this wonderful banana jam to enjoy.

Serving suggestion : Peanut butter and banana jam sandwich.

NOTE : This is not a pretty jam, but the taste makes up for the beauty. 

Dill Pickles

I usually always make a few jars to a case of dill pickled but I always bought the mix because mine always turned out way to sour for my taste but the mix is way to salty so I looked around, listened to a few shows on t.v. and I gave the old fashion down home recipe a chance. I cut back on the salt just a bit and I think this one will be used in the future, a plus is that you can grow everything it calls for.



Dill pickles - Makes 7 pints : How I make them


Cucumbers - One Medium per Jar - See " Note"

2 3/4 cups of Vinegar

3 cups Water

Whole Cloves of Garlic

Fresh Dill Weed

1/4 cup of Canning Salt



Peel and wash the garlic, slice each clove in half. Put 4 halves in each pint jar. 

Add 2 sprigs of dill weed to each jar.

Wash the cucumbers in cold water. Slice the cucumbers into spears. Fill each jar with the cucumbers tightly and just below the one inch head space ( the rim)

In a large cooking pot combine water, vinegar and canning salt and heat to a boil. 

Fill each jar to the one inch head space and apply a new lid.

Process for 7 minutes in a water bath.

Allow 2 weeks for the pickles to be ready to eat. 


NOTE : Sometimes I don`t measure out how many as some recipes ask because the cucumbers are not large or small, so this is what I do, I prepare my jars and slice or chop how I want the cucumber to be and place them in the jars, that way I do not cut up to many or not enough.. I did spears this time, To make spears cut  the ends off, cut in half, next cut the half in half and if its still to big cut that in half. 

Figs

Figs! Its time for figs and if you are lucky you will harvest more than the birds eat and the ants finish up. Last year I was given a whole crop of figs so I still had plenty of preserves, so I wondered what to do with this years figs, I dehydrated a couple screens and that became a pint bag,  I made some with light syrup and I made fig spread, like what is in the middle of the cookie fig newtons. I thought that would be an awesome treat around Christmastime. 



Fig Spread - Makes 2 half pints


2 quarts of fresh ripe Figs

1 cup of sugar

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup lemon juice

Chop figs into small pieces. 

In a large cooking pot combine figs and the water and bring to a hard boil, add sugar and lemon juice and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Stirring often so not to stick to the bottom and burn.

When the figs get thick and dark remove from heat and fill jars. Apply a new lid and process in a water bath for 5 minutes. 

NOTE : Figs are naturally sweet and they have a good amount of water naturally, so this will take some time to make, it will cook slow and on a low setting. I put it on the back eye of the stove and made dinner while it was condensing, once it gets super thick keep an eye on it so not to let it burn.

So that is what has been happening around the homestead. Putting what I grow into jars to enjoy for the cold months coming. And not letting a banana go bad and being wasteful. 

Have you home canned or froze any of this seasons fruits or vegetables? 



By Andria Perry
Photos by Andria Perry




Friday, August 4, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - The Homestead and Banana Jam

August 4, 2017

I have to say that I am not making much progress this year as far as getting what I want most, solar power. And, although I have looked up people about getting a well drilled I have no talked to anyone about price and a well would be welcome because this water is terrible at this place. With not knowing if I will stay here or go is another problem I am facing, I wont give up this house but I may downsize and use this place as a vacation house.

So......

For now I will continue to work on the food stockpile, I am still maintaining the food for now and Winter stock plus beyond that. Sometimes I think about how much fruit, jams and jellies I am home canning, is to many? to much and I need to get back to vegetables only?  Then I remember the years that the fruit blooms got froze with a Springtime freak storm and we had no fruit or jams that year, and most everyone knows that the canned foods last for years so I continue making the jam, jelly and plain fruits since I am getting 90% of them free. 

The vegetable garden is sort of at a stand still except the cucumbers, I am beginning to get a basket full every other day. What okra plants I have left are making but I have to collect twice before I get two servings for a meal. I still get a few bell peppers. The new tomatoes are blooming as well as the new bell peppers. 


