I’d like to see a mix between the cluck carrier and poultry shack. A hundred or so chickens and a lot of room to free range in the sun. Also, what about integrating a landscape chickens will enjoy but not destroy?
I had fun making a large coop with wood skids! (A lot of places give these away free.)
I checked with my local lumber yard who sold steel panels and picked up a bunch really cheap, I now have a 8’x8′ x 10’h coop that cost under $300!
I learned to safely use a pressure canner as a child, putting up dozens of jars of garden-fresh green beans. I love the convenience of ready-made side dishes, but a few years ago I changed my approach to save food storage space– and now use my canner almost exclusively to prepare ready-made meals.
Two favorite recipes for the pressure canner are chili con carne and beef stew. I also love Jackie Clay-Atkinson’s book Growing and Canning Your Own Food. Her Meals-in-a-Jar recipes include several stews, soups, bean combinations, goulash, meatballs, meat sauces, shredded barbecued beef, Sloppy Joes, stuffed green peppers, steak entrees, and taco filling.
Considerations for Pressure Canning
- Make sure your pressure canner is in good condition. Over time, rubber seals need to be replaced and pressure gauges need to be tested to make sure they are still accurate. (One reason I love my All American Pressure Canner is because it doesn’t have a seal and the gauge is only for reference. It uses a weigh system to verify that the correct pressure has been reached.)
- Follow the directions in your pressure canner manual. Make sure you also adjust the settings for your elevation. If you live in the US, you can call your local government Extension Office for the correct settings for your elevation.
- The importance of safety limits recipe creativity a bit. It’s important to ensure that the amount of pressure and processing time is appropriate for the acidity level of the food, the density, and the consistency. Even some favorite canning recipes such as apple pie filling and stew have been altered in recent years over concerns that thickening agents will prevent the food from getting consistently hot during processing.
- Check out available resources to avoid common mistakes. In addition to the book mentioned above, Jackie Clay-Atkinson has great information on her blog. You can also check out safety information provided by the National Center for Home Food Preservation. You can also download the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning for free.
Do you have a favorite pressure canning recipe or story you’d like to share? We’d love to hear about it! Send an email to Editor@HomesteadLarder.com, and we might just feature you in our Your Stories section.
When I started researching heirloom seeds years ago it was purely practical: I wanted seeds I could save and plant the next year.
I had no idea what an incredibly beautiful and colorful spectrum of vegetables exists.
Everything from Black tomatoes to purple carrots defy our modern expectations of what food is supposed to look like.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is my favorite source for information about seeds. The pictures on their website and in their catalogs are incredibly artistic.
Flipping through the pages of heritage vegetables is like looking at a living history exhibit. According to the company, the Black Coat Runner Bean pictured above dates, “as far back as the mid-1600s and first recorded by German botanist Michael Titus in his Catalogues Plantarum.”
Brad’s Atomic Grape Tomato won “Best of Show” at the 2017 National Heirloom Expo. The company’s inventory also includes seeds collected from all over the world.
If you want to get started growing heirloom crops and saving your own seeds, you’ll have to take a bit of a strategic approach.
Getting Started with Heirloom Seeds
Personally, I want a packet of almost every seed in the catalog. But, to get good results, you’ll want to keep certain factors in mind.
- Some seeds will be easier to save than others. I started with beans, peas, and tomatoes. It was fairly straight forward: let the beans and pea pods mature and dry on the vine. Cut ripe tomatoes open, scoop out the flesh with seeds and let them dry. Other plants, such as broccoli, only produce seeds on the second year plant.
- To maintain seed purity, you’ll need to keep varieties separate. For instance, if you have more than one type of tomato plants close together, you may get seeds that produce a plant that is a hybrid of the two varieties. (Of course, the result might be great! You just need to be aware that you must isolate the plants to maintain seed purity.)
- Be careful if you live near fields producing conventional crops. Saving pure corn seed, for example, can be difficult since pollen from conventional corn crops can travel long distances on the wind. In the United States, that means you have a high likelihood of having your corn pollinated by Monsanto-owned GMO crops. The purity of your seed will be compromised– and Monsanto will likely want a payment and inform you that it’s illegal to save seed “their” seed.
- Study a bit to learn the science behind seed saving. There are some general guidelines for things like how far apart to plant your cabbage and your broccoli. You can also learn how to put bags over the buds and fruit, such as corn, then manually pollinate it so the seed won’t be affected by surrounding crops. Check out The Heirloom Life Gardener (which also tells the story of Jere Gettle, who founded Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds). Also, check out information from Seed Savers Exchange.
- Consider trading seeds with other gardeners who share a passion for heirloom vegetables. Some national organizations, like the Seed Savers Exchanged mentioned above, exist. But you may also find a local seed bank in your community.
