Country Living Series

Friday, May 8, 2015

Friday roundup

It's Friday! This means it's time to encourage everyone to post what things they did during the week -- big or small -- to become more prepared or self-sufficient.

It was a week of busy stuff for us, but not necessarily preparedness-related. Or is it? I would argue anything that encourages self-sufficiency is by default preparedness-related.

Here's our roundup:

• All week, Don has been making progress on the fence for the garden expansion. What he's doing is fencing in an area that will essentially double the size of the garden. It won't all be for vegetables, however. Most of the extra space will be for fruit trees (which, regrettably, we won't have time to get this year). We may also use one of the spots for a dedicated corn patch. Most importantly, the pond will be enclosed. The makeshift fence we've had around the pond all these years (to keep the cows out) is falling down and ineffective. Our biggest fear is a cow will slip and fall down one of the steep sides of the embankment and drown, so we're anxious to keep them away.

He's worked hard putting in poles, making spacings for gates, bracing the poles, pouring concrete, and other tasks to ensure the fence will be sturdy and attractive.

• We moved and filled four tractor tires into the garden, and planted the 24 new blueberry bushes.

• The girls and I took the afternoon off on the weekend and attended the Moscow Renaissance Faire (which is more like a hippie fest, really) and enjoyed ourselves. This is our yearly "birthday tradition" for Younger Daughter since it falls near her birthday. I would argue that traditions and family togetherness contribute to a prepared family (smile).

• Did some cleanup on a cluttered corner by the chicken coop where stuff tends to accumulate. How is this preparedness-related? Dunno. It's just nice to get rid of junk.

• Spent the week milking Polly. And milking Polly. And milking Polly. Since it was a busy week, I didn't have time to do anything with the milk, and by the end of the week the fridge was comically stuffed with gallon after gallon of milk. I finally pulled it all out, skimmed the cream, and (gasp) dumped the skim. Criminal, I know, but I didn't have time to make cheese so the excess milk was just taking up room. I'll make butter with the cream. (If you look closely at the photo, you can see the line in each jar between the cream at the top and the skim milk at the bottom.)

• Don and I fed the bees and noted with pleasure they're busy building comb.

• I worked in the garden, pulling weeds and prepping beds, getting things ready. It's far too early to plant around here (smart gardeners in north Idaho avoid putting anything in the ground until at least June 1) with the exception of potatoes and peas, which I hope to get planted this week.

• I watered the seeds I planted indoors. The broccoli is starting to sprout, as are a few of the peppers. I'm going to confess a deep dark secret, though: I'm going to (gasp) BUY pre-started tomato plants.

• We got a load of topsoil in. Since we're trying to avoid using the heavy clay soil under our feet for planting, all garden tires are being filled with a mixture of topsoil, sand (to keep it friable), and compost. So far this combination has worked beautifully.

• The girls and I went in for our "city day" yesterday and, among other things, did some grocery shopping. It's the first time in four weeks we went grocery shopping. It's what we bought -- and didn't buy -- that is preparedness-related, and I'll expand on that in a separate blog post.

As you can see, nothing earth-shattering this week, just small steps toward self-sufficiency. Much of what we did is either maintenance of existing projects, or continuation of ongoing projects.

Now it's your turn. What did you do this week?


  1. I planted carrot seeds as well as my tomato and pepper transplants I started indoors, first adding compost to the bed and preparing it for planting, then put a fence around the strawberry bed to (hopefully) keep the animals out (didn't get around to it last year and they got all the berries). I'm also trying to train my peas to grow straight but they seem to only want to attach to each other. I think I spaced them too close together. Oh well. Not too bad for a suburban-urban 20-year-old who just finished finals and can only dream of living in the country, doing what you guys do for a living.

    1. Actually, that's impressive. It's a lot more than I did when I was 20! Especially right after finals.

      - Patrice

  2. We built a privacy fence splitting the dog pen (100x40 ft) in half. Now half of it is a fenced in chicken run which is much safer for the chickens than the little run they had before. We used my Dad's utility tractor to clean out the manure in the barn for another year. Built a 8x8 raised bed for strawberries when I transplant them. Disked the garden several times. It is ready for planting onion sets, potatoes, and sweet corn. Moved decomposed manure pile from last year into raised bed and into garden space. Split large pieces of firewood with Dad's log splitter. As you can read a week of vacation for hubby from work has been a very busy week.