My fig bush, to me its a tree since I have to get on a ladder to get them, is doing great this year. I am canning figs about once a week. Plus Tony`s uncle gave us a basket full and told him to come get the rest if he wants them. This time I canned the last batch in light syrup  so that I can enjoy the figs because the preserves are just to sweet for me.

Click here for : How to make fig preserves 



I also put a couple racks of split figs into the dehydrator, this is the first time I have dried figs. After drying I got 1 pint of dried figs. I put them into a ziploc freezer bag and then into a quart mason jar for extra protection.

What about banana? Well.... when I mentioned watermelon jelly Tony asked " how about banana jelly I bet that would be good!" I never thought about using bananas so I looked it up and sure enough there was a recipe so I made a batch. However I did alter the recipe a little by cutting the amount of sugar and I must say the cloves are strong so next time I will cut back on those as well, its not pretty in the jar because its a grayish color but the taste is fantastic! Recipe for Banana jam coming soon!

Click here for Recipe :  Watermelon jelly  





As far as me getting the fields cleared I have not. I manage to keep the walking track me and the dogs use mowed and that is it. I do push mow the area around the house and my dogs area. Since both riding mowers quit and I began push mowing all of it again I nearly killed myself working 12 to 14 hours a day working, so I have up the fields when I had to chose. The past few weeks each time I go to buy a new riding mower either they do not have what I want or they try to push one on me I cannot afford, something always happens right there at the store and I end up not getting what I need.



Now that its a new month, usually our hottest of the year, we will see what mother nature has in store for us here in central Alabama, the way this year has been so far we may have an early Fall. 

What is happening at your homestead? 

By Andria Perry
Photos by Andria Perry

Friday, July 28, 2017

How To Make Watermelon Jelly - Getting Off The Grid



I have to say that this is the year of experimenting with home canning new jams and jellies and when I mentioned the jalapeno jelly I made an online friend (@Ithink) mentioned watermelon jelly so I had to jump on this one and I asked for the recipe.

Click here for : The jalapeno jelly recipe 

She gave the the recipe and I looked up the time needed to use the water bath canning method and I learned a little more about home canning watermelon jelly, its good to do your homework, be in the know of how things work, the good and bad. I did alter the recipe just a little but its the same flavor, watermelon. (I added more lemon juice)

Since watermelon is so low on the acid scale some say that its not safe to home can but when you add lemon juice you make it safe to home can, so make sure to put the lemon juice in the recipe! As well as the exact amount of sugar.



First always : Wash and sterilize your half pint jars, prepare water bath canner with hot water.

You will need : 


8 cups of watermelon - cut into chunked with no seed

1/2 cup lemon juice

4 cups of sugar

2 boxes of sure-jel No sugar/low sugar fruit pectin





Now lets make Jelly!


In a blender or food processor add the watermelon and  process till puree. 



Measure out 4 cups of the puree and put into the cooking pot.

Measure out the lemon juice and add to the watermelon puree.

In a small bowl mix the fruit pectin with 1/2 cup of sugar, set aside.

Measure 3 1/2 cups of sugar into a large bowl, set aside.

Bring watermelon puree to a boil over medium high heat.

Add the fruit pectin and sugar mixture and bring to a rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, cook for two minutes. 

Add the rest of the sugar and stir until dissolved and bring to another hard boil that cannot be stirred down, cook 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and ladle into half pint jars. 

Wipe rims of jars with a clean wet cloth, apply lids.

Cook in a water bath for 7 minutes.

Remove from water bath and place on a clean towel to cool.



Makes seven half pints. Store in a cool dark place. 


This watermelon jelly taste wonderful as it was, hot, So I know after it had been refrigerated it will be even better. 

NOTE : There is absolutely no way to get every tiny white seed out but they are not hard and can be eaten. 


By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry

Thursday, July 27, 2017

How To Make Jalapeno Jelly - Getting Off The Grid



I absolutely fell in love with this jelly when I had a taste at a anniversary party many years ago but every year when the jalapeno peppers were producing I always forgot to make this jelly to enjoy at home for myself. 