Do you have experience raising heirloom produce? We’d to have you share your experience and pictures! Send an email to Editor@HomesteadLarder.com, and we might just feature your garden on our “Your Stories” page.
Do you have a story, tips, pictures, or questions you’d like to share? Here at Homestead Larder we love to hear from our readers!
I personally read everything our readers send– and as often as possible also send a response.
If you have something you’d like to share we’d love to hear from you. Just drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we might just feature you in our “Your Stories” section!
Our family’s effort to incorporate organic food into our diet didn’t start with well-researched concerns about chemicals or genetically modified foods (that would come later). Instead, our obsession with food started when we realized family friends had the best homemade baked goods we had ever tasted. And it was all made with whole wheat. Their secret? Grinding their wheat at home.
We already baked almost exclusively with whole wheat flour, but sometimes there was an off-putting flavor. I knew that was likely due to the oil from the wheat germ becoming rancid.
But when I tried bread made with fresh ground flour, I realized it was time to up our game.
We ended up investing in our first wheat grinder about seven years ago.
Over the years we’ve experimented a bit and picked up a few things you might find interesting if you’re thinking about buying a wheat grinder:
- You want to pick a model that won’t make the grain too hot during the grinding process. Too much heat during the grinding process can damage the oil in the wheat germ.
- If you live in a humid climate, choose a model you can clean it thoroughly. Our first wheat grinder was a Blendtec Kitchen Mill. We got a lot of use out of it, but when we lived in Taiwan for a couple of years, we discovered that mold had developed in a portion of the machine which we couldn’t effectively clean.
- Noise matters. We loved our Blendtec Kitchen Mill, but that thing was extremely loud. After returning to Idaho, we replaced it with a Wonder Mill. We love the detachable bowl for the flour, and it’s just loud. I no longer feel the need to warn my family members that I’m about to turn on the wheat grinder.
- You can buy wheat in bulk. Unlike purchased whole wheat flour, wheat, if it’s properly stored, will last for years. I like to purchase organic wheat from Azure Standard in bulk.
- Different types of wheat will have different texture and flavors. We like spring hard white wheat and Kamut wheat for most of our baking. A soft spring wheat is wonderful for biscuits, cakes, and cookies.
- Flour is at peak quality for the first 24 hours after you grind it– so you’ll get the most out of your wheat grinder if you keep it in a place where you can use it regularly.
Do you grind your own wheat? Have tips, tricks, or favorite varieties? Want to get started, but have questions? We’d love to have you comment below!
Do you need to add some kitchen storage space, but don’t want to shell out thousands for a remodel?
If so, you might love the mini-remodel I pulled off when we lived in a 1974 split level house with a tiny kitchen.
I picked up this Hoosier cabinet for $375 at a local antique shop. It wasn’t the kind of antique you try to keep in mint condition. That period had passed some time, probably decades, before when something nibbled on the boards near the floor (you can still see some damage in the picture above). Instead, I gave it a good scrubbing with a disinfectant solution, took off the glass doors on top, stripped the original hardware, and painted the whole thing.
With a coat of paint (including faux granite paint for the counter) and new hardware, it transformed into a cute baking center. I added small nails inside the open shelving to organize measuring cups and spoons.
The large cabinet under the counter easily fit my pressure canner. Meanwhile, the drawers on the right-hand side held placemats, cloth napkins, table runners, and trivets.
I cleaned up a $35 metal shelf from the garage and added baskets and buckets to hold shelf-stable produce like potatoes, onions, and garlic.
Since that time we’ve sold the house, but the cabinet followed us to our new home where it’s stationed next to the dining room table and holds all of my Fiestaware dishes. Even though we have more space at the new house, that old cabinet is an essential part of our kitchen.
Do you have inexpensive hacks to solve storage problems in your home? We’d love to hear about your creative solutions, and, if you would like to share a picture, feature your creative solution on our “Reader Submissions” page. Send an email to email@example.com.
Knowing we want to eat healthy, whole foods is easy. But finding the time and energy to get something on the table can be difficult. That’s part of why my Instant Pots (yes, I have two) are my best friends in the kitchen.
Since we raise pastured chickens for meat, I always have whole frozen chickens in the freezer. And I know most three to four-pound frozen chickens will fit into my five quart instant pot.
I usually sprinkle in a little salt, pepper, and, sometimes, oregano on the frozen bird. I toss in an onion, quartered, and a few cloves of garlic or some Frontier brand garlic powder. I add about a cup of water and set the Instant Pot on high pressure for about 55 minutes. It will take a while for the Instant Pot to get up to pressure, but in close to an hour and 15 minutes, I’ll have an entire chicken ready.
Add some sides, and dinner is ready.
