Monday, April 24, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - The War Within



Most of the time you read about how good everything is on a homestead whether on or off the grid. While getting off the power grid  and growing my own food is my goal, some days I just want to give up.

I often wonder why am I trading one struggle for another?

 Struggling to make enough money to pay bills and buy food or spend what I do have for solar and grow my own food but live with the hard labor and bugs that comes with growing your own. 

I will admit that I did wish this on myself, I despise the cold weather and I was so happy with the mild weather wishing the cold to stay away. Now there are a zillion mosquitoes and they are seriously torturing me. 

I sprayed the area around my home and I sprayed myself and what do they do? attack my face and head, around my neck!

The fields that have to be mowed, either with a push mower or a small riding mower, takes hours and hours and let me tell you, its not a smooth ride just because its a riding mower. Tractor? Naa cost to much for me to invest, I had big hopes but I am backing away from that idea unless I intend to live outside 12- 16 hours a day

I do not even have to touch poison ivy or oak and I get it all over me, how? Cats rubbing my legs, dogs all over me and I can bet its floating in the air. I am sure no one living in a nice maintained grounds of apartment complex  or a nice little cul de sac has to deal with poison oak or ivy.

I have yet to understand how people make money farming especially a small operation because the work is so hard and demanding and the public wants to pay you pennies for your hard work, the food, and all the time it takes to make one single tomato or ear of corn, the pests/ bugs always eating it before you can harvest, its a real battle.

The battle within me is real!

Do I want to stay here and keep battling this grass and the pest, the droughts and floods or do I want to move to a small place, small lawn for the dogs and  grow porch tomatoes? Maybe a little solar power system? Keep working for others till I die to pay for food and the utilities. 

As you can tell by what you are reading, I am so tired and I have hit rock bottom, I am covered in poison oak bumps and mosquito bites and I killed a tick in the house.

I am so unsure of what I want and I am middle aged! I should already know what I want from life.

I reckon that is just life and everyone every now and then hit the bottom and have no idea where to go from here, the bottom.

By Andria Perry
Photo by Andria Perry

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - Those Dirty Rotten Blood Suckers



Here we go again, I am having to deal with the worst pest of all time way ahead of the normal time of the year. Since we had a wonderful mild Winter the mosquitoes have hatched off early and they are out to torture me and the animals.

Tony wanted to to hunt down the worst bug killer we have ever bought but I cannot breathe when that is sprayed, so I looked around Walmart and found one that I am sure will keep the bugs at bay and will not take my air from me and the dogs and cat can have a life outside.



I also bought a couple rolls of garden wire to apply around the bottom of the fence to keep the beagle inside the fenced in back yard, he is an escape artist! Plus I think I have a solution to keep Roscoe from tearing up the backside of the house, I am moving the gate down to the far end of the yard so that the back of the house is out of his reach, problem solved I hope.

On Monday I mowed the back yard where the dogs live and I trimmed the overgrown hedges till I can get them cut to the ground, enough for me to be able to walk under them. Things would be much easier if they were gone, although right now they do filter the noise from the road.

I am sure once I got the chain saw going that this place would be cut back in one day, of course it would take an extra day to haul it down to the back field to burn or leave to rot but that is the easy part. 

Or make charcoal! For instructions read Carol Taylor`s step by step instructions : How to make charcoal  


I have not worked anymore in garden I am just watering till we get rain nor have I sown anymore seed, but the signs are the best for the weekend so maybe I can reserve a day for just planting.



I am watching the blackberries, all in full bloom and beautiful, I cannot hardly wait to taste the first of this years crop. I have many plans for them so if its Gods will I will have a big harvest.

That is about all that is going on around the homestead, how about you? What is happening in your neck of the woods?

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - First Planting 2017



The seed were sown back in January and February for the two types of tomatoes I am raising this year. Big boys and Rutgers. I babied them all Winter and took them outside a few weeks ago to get used to the temperatures and the sun, I do expect a little sun burn but not that much. 

The green sweet bell peppers are also waiting to get into the ground, Sown from seeds by me back in February, they are a nice size and I am due for a good year of peppers for the freezer, jellies and relishes. 