  3. I bought and installed two nuns of bees, and I captured and installed another swarm of bees. I hope to capture two more this summer.

  4. I would suggest homemade velvetta cheese. It is delicious and freezes well. "Mist Prepper" on You Tube shows how to make it. It has become my favorite homemade cheese.

  5. well, it wasn't this last week, but this week my dad and I are planning on canning a dozen pints of chicken, four pints of diced steak, a dozen quarts of vegetable soup, and hopefully 4 half pints of bacon bits. Boneless skinless chicken is 1.99 a lb, and the boneless steak is 2.00 a lb less than ground round. I wish my grocery budget could cover a bit more meat, but I'll be happy for what I will have, it's a lot more than I have right now.

  6. Apparently we aren't busy enough because we brought a puppy into the family. :) The companionship will be nice but hopefully he will also help protect the kids and the rest of the property.

    I've also been nursing a chicken back to health after it got a nasty wound.

    That's about it for what falls into your category of self-sufficiency and preparedness. Life was crazy busy in other ways, like yours was.

  7. I dealt with a ewe who is so pregnant with triplets that she had a vaginal prolapse. Now I am checking on her every few hours to watch for labor. I made a wheel of cheddar and 8 wheels of camembert. You know, when I don't have pigs to feed excess milk to, I clabber it in a bucket to feed the hens. I know your pains with a fridge full of milk, especially when there are tons of more pressing chores. Maybe today we will skim milk and make ice cream:-) Happy Mother's Day Patrice!

  8. Picked the first zucchini and yellow squash from our garden. The kohlrabi has now all been consumed. It was the first time we grew it, and it did well . We enjoyed it, and the aphids didn't bother it!! The onions and garlic have not done well at all. The alternating very warm and cold weather didn't seem to agree with them. Now a series of heavy rains near harvest time have probably doomed many of them to rotting. We are also worried about the potatoes for the same reason although they aren't quite ready for harvest. What is doing well is doing very well, and the other things seem determined to produce little or nothing.

    I took two bags of things for donation and felt incredibly light after I dropped them off! Prepping should also include getting rid of things that you don't need and are taking up valuable storage space.

  9. Sounds like good progress. In regards to your confession about buying tomato plants...we won't tell anyone. The fact that you got peppers to sprout says you more than know what you are doing. I have decent luck with tomatoes, but I am not sure I have ever gotten an actual pepper from a seed I started in the house.
    As for the first anonymous, I feel your pain peas. Last year, my beans I planted we SOOOO easy to trellis...wrapped them around once and away they went. This year, I did snow peas, and they are SOOOOOO dumb. I have to go out daily to keep the runners on the twine.

  10. For you bee-keeprs out there, check this out.

    I could a Sawzall to our old deck, and power washed our new deck. I also chased a moose out of our yard so the dog and I could play ball. Then there was rewiring a few switches/outlets and cutting/fitting some drywall. Since I'm at work this week, I got these things done in the evening. I go to work to relax and get away from it all! HA!

    Steve Davis
    Anchorage, Alaska

  11. Crazy busy week as we were trying to finish everything I need my husband's strong back for before he leaves for Poland. We fenced the new garden section to keep out the deer and chickens, so my garden is half again as large as last year. He also trenched it for me so I would have "raised beds" (long hummocks, really). I split my two hives, to make four, and gave queened the two without. Then I installed two 3# pkg bees (using a modified Lorge method for the first time - no shaking of the bees) - we'll see if that worked today. If it didn't, I'll shake them out. In the process I had to build three new hive stands - but I had neither the wood nor the time - what I did have was twelve concrete blocks so each hive got four, and I had stands done in 5 minutes instead of 5 hours. Ugly but effective and more importantly, FREE. I planted the peas and some fava beans (should have been done two weeks ago), and got their trellises in. And I planted a bunch of lettuce in trays that are setting on the table in the open hoop house because the rabbits, voles, etc keep eating the ones I plant in the ground. Now I'm off to email a turkey recipe to a friend who has never cooked a wild turkey before! fun fun fun