Sometimes, I add a jar of salsa to the pot and five minutes to the cooking time, so I’ll have shredded chicken meat for an easy Mexican dish. If I have pressure canned beans on hand, I can add rice to my second instant pot (or grab some from the freezer), and we have all the ingredients for burrito bowls. (Sour cream and cheese are staples at our house.)
When I want even faster “homestead fast food” pressured canned “meals in a jar” get the job done.
Do you have any tricks or favorite meals for days when you are too exhausted to even think about cooking an elaborate meal? I’d love to read your comments below.
I spent my childhood cleaning fresh eggs with a damp cloth and vinegar. It was one of those things Mom told me to do, and I assumed it was a time-honored tradition.
I was in my 30s before I realized that cleaning eggs– how, and whether to do it all– is a slightly controversial topic.
A survey of university studies and laws reveals numerous theories and methods ranging from using government approved detergents to sanding debris–ahem, chicken poop– off the eggs.
At issue is the porous composition of eggshells and the importance of removing possible bacteria balanced against the dangers of removing a natural protective coating that keeps bacteria from actually entering the eggs.
One of the fascinating aspects of this topic is that eggs in US supermarkets would be illegal to sell on European store shelves where eggs typically not refrigerated. In Ireland, you can only wash Grade B eggs.
Here are the biggest takeaways from my research:
- Keeping a clean coop with well-lined nest boxes is probably the most critical aspect of ensuring egg safety
- As someone interested in organic food production, keeping clean, unwashed eggs with the “bloom” intact is a solid strategy (after Europeans seem to be surviving just fine).
- Once refrigerated eggs should remain refrigerated since temperature changes may cause the eggs to draw bacteria into the shell.
- Finally, an article from David Shiley, an Extension Educator in Wisconsin suggests Mom’s approach, cleaning eggs with a vinegar solution, was just fine.
One more factor you’ll want to consider related to egg safety is making sure the eggs don’t develop hairline cracks– which would allow bacteria to enter the eggs and the eggs to spoil. Using a wire basket and not stacking them too high can help keep the eggs from breaking.
Finally, there is one time I recommend dunking an egg in water: if you are in the process of cooking and wonder if your egg is fresh or spoiled. Just drop it in a cup or bowl of water. If it sinks, it’s still fresh enough to use. You can take the egg out of the water and used it immediately. If the egg floats, you’ll want to delicately remove it from the house. (Few things smell worse than a rotten egg.)
When I first saw a video about the Back to Eden gardening method, I knew I had to try it out.
I started with a patch of hard ground filled with gravel. I put down a layer of cardboard or three or four sheets of paper. (You can use newspaper roll ends, but I had large sheets of paper that were used for packing material from our recent international move.)
Then I covered the cardboard and paper with three to four inches of composted horse manure. (Since we were just starting out on that property I found my composted manure on Craigslist. All from horses fed organic feed.)
After that, I covered the manure with about three inches of wood chips. Then I left sprinklers running on the new garden area for hours. The wood chips are so absorbent it felt like the water would never actually soak into the ground. But that is also the key to why this gardening method is so incredible.
The wood chips provide a covering that retains water and protects microbial life in the soil beneath.
For this gardening method it’s ideal to prepare the garden plot the fall before the first spring planting, but even with planting immediately I had decent success growing peas and onion sets. (Despite the fact that my kids or a goat managed to run down the rows on a near daily basis.)
With this approach, it is critical to ensure that you don’t mix the wood chips into the soil. You want to make sure the wood chips are only acting as a mulch on the surface of the ground.
Wood is an excellent source of nutrients for the soil. However, it takes a long time to break down. If wood chips are mixed into the soil, they will bind the nitrogen in the soil for a period. This results in sickly looking yellow plants.
When planting in this type of garden, you simply scrape back the wood chips and drop the seeds into the compost. Once the young plants grow a bit, you can push the wood chips around their stems. That way they get the benefit of the mulch covering and moisture slowly released from the wood chips.
(In my case the kids, goats, and wind pushed the wood chips over the pea plants sooner than intended, but they still made it. Somehow.)
Overall, I love this gardening method.
Here are a few things I learned in the process:
- We have ridiculous amounts of wind in the early spring– so keeping the paper down while I got a shovel full of manure to weigh it down was a trick. (Mostly solved by finding a small child with enough focus to stand on the pieces of paper until I got a scoop of compost to weigh it down.
- I found that it was easier to work with the areas covered by sheets of paper rather than cardboard. The compost seemed to slip around on the cardboard more when I tromped back and forth across it.
- It was more tedious to plant in this garden that one with tilled soil, but that drawback was compensated for by barely having to weed at all.
- The wood chips harbored some bugs that liked to eat some plants. (So I let the chickens enjoy working over the garden patch in the fall.)
Do you use mulch or no-till garden methods? I’d love to hear about it. Just comment below!