Most of the old timers around these parts plant on good Friday but when I looked at the old farmers almanac Good Friday falls on a poor planting day but Thursday was a perfect day.

I followed the almanac, it has not failed me yet.


One row was tilled, since the ground was plowed by tractor last year it is still soft, with only me and a few wild animals walking on it, so it was not difficult.

Then 41 tomato plants were planted and 8 of the green sweet bell pepper plants.

I saved three tomato plants and I still have a row of sweet bell peppers to plant next week, the tomatoes will be planted by the deck, another way than in the garden. 

I took my sister the tomatoes she asked for and a bell pepper plant, I ave her the heads up on when to plant and I am sure she did as the almanac predicted.


Why so many tomato plants? I am planning to make many tomato products this year. Since I bought the sauce maker I am sure it will be easier to make ketchup and spaghetti sauce to home can. Another step to getting off the grid, not depending on store bought condiments and sauces.

When do you plant tomatoes? Do you have a secret way of planting them?

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - How To Home Can Sauerkraut



A few weeks ago I wrote an article about how to make sauerkraut  after getting this awesome deal on cabbage, a quarter a head! And I followed the way that the Amish make their sauerkraut. I am also following the way that they home can the kraut to make it last.

For more about : How to make sauerkraut 

I must say that making your own kraut is a big job and it takes a couple weeks but I am looking to make the kraut to last me for a good long time, making a stock of it for a year if possible.

Today I had two gallon jars filled with fermented cabbage and it was ready to be put in the fridge or home canned, I always chose to home can foods. 

First :  I cleaned my jars and got the lids and seals ready.

Two : I put the pressure canner on the stove eye filled with the correct amount of water and a dash of vinegar.

Three : I removed the kraut by putting it in a large glass bowl, not all fits but you can shake it out as needed for the jars. The reason I take it out of the gallon jar first is that its packed tight and difficult to dip out.


Four : Fill the pint jars 3/4 full with the kraut.

Five : Divide the brine equally and if it lacks enough to within 1/2 inch head space add hot salty water, remember to use canning salt.



Six : Wipe jar rim clean and apply lids.

Seven : Put up to 7 pints in the pressure canner and process 20 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.

Allow the canner to cool, label and store your home canned sauerkraut in a cool dark place till you are ready to eat it.



Two gallon jars filled with the fermented cabbage made 18 pints of sauerkraut.  I divided the jars in three cooking sessions for the pressure canner. 7 the first batch, 6 the next batch and 5 for the last batch.

I have to say that I am satisfied with the results of this sauerkraut and I actually shredded another cabbage to make another batch!

I really enjoyed learning how to make this simple food and its wonderful to add to my food stockpile.

By Andria Perry
Photos by Andria Perry

Friday, April 7, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - Solar Power And Spoiled By Electric



Yes I know, I really do. You are tired of hearing about the solar power and frankly, I am tired of talking about it, So I did my homework, for years, and I bought a book to learn about how this solar power works and to get better advice about using solar power or even if I wanted to go down that expensive road.



As I mentioned before I took the leap and spent money. I bought solar power motion detector lights  because its something I have needed around here for a while. I finally got them in the mail this week and this weekend I will see if I can get them mounted and tried out.



I have always wanted to live free but the more I do without the more I mess the luxury that I have been accustomed to. Little by little I have been doing without a few things, One of those things I have not used in months is the electric can opener. I have several hand openers and I really had gotten lazy and my hands had gotten weak but since I went back to the hand opener I can say my hand is improving and is stronger.


Another thing I have been using more is the hand mixer, yes its a little work but its powerful! I have had this mixer for well over 20 years and I got it second hand so I have no idea how old it is and it works the same every time. 

The biggest thing that I have had to do without for several days now is heat and soon it will be air conditioner. I noticed the fan / motor and all that vibrating so I turned it off and called my repair man, he said sounded like the fan but could be a few things and it will take him a couple days to get to me, I turned it on to warm the house before bed and it made a noise and smelled of smoke! I turned it off and its stayed off. Normal days around 65° is okay, one night at 45° and then Friday night at 39° doing without heat is the hardest thing, I know I am spoiled to the electric now, no doubts about it.