Well, not this year! My pepper plants are not at the full harvest time so when I seen these large beautiful jalapeno peppers at Aldi grocery store I grabbed a couple 8 ounce bags for very little money.

I love the taste, its unique. Its tangy and sweet with just a hint of heat from the peppers.

Lets Make Jalapeno Jelly!

First - I have to say jalapeno pepper are hot so precautions need to be taken. Do not touch the peppers with your hands while removing the seeds and the white flesh from inside, use gloves if possible. I used a fork and knife being care not to touch any of the pepper.


What you will need to make Jalapeno jelly:

12 ounces of medium to large jalapeno peppers - sliced in half, no seeds and no white flesh.

2 cups of apple cider vinegar 

6 cups of sugar

2 pouches of Ball liquid fruit pectin

A few drip of green food color (optional)

Measure your sugar and set aside in a large bowl.

Remove the liquid pectin from the pouches into a cup, set aside.

In a food processor pulse the jalapeno peppers with 1 cup of the apple cider until blended but still has small pieces. 

Measure the jalapeno mixture and add more apple cider vinegar (one cup) to make 3 cups total. 

In a large pot add the jalapeno mixture and bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add sugar and bring to a rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.

Add pectin and bring to a rolling boil that cannot be stirred down and boil one minute.

Remove from heat and skim off foam if needed. 

Fill prepared half pint canning jars leaving 1/2 inch head space. 

Wipe rims clean and apply lids.

Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. 

Makes 8 half pint jars.


NOTE : If you want smooth jelly do not process a lot and run through a cheese cloth to remove pieces. However, I find a few small pieces makes the jelly more interesting.

Serving suggestions :

On a larger serving plate put a bar of cream cheese, allow to soften at room temperature. Pour a half pint of jalapeno pepper jelly over the top and allow to run over the sides. Arrange crackers around the cream cheese and jelly.

I also think jalapeno jelly will make a wonderful glaze for pork or baked chicken.

I hope you enjoy your jalapeno jelly and look forward to more delicious jams and jellies from my homestead.

By Andria Perry

Photos By Andria Perry

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - When Its Hot Its Hot!

July 26, 2017


Life in July. Life in July in Alabama. Well, I could say typical July but this year has been anything but typical in every aspect. But as far as July in Alabama goes its hot and humid and my favorite time of the year.

What is going on around the homestead? 

The okra, what survived the wet months, has began to produce more and I am now getting a couple meals each week, that is small meals for two people.

I have one nice eggplant and the plant is blooming, I will pick this one today.



The tomatoes that was set out a couple weeks ago are now blooming as well as the new bell pepper plants. As for the older bell pepper plants I picked all of them so that they would bloom again and they are.

The few cucumber vines that I have are doing great. I am beginning to get more each day but I am not home canning them this year, I am eating them, in many cold dishes so not to have to cook each meal.




The sunflowers are small, except a few so I am not so sure about getting any seeds this year, but its a beginning to learning about how to grow them and care for them.



The may pops (passion flowers) I dug up and put into flower pots on the porch are blooming! I love the flowers but if I get to grow my own in pots means I can harvest the seed pods on time and not have to out to the woods to check them.

 It is time to start harvesting more sage, I try to do a massive picking once a month. By doing it once a month it has time to grow more leaves and to get some size on them. 

The basil is slow growing and I cannot understand, I need to learn more about basil. 


The Stockpile

About the only thing, from my garden, I have been able to put away for later has been the bell peppers, I will chop them and freeze but I did home can a few jars, (four) of pepper steak using many of the bell peppers. 

Yesterday I made Jalapeno jelly, I have wanted to make this for years so I finally did but most of the jalapenos were store bought. However, they were not costly and I do have what I have been wanting. It made eight half pints.


Last week I did manage to buy mushroom for .69 per container so I home canned seven pints.

For More about Mushroom click here : How to Home can mushrooms

I also took count of how much food I have in stock and I counted 789 jars with 140 being just veggies. I added to that by 15 jars this week for a total of 804 fruits, vegetables, meats, soups etc. and jams/jellies/pickles and relishes.


What is happening on your homestead? 


By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry