Learn to sew

Sewing 101 – Handy Sewing Tricks

Both my Mother and two Grandmothers were extraordinary seamstresses.  They sewed new clothes with or without patterns, reconstructed all varieties of used clothing to fit like it was tailor made and mended holes and seams on favorite stuffed toys and hand-me-down clothes.  Sadly, all three of them are gone now and with them went a wealth of knowledge.  It happens for not just this, but in so many other areas of life.  I was lucky enough to be Read More

how to make a vinegar mother

Make Your Own Vinegar “Mother”

As our website name eludes to, we work hard toward putting ourselves in a position where we are completely self sufficient. For regular readers of this site, I know you all have heard me say that a billion times already.  I’m sorry about that! 🙂 Anyway, of our self sufficiency efforts, fruit trees are a valuable (and enjoyable) piece because they provide food, medicine (peach tree leaves can be used as mild histamine blocker) and a source for making cider and vinegar that have a whole other separate list of uses.

Making vinegar is not very hard, as a jar of raw apple cider will eventually turn on its own, but it takes considerable time.  A “Mother” makes it much more expedient and once you have one in your possession, so to speak, you step into a new level of self sufficiency.  Several years ago we made Read More

9 Forgotten Hacks That Grandma Used

One of the things I’ve learned from starting this site is that there are way more people out there than I expected that still appreciate and practice the old way of living.  It’s been wonderful finding like minds and seeing the comradery among readers with similar interests.   Collectively, we’ve got all kinds of old timey life hacks that were handed down through our families.  Below is a list of 9 from my family that I think are worthy of sharing, some are probably common and some maybe are not.  There’s no way to know until they’re shared with others.  What are some of your old family hacks?  We’d love to know! Read More

how to make wood ash lye soap

Make Your Own Wood Ash Lye Soap

Almost two years have gone by since I originally set out to document our process of making soap from wood ash lye.  I’m not always sure where the time goes and I often don’t have anything tangible to show for it.  We burn wood as our only heating source in the living area of our house, so turning the buckets-full of ashes into something useful just makes sense.  Previously I shared how we make wood ash lye water for soap making and stripping fur from animal hides and finally I have our soap making process picture documented. Read More

pine pitch drawing salve

Pine Resin Drawing Salve

In the winter months there is nothing quite like the smell of conifers.  As the light of spring and summer shifts to the darker, dormant months, so does our need to focus on these fragrant and readily available resources.  The evergreen nature of conifers gives us a bounty of medicine in their greenery, bark and even their inner resin.  Some refer to this as “sap” but technically pitch and resin are the two correct descriptors.  Needles of several pine varieties make a tasty tea that is high in vitamin C and is useful as an immune system booster and cold fighter, but the inner resin, or pitch, is the real wonder medicine of the conifer.  One our favorite uses for the resin is as a salve.  This salve has a warming, stimulating/moving action that does wonders for drawing out splinters and it’s warming, stimulating nature makes it a sought after Read More

Acorn cap whistles, fall crafts

Acorn Cap Whistles – Fun Nature Activity

Everyone loves a fun kid’s activity, especially one that you can participate in and that sparks a child’s appreciation for simple pleasures.  We live in an area with gigantic chestnut oak trees and for us, these trees, a member of the white oak family, provide us with a variety of assets.  We use the shade provided by their leaves in the spring and summertime to help keep our passive-solar home cool, their acorns in the fall to process into flour for food and their wood in the wintertime to heat our home with our woodstove.  A couple of years ago, a friend of ours, Bart Miller, added another use by showing us how to whistle by blowing into the empty acorn caps.   It’s really easy, but in addition to a written description how to do it, we’ve made a quick, very awful, video.  🙂 Read More

Make A Coon Skin Hat – Easy, Start To Finish Instructions

Making a coon skin cap is not as difficult a project as it would seem and here we have it broken down step by step, starting with the animal to be skinned and ending with a finished cap.   You can even skip down to step #10 and use the pattern instructions if you choose to make a faux coon skin cap with “fur” from the fabric store.  Our skin came from a raccoon that had been hit by a car just down from our house.  He was really fresh for lack of a better term, so I stopped and picked him up to make use of his pelt.  We respect and make use of all the resources out here so this was a good way to turn the raccoons unfortunate encounter into something appreciated instead of letting his life be taken only to lay in waste. The rest of his remains were returned to the woods to feed his natural predators that live in our area.  For this project, I decided to go the easy route and use a store-bought tanning product instead of brain tanning.   Obviously store bought tanning solutions are super easy in comparison.  Here we go: Read More

Predator Safe Homemade Poultry Cages

Predator proof cage pen

These wire cages are really easy to make and completely enclose poultry or small livestock that you want to keep safe from predators.  A smaller version filled with chicken supplies also makes a great gift for a fellow chicken lover or someone who is just getting started.  We usually let our hens sit and hatch out chicks this time of year, but every few years we purchase a few from the feed store to re-fresh our flock.  When we do that though, the chicks don’t have a mother hen to help keep them safe.  The threat source can range from our own grown hens and roosters to foxes, coyotes and even our own gigantic dog who is just curious and wants to move them back to wherever she thinks they “should” be.  To remedy this, we enclose them in fully enclosed cages like this one that is portable and even sometimes small make-shift areas that we put up and take down as needed.  By far, these portable ones are much easier. Read More

11 “Out-Dated” Kitchen Tools For Your Survival Ready Homestead

Survival tools, Homestead kitchen tools

Have you ever thought about what life would be like if all of a sudden our modern conveniences were taken away from us?  Would you have the ability to open the can of Wal-Mart beans in the pantry?  Do you have pots and pans that would survive more than one use cooking supper over an open fire or on a woodstove?  Your scenario might be a week long power outage or simply your own choice to “pull the plug” long term.  Either way, there are some throw backs that still function perfectly and make living simple easier.  This is by no stretch an all-inclusive list, but might help get you started.  Some of these you may still use, we certainly do, but then again, we’re out-dated kind of people and like it that way.  🙂 Read More

Ginger & Turmeric – Grow Your Own Continual Source

Grow your own Ginger Root Turmeric Root

Growing your own Ginger and Turmeric is actually quite easy.  We’ve been growing and replanting “child” sprouts from our ONE original Ginger root for about 5 years now and this year decided to give Turmeric a try.  Ginger and Turmeric have such a wide array of uses, both medicinal and culinary, we felt like they were something we didn’t want to have to do without or depend on the grocery store for.  It’s so easy that I’ve just laid out the quick and dirty for you below, nothing fancy.  There are probably a billion other methods, but this is the way we do it, and with very good success. Read More

Natural Pain Relief Herbal Pain Relief

Willow Bark Tea – Natural Pain Relief

Natural Pain Relief Herbal Pain Relief

Before there were store bought medicines, our ancestors knew which plants grew around them and how to use them to remedy their ailments. One big example of this is Willow Bark, which can be used for many types of pain including headaches, menstrual discomfort, muscle pain and arthritis. The active ingredient, salicin, found in the bark of Willow trees, also acts as an anti-inflammatory and is present in varying Read More

Violet Flower Jelly

Violet Flower Jelly

The arrival of spring and all its wonderful blossoms, birds and warm breezes is by far my favorite time of the year.  A while back I shared a recipe for Honeysuckle Jelly that is always a big hit everywhere we take it.  The cool thing about this recipe is once you’ve learned how to make the infusion for the jelly, you can substitute virtually ANY edible flower to produce amazing and unique jellies.  The variation I have below is for Violet Jelly, Read More

“Get-Home” Bags – How To Pack For Survival In a Widespread Emergency

what to put in a get home bag or bug out bag

Times seem to become more uncertain everyday and we’re always trying to make sure we’re as prepared as we can be.  One of the ways we try to be prepared is by carrying a get home bag.  A “Get Home” bag differs from a “Bug Out” bag, but both are equally important depending on your living situation.  In a widespread emergency, will your primary focus be to get home to your family and your shelter, or will you be gathering family and supplies to seek shelter at an alternate location?  The bag you pack will depend on the answer to that question.  In the following article, my husband draws on his experience with the USMC to provide a clear plan to choosing and packing a “Get Home” bag and also some basic tactical skills that are easy to understand and follow in an emergency. Read More

How Can You Tell If An Egg Is Fresh?

How to tell if an egg is fresh

Are my eggs fresh?  Although, at age 46, this sounds like something I might be asking my doctor, I’m actually talking about eggs that you find laid somewhere other than the chicken’s laying box.  With free-ranged chickens, this is bound to happen sooner or later, and will probably happen often.  The other day, we went to retrieve something from the gardening shed and found a clutch of eggs.  We had no idea how old they were, so we do what we always do instead of just throwing them out; we floated them.  These eggs were of varying freshness, so I snapped a couple of pics to show you how this is done. Read More

Egg Shell Layer Calcium

One of the main staples of our diet is eggs from the chickens on our farm. In addition to food in the form of eggs and meat, the chickens provide an odd relaxing sensation with their soft sounds of clucking and scratching. We enjoy every aspect of having them… well almost every aspect as evidenced by the sign on our front door that reads “Check Your Shoe For Chicken Poo”. Then there’s the Read More