If I keep on with my intentions of living off the grid I may have to down size, maybe even move somewhere else and it will have to have a fireplace.

So if I buy the solar system I will make sure that is not a roof mounted system, so if or when I move I can take it with me. I like it here and I might just build here, I just need a smaller place to keep warm / cool.

There are so many things to consider when you want to jump into this lifestyle but I will guarantee you that I will chose something that will get me off the grid and I will still have my hard earned money each month in my pocket.

The three T`s are in order before living off the grid.

Think about it.

Think twice.

Think all things all the way through before you take action.

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - The Waiting



The homestead, just saying makes some people think about things differently, not me its just where I live. The only difference is that I have a hell of a lot more grass to mow or till under and I grow vegetables anywhere and everywhere. One day I will add chickens and maybe even a fish pond for fresh fish but no time soon.



Last weekend I mowed the fields, getting one ready to plow one and the other I think I will plant just fruit trees, the ground is not rich and it does tend to flood from time to time in the back field.



April is the month of waiting, waiting to put the seed or plants into the earth. This week we will experience what the elders call "Blackberry Winter" is that last cold snap before the weather finally levels out and its good to go on the planting, the blackberries are also about to bloom, well some already have while others are waiting for that announcement :) . Predicted temperatures is for Friday night 39° / 40° F. Yes I will toss a sheet over all the plants on the deck as well as the lemon tree with babies all over it. 

The seed that I sowed inside for the second round of bell peppers have not came up even when I took them outside to the sun and rainwater so I will toss that dirt in a food bed and replant, I am sure I have a couple eggplant but they are tiny so I need to move them to  be better protected. The JalapeƱos are finally busting out, it has taken forever. On Tuesday I sowed more seed for both JalapeƱos and Bell Peppers, I like to plant so that I can harvest food all the way till freeze in November / December.

The first and second round of tomato plants are doing awesome, I have actually began to feed them, once already with miracle grow. The first round of sweet green bell peppers are getting big also, actually I am hoping after this cold snap to put some of these into the ground for good. I also plan to wait and do another later planting of tomatoes also, for that November "mater" sandwich :)


The Iris are blooming, ya know I never did have any luck with these all the times I tried to grow them at the old home place but I "threw" some on the ground here and BAM! there are flowers. I always was told not to plant them deep or they would not bloom, well! I did nor even plant them and its working out fine. I swear I laid them on the ground at the edge of the yard and they are there blooming, the whites mixed in with the day lilies and daffodils was Tony`s planting not mine.


So its just the waiting game before I get started on the real work here on the homestead. Maybe, just maybe I will cut some brush down and begin my greenhouse, after all who am I waiting on for help? No one. And that food bed that will go around the apple tree, Yes I will work on that, toss some marigolds out as well.
 

Spooky, My Shadow while checking on the blackberry bushes down the long driveway. 

You Might also like : What to do with blackberries 

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry - 1- Blackberries about to bloom 2 - me mowing grass 3- Up close of blackberry bloom 4 - white iris 5- the field awaiting to be plowed and planted. 6 - Spooky, my shadow.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - No One Said It`s Easy



The last week of March, the sun is shining and we are getting the right amounts of rain to make everything flourish.

Wednesday I tried to get the riding mower to run, it turns over but would not crank, I will check the spark plug tomorrow before I move on to the next thing to check.

I got absolutely nothing accomplished on the homestead. I had planned to get the biggest part done, mowing, and then work on the food plots that will not be a part of the garden in the field.

I would like to plant on Good Friday but I am not sure I will make it. I don`t know why but all the old timers always planted that Friday, I tend to listen to my elders when it comes to the crops, maybe its the moon phases because one year I planted according to that cycle and had the best garden ever. 

Learning to do for yourself, growing and canning your own food, it not easy, And its even harder to give up all the electric appliances. 

And it is even harder when you work and try to do this alone.

Getting off the grid is nothing like the t.v. shows we sit and watch, after  all we see is 30 minutes of their life and that is only what the producers tell them to do that interest them.

You never see them mowing down the grass or breaking the ground to make a garden.