  12. What I learned from stopping trash pick up: It's a money saver. You need 3 bins and a burn barrel. (Paper trash, Cans and plastic, and compost) Can's pile up quickly and if there were no access to a public dump, giant trash bags full of cans would be a problem on my property in 2 ways..the cans attract GNATS if not rinsed, and take up waaay too much space if not smashed. Compost is a bit of challenge too. Had a compost bucket in the garage..if not covered repeatedly, very frequently with dirt, leaves, soil, woodchips or something, the compost will attract mega gnats. Paper trash is easy to burn in a barrel even in the rain. Not a problem. People need to collect or make all types of insecticides, especially in the South. The mosquito spray trucks may not always come around in future.

  13. We made arrangements for our little lamb that is coming on Monday. She will be our kids 4h project, and wool fiber girl. We hope to use her to breed for more lamb in the future. We planted purple potatoes, transplanted more peas(I think we have about 120 plants right now), planted beans, dill, basil, cilantro, garlic and onions. We are trying desperately to grow as much as we can this year food wise to help our growing family eat better and healthier. I worked this week on making a cake... my 'side job' is making custom cakes for friends and family. It was a long project that took about 3 days to finish. I hope that some day it will be more of a real job for me to help bring in finances so my husband won't have to work as much outside the home so we can be more self reliant and do stuff at home(read farm).
    -Learning in NY

    I'm wondering where you guys find a cash and carry place to buy bulk stuff? We only have places like Costco or BJ's. I've found places locally but they only sell to restaurants? I'd like to try to can bulk veggies so we have more freezer space but I'm at a loss as to where to get that stuff.

  14. Cash & Carry is a regional chain. Have you tried talking to the wholesale grocers and offering cash for purchases? Unless they have specific rules against it, I don't know why they wouldn't sell to anyone. That said, I have no solution unless it's to call every wholesale grocer in the region and inquire.

    - Patrice

  15. We live in a suburban neighborhood and are not allowed to have chickens. Thankfully we have some friends that live beyond the city limits and have a nice little homestead. When we were asked if we wanted to help slaughter and process chickens, I practically threw myself at her in excitement! I have been wanting to learn how to do this. So, my oldest son and I spent the afternoon processing close to 50 birds. We've already signed up to help next year!

    Oh, and I was able to take some of the meat home. I made some broth and canned both the meat and the broth.

  16. When the milk gets ahead of us we cream it and mix it in our children feed.

  17. I thought I posted but apparently I did not. Will try again as it is enormously encouraging to me to come up with something to post each week. We purchased a wood stove for our off-grid cabin. Beautiful blue, circa 1930. Trying to arrange a truck and muscles for pick up. My refrigerator looked much like Patrice's, so I made another gallon of yogurt. Delicious over granola! Hoping my rennet arrives this week so I can try cottage cheese. I also used up some cream making chocolate fudge sauce. I made a double recipe, but the troops seem to have liked it as well as it is almost gone. The rest of the cream went to Alfredo sauce. I'm loving this raw milk thing! Got most of my seedings up- potted. They are taking up more and more space! We got fencing to keep the deer/moose/elk out (ouch, expensive!) but still need to get it put up. Amazing that some folks are already harvesting squash when we still have snow on the mountains in north Idaho!

  18. Didn't get nearly the amount accomplished that you and your readers did! I started sewing again to hone some very rusty skills, canned some beans, and canned up frozen remnants for broth.

    If you need to get rid of milk again, let me know and I'd be happy to drive up and help you out. :)


  19. Donated more items to a charity who will pick it up at our front door.
    Being ready, getting ready isn't just storing and stocking up. Un-used-needed-wanted items need to be moved out for things that you need.

    Weeded the raised beds, planted heirloom tomato seeds, basil, oregano. Don't know if or where the tomato seeds will come it, the torrential rains were swift and deep on the tomato bed.

    Am replanting tomatoes.
    Cleaned off the clothes line, bought some more clothes pins. Gathering supplies for homemade laundry soap, closer to buying the pressure canner.

  20. Could you feed the skimmed milk to the chickens?