Brain Tanning Deer Hides

Brain Tanning Deer Hides

Buckskin made from deer hides is buttery soft, wonderfully flexible and useful for endless purposes.  It’s also something you can make using only resources that nature provides.  Brain tanning deer hides is an exciting and really, really rewarding process.  The finished product, “Buckskin”, is not named for a male deer (a Buck) but is named for the process of putting the hide in a lye solution called “buck or bucking”, so the hide can be anything, not just a deer.  Brain tanning is one of the more common ways of finishing the hide and oddly enough, the brain of an animal is typically exactly enough to tan the amount of hide it carries.  The ability to make your own buckskin adds value not only for people interested in making use of every part of an animal that will feed their family, but also for the prepper community and as a bartering tool.  I have a tutorial below with Read More

How to Make Popcorn in a Skillet

Popcorn logo

Recently, we did away with our microwave as described in the post, Goodbye Microwave!  We found it remarkably easy to adapt and now take joy in that all the things we did with the microwave are much better when done “the old way”.  My husband often jokes that even though I was born in 1969, I actually grew up in the early 50’s because my parents were older and stuck in that time period.  The only way I knew Read More

Goodbye Microwave. Funny, I don’t really miss you…

* Update* The empty space left by the microwave is now a handy hanging rack for our cast iron pans.  My husband used old barn wood that we salvaged to give the box a rustic feel that blends well with our house.  Now, on to the original article:  A couple of weeks ago our 14 year old, over the stovetop microwave kicked the bucket. As if on cue.  At first we chuckled about the timing because we had just spent some time listening to Dr. Derrick DeSilva give a presentation about his take on microwaves.  We were Read More

Canning & Pickling Beets

Canning & Pickling Beets

At the request of one of my readers, here is a quick run down on Beets, starting with ones fresh from the garden or farmer’s market.  It just so happens that I took pictures a few weeks ago as I canned some of ours, but like so many other things I put off writing about it.  🙂   You can also use store bought canned beets for pickling and I’ll give proportions and a recipe for that method along with the fresh, toward the bottom of this post.  Beets are high in potassium and are a natural source of Iron, Magnesium and Vitamin C.   Generally, people who like beets really, really like them and the ones that don’t, hate them with a passion.  There never seems to be any in between.  To me, they have a wonderful earthy flavor and I could eat them with every meal.  They’re super for aiding digestion and stimulating the liver’s detoxification process.  That said, … let’s see, how do I put this tactfully?  If you eat a plateful every day for several days in a row, don’t be surprised if Read More

Chemical-Free Squash Bug Management

Adult Squash Bug on leaf

Image courtesy of NC Cooperative Extension

This so-called “shortcut” described below is nothing new, but is my favorite way to manage Squash Bugs in our garden.  We don’t spray chemicals, instead we pick, squish and smush.  I think that’s why they call these bugs and their preferred fruit “squash”, as is in squish, smush and “squash”, but that may be a Southern term.  🙂  We also utilize Lady Bugs as a natural predator to unwanted garden bugs but they don’t help with these.  The Lady Bugs are another reason not to spray chemicals in your garden, because as they kill the unwanted bugs, they also kill the valuable Lady Bugs.   There’s still a lot of time involved doing it this way, as you’ll need to check the underside of the squash leaves in the morning and again at night,  but this management practice is completely doable.  Read More

Cane Pole Whistles

Cane Whistles

A few weeks ago, my 5 year old and I did a really fun afterschool project; making cane whistles.  This all started about 40 years ago with my grandfather, (can it really be that many?) who would sit outside the back door of the house and make whistles for us from cane.  Truthfully, I’m not sure if it was cane or bamboo or what the difference is, but he always called it cane.  Oddly (or not so much if you know me), I still have the whistle my grandfather made and that’s what we used for our prototype.  We drove to the end of a nearby road where we knew there was a cane stand and plucked a couple of dried poles.  Once back home, Joe had a great time banging them on the ground to make them break apart… as any 5 year old would!  We picked a good solid looking section that was open on one end and still had the cane joint intact on the other end. Read More

Elderflower Skillet Bread

Elderflower Skillet Bread

This super easy stovetop bread is an adaptation of what we used to call “Hoe Cake” and incorporates the beautiful and nutritious Elderberry bush flowers that are along creeks and roadside ditches this time of year.  You can substitute any edible flower in this recipe but my favorite is the Elderflower.  Serve it while hot with a little butter and honey as your supper table bread, or add a little sugar to the recipe to turn it into a light cake served with refreshments at afternoon gatherings.  YUM! Read More