You never see them sneeze five hundred times because the pollen is bad while you are trying to set up food plots, you can`t hang out clothes because they turn yellow before they are dry.

You never see them talk about solar power and how they use it, well once on the last frontier they used solar power to electrify a fence to keep the cows in, but not how they are using it to make life better in their homes.

You never see how many home canned foods they have, just when they make a five 1/2 pint batch, you need to can thousands of jars of food to have it all year and its an everyday canning thing to keep up with the garden and freshness of the food.



Where do these people work? They have to have a job to pay property taxes because those are not cheap, to buy jars to home can with and to buy the supplies like flour, oil, coffee and sugar. The crops don`t always make each year and you don`t always get to kill animals for pelts, so no food to sell or trade and no animal pelts to sell..... Leaves me with the thoughts "where do they work?"

So before you "think" you want to live off the grid, try it for a while and see how hard this life is.

My point of getting off the grid is to lessen the time I have to work for others out in the world because I will require less money to live, Grow my food so that its healthier and all my money won`t go to a grocery store. To know if something bad happened I could make it without all the power and all the stores.

No one said it`s easy.

You might also like : When Animals eats the crops


By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry


Friday, March 24, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - How To Stockpile Meat Cheaply


Getting off the Grid does not mean you have to live in the woods without anything but nature to depend on, Killing your own animals for meat and growing your own potatoes for fries.

You can live in the city, grown your own vegetables and fruits and home can it! Your homestead can be anywhere.

As far as meat is concerned you can buy the meat or trade with a farmer for meat.

When you find meat deals at the grocery store, stock up if possible. If your family is like ours we use a lot of ground beef, (hamburger meat) for making single dish meals like spaghetti and chili or we have hamburger and French fry night.


A few days ago I was in Aldi`s grocery store and I seen that they did have a wonderful sale on ground beef at $1.99 per pound, that is stock up price around here so I got a family pack, 5 pounds to be exact.

The first day I brought it home I made two meals and on day two I made two meals. Later in the evening of day two I cooked the rest of the package and then I home canned it, six pints and each pint will feed two people. With this one package of ground beef each serving is around .63, Or you could make it go further by having a pot of soup for a crowd, now that is having a cheap meal with meat.

This is how I Home Canned the Ground Beef :

First we always, I mean always, wash and sterilize the jars. And always use new seals, you may reuse the rings but not the seals.

Next take out your Pressure canner, fill with 3 quarts of water and a couple tablespoons of vinegar. Set aside.

Put on 2 quarts of water to boil.



Brown the ground beef till its medium well. Drain as much of the grease off as possible.



Put the pressure canner on the stove eye and set at medium high.



Fill each pint jar 3/4 with the ground beef.



Next fill each pint with the boiling water, leaving 1 inch head space.

Wipe the rim of each jar with a clean cloth , making sure its clean and no meat or grease can interfere with the sealing process. Apply the lid, tight but not super tight.

Put into the pressure canner and process 75 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.



Remove from the canner after it has cooled down, set each jar on a towel and allow to cool and you will hear the seals "pop" as they seal. After completely cool remove lids, label and put in a cool place for storage. 


There is nothing wrong with stockpiling meat when it is cheap, you are providing for your family to have meals in the future. I try to buy and home can one meat a month, usually the meat is what is on sale the week I do go shopping. 

By learning to home can everything, when it is time to get off the grid and depend more on myself, I will know what to do and how to do it. Plus if I have a month or so that my payday is low or not at all, I will have dinner on the table every night, because I stockpiled when it was dirt cheap to buy.

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry



Thursday, March 23, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - How To Make Kraut


A couple years ago I grew my own cabbage and I put up enough cabbage in the deep freezer to last me two years, but I want to go further in preserving food, cabbage for one, so that it will last up to four years.

With home canning in mind, so I won`t have to depend on the deep freezer, just in case of power loss for a long period of time, I read books and searched online and not once did I find a way to home can cabbage except for making Kraut / Sauerkraut. 

But...... I did find an interesting article about "how to home can cabbage" it was about why you cannot find anything online, saying its not safe because of lack of acid in the food, the stronger flavor and dull color after home canning, the last time it was written how to do it was in the Ball Blue Book home canning guide 1974.

And to my surprise I also read in that same article that you should not use cabbage in soups when home canning. Well, that statement was a shocker because I have for many years home canned my own soup and cabbage is an ingredient in one of my favorites but I may have made it safe by using tomatoes in the soup, because of the high acid of the tomatoes it killed anything bad.

Now lets get to making Sauerkraut as this will take some time.

You will need :

5 pounds of cabbage

3 Tablespoons of canning salt ( or more)

Working with around 5 pounds is the ideal amount to start with because it can be placed into a gallon glass jar.

Remove any wilted or sunburned leaves from the cabbage.

Cut the cabbage into four quarters and remove the core. Rinse cabbage and drain.



Shred or slice thinly, around 1/8 inch of possible.

In a large glass bowl, put the shredded cabbage and the salt, toss the salt to cover all the cabbage.

The cabbage will naturally release water, this is exactly what you want to happen. Every few minutes toss the cabbage again, using your clean hands if fine.



Fill your glass container, leaving 4- 5 inches at the top, and allow the cabbage to continue to "sweat" for a couple hours. 

If it did not make enough of its own fluid , mix 1 1/2 tablespoons of canning sat to each quart of water needed to cover the cabbage.

I had to use another quart of water to cover mine.



Next make sure that the cabbage stays under the brine using weight since cabbage will float, fill a freezer grade baggie with water and 1 1/2 tablespoon of canning salt and place on top.



Cover with a clean cloth and I used a rubber band to keep it in place, making sure no flying bugs get inside. 

Now I just wait 10 to 14 days for the fermentation to complete and I will have kraut.

I can put this gallon of kraut in the fridge for three months or I can home can it.

Home canning :

 Hot pack : In a large cooking pot heat the kraut in its own brine. Pour hot kraut into hot jars leaving 1/2 head space, seal with canning lids and process in a water bath 15 minutes for quarts and 10 minutes for pints.

Raw pack : Filled clean jars with kraut and brine leaving 1/2 head space, add lids and process in a water bath for 25 minutes for quarts and 20 minutes for pints.

Although this seems like a long process it will be worth it to eat your home made kraut, made with love from your own hands.


By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - Springtime In Alabama


I know that spring is just a date on the calendar but in Alabama that means that it is also warm outside and that plants and trees have awaken from their winter sleep.

Not only is it warm but its time for seeds to sprout and to begin their journey making plants and eventually food.



 51 peat cups filled with Jalapeno seeds and eggplant seeds were put outside on a shelf, right now they are getting all day sun. Since the nights are mild in the fifties I am leaving them outside and uncovered. I actually want these to learn to survive at these temperatures. 



I did get a head start and I have tomatoes and sweet green bell peppers ready to go into the ground but that will still be a few weeks away but first I have to take them out and allow them to get used to the outside because they have had one steady temperature living in the house, yes they are used to the sun from the window but that is all.

Yesterday I got out of the house and cleaned the areas I will make new food beds, no where is better than around the smaller fruit trees. Why? As I water and feed the plants the tree also benefits, making it grow stronger and I will be able to control weeds better.

I have always loved the plots to raise food in but others on the homestead are stuck in the past, thinking that the only way to have a garden is in very long rows that WILL grow up with grass by the time its harvest. So I tend to make a few plots around the deck or porch and grow food plants instead of flowers or I mix in marigolds. 



The peach tree and the plum trees are blooming and the pear already has its leaves. The apple trees have yet to show anything.

The main problem I see is ants, I am seeing them every where in the yard, mounds here and there. I must exterminate them as soon as possible and I must find something safe to use because of the dogs and cat.



Warm temperatures also means mowing grass. Its not just grass but weeds and wild onions. Hopefully this week, if its Gods will, I will mow and clean the garden area off, all except the greens, those will stay till around May when it gets to hot for them and they blister from the sun.

I will also order the new bushes for the homestead, blueberries. And a few walnut trees, maybe another pecan. Since I am fond of nuts I really want to focus on growing them. 

That is what is going on around my homestead this March 20, 2017. What is happening on your homestead?

You Might Also like : What is growing in February 

By Andria Perry 
Photos By Andria Perry

Monday, March 13, 2017

Getting Off The Grid - Cooking Dandelion Greens


For a couple years I have ate dandelion greens but in the raw form and I found them to be very bitter and since I am not fond of bitter I decided to try them cooked for a change.

One lady told me about cooking them one way, another man another way and yet someone else said to cook them with turnip greens.


This is me trying out how I like to eat this bitter weed best.

First I went out and I dug up the whole dandelion plant because I am keeping the root for medicine, I will be harvesting the dandelion plants with roots all through the year, and I placed the plants into water.



A couple days did pass before I could actually clean and disassemble the dandelion plants but they were still living well in the shallow pan with water. I clipped the leaves off and set those aside and I cleaned the roots and put those on a wire rack to air dry.


I placed the dandelion leaves into a sink filled with cold water and soaked them, so the dirt would release. I rinsed them several times to make sure the dirt was off the leaves. I put them into a bowl of cold water and sat then into the refrigerator over night because I was cooking these the next day.


Now the cooking part :

I drained and patted dry the dandelion leaves.

I took the advice of the man and I cooked them in butter, this does NOT take but a couple of minutes, like most greens.

I tasted and added salt to my taste.



The Taste :

The texture was that of fresh cooked spinach, sweet first and at the end a slight bitterness.

Next!

I added how the woman told me to cook them, add lemon. So I added a small amount of lemon juice and stir the dandelion greens.

The Taste :

At first sweet, then tart but I still could detect the bitter and that was just to much for me.

Now to MY addition to these wild little greens.

I have the dandelion greens cooked in butter, with a dash of salt and lemon juice and drizzle of Agave nectar.

The Taste :

Now we are talking! 

Cook the dandelion greens in butter for a couple minutes, turning to cook them evenly. Add salt to your taste, give then a squeeze of lemon and drizzle with agave nectar.
 

Fabulous dandelion greens! Plus they grow wild everywhere so they are free.

Do you eat what grows wild in your yard?

You might also like : Getting back to nature 

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Gone Fishing - Getting Off The Grid



Although I am going back to vegetarian, I will add fish to my diet. I love to go fishing. Its a place that is calm this time of the year when no one is out playing in the water.

Note: I`m a flexitarian at the moment, I will live as a gatherer but I will add fish to my diet so I reckon I will be a pescatarian and not exactly a vegetarian. There are just to many way to say I eat veggies and fruits all day but will have fish in occasion.

Yesterday was the first time that I have went fishing this year, I have been leaving it up to the men to bring in the fish but one is old and got hurt and can`t fish yet and the other one has been sick for months but I brought him with me anyways, I have to step up and try to get the fish I will need to get me through a year, Fish to eat now and fish to put up along the way for stock, either in the freezer or home canning, with home canning the preferred method.

I do live close to one river system but I do not feel comfortable eating the fish because of so much pollution and the fact that I have witnessed so many people suffer with cancer, or die, that live on this river system so I traveled a little to go to the cleaner river and the water shed.


Lake Wedowee is in the next county over, its the back water from the dam, and this time of year the water is down and we can walk out to a favorite spot.

 

The wind was blowing and one of my points was unbearable to try and fish but Tony had the side of a mountain as a wind break and he caught a couple fish, crappie, one female and one male. If we needed food, that would be a meal but according to the size limit they were an inch under the length that we could keep.


After a couple hours we gave up and moved to the next fishing place,  just on the Edge of Oxford, Alabama. The small lake that feeds the water shed lake, Lake Hillabee, I have always called it anchor metal lake but I don`t know that it has a name. 

It was late in the evening and there was only a couple fisherman out, but there was so many cars coming in and circling around that it was impossible to get a nibble, so we left and knew we would have to come here earlier to avoid the traffic of sight seers to actually enjoy fishing this lake.

That is the fishing story of the first fishing trip of 2017. 

Do you go fishing? Do you keep the fish for food?

You might also like : How to clean Fish By Andria Perry 

By Andria Perry
Photos By Andria Perry