Honeysuckle Jelly – The Taste Of Childhood Summers

Honeysuckle Jelly a

Oh. My. Goodness.  Whether you’ve canned before or not, this is a “must do” this summer.  The scent of Honeysuckle spurs magical childhood memories of summers here in the South where honeysuckles are found at every turn.  Whether you’re outside doing chores or sitting back relaxing, Honeysuckle fragrance has a wonderful way of gently permeating the air and just plain making a person happy.  After many ripped flowers, my 5 year old has finally mastered the extraction technique and formed a real appreciation for Honeysuckle “honey” straight from the flower.  I’m guessing that no matter your age, you probably loved and indulged in the “honey” too.  Hopefully you still do.  With a mind to try and trap some of this delight in a jar, I did a ton of searching for a Honeysuckle Jelly recipe that made sense to me and this is the one I settled on, with a few tweaks.  On the next batch I believe I’ll work on the amount of sugar used, but here is the first version that I still highly recommend.   Spread it on a biscuit or serve it as a unique summer party hors d’oeuvre with a dab of cream cheese on a fancy cracker like you would with Hot Pepper Jelly.  It tastes and smells just like honeysuckle flowers and is bound to get the party conversation started!  Read More

Lamb’s Quarters Chip Dip

Lamb's Quarters Chip Dip with Homemade Crackers

While we’re talking about Lamb’s Quarters and the abundance they’re currently giving, here’s an adapted recipe that we tried out last night.  It was originally a much requested Spinach Dip recipe from a co-worker and friend of mine.  (Thanks Kelly!)  Everyone was always happy when she brought it to whatever party we were having.   Lamb’s Quarters makes a GREAT foraged food substitute! Read More

Lamb’s Quarters – Foraging for Spring Greens

 

Lamb's Quarters foraging

It’s pretty much guaranteed that if you have a garden or flower bed,  you’ve seen Chenopodium album, also known as Lamb’ s Quarters It’s usually considered a weed, but it’s also very tasty, as nutritious as spinach and FREE!  It’s my opinion that it gets labeled as a weed because of its ability to adapt to its environment rather than any tendency toward being aggressive or invasive.

Look for Lamb’s Quarters sprouting up where you’ve previously planted flowers or vegetables and in any other place where the ground has been disturbed.  They have a lovely mild taste and can be prepared just like  Read More

Delicious Daylilies

This time of year is filled with spring buds, sprouting tree leaves and the reemergence of bountiful wild edibles.   One of my favorites that isn’t necessarily “wild” is Daylily greens.  I tend to include them in the wild edibles category simply because once they’re planted, they take care of themselves and produce, produce, produce.  Daylily is an easy one to put into the favorites category because it provides an edible part during just about every season.  You can eat the Read More

First Aid – Yarrow Styptic Powder

Beautiful Yarrow – Achillea millefolium – is good for so many things and one of them is as a styptic powder to stop bleeding.  Yarrow styptic powder is safe for both humans and animals and can be used on everything from skin cuts to nails accidentally cut or torn down to the “quick”.  I recently gouged a chunk out of my index finger while tapping one of our maple trees and pressure alone wasn’t enough to stop the bleeding.  The yarrow stopped it almost immediately. I’ve also used it on our dog when I clipped one of her toenails too short.  It does a great job and isn’t toxic when they decide to start licking it, which they will!  (I didn’t lick mine… just for the record…) Simply dry the herb, grind it in a mortar and pestle or coffee/seed mill and store it in a lidded jar for when you need it in an emergency.  If you’re putting together an herbal first aid kit, this is definitely one to include.  The preferred Read More

Leaf Printing on a T Shirt

Leaf Printing on a T Shirt

Yesterday, my little one and I had some fun revisiting a craft that we first tried about 3 years ago; making leaf prints on a T-Shirt.  It’s super easy and fun for everyone because what kid doesn’t like to bang on something with a hammer!? The first time we did this, we used only fern leaves but decided to experiment with a couple of others on this shirt. Read More

3 “Yuck” Things You Might Not Think About Re-purposing!

To use the words of my 5 year old, these are “Yuck” so you’ll notice there aren’t any pictures included in this post. 🙂

1.  Hair

February is the time to place new birdhouses so feathered friends will find them in time for spring and time for cleaning out old nests from existing boxes.  It’s also the perfect time to start thinking about what we have that they could use to line their nests with.  I know at our house, it’s not uncommon to find an old bird’s nest lined with Read More

4 “Weeds” To Have On Hand for Cold & Flu Season

Poke Bush

Poke Bush

Technically, not all of these are weeds, but of the five home remedies listed below, four are considered just that by most people.  One of my all time favorite quotes is by A.A. Milne: “Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.” This is true for plants as medicine also. Always make sure you’ve correctly identified what you’re using from the wild and then get ready for an eye opening experience.  There are lots of other herbs that can be used for the same purposes that I’ve outlined below, but we try to focus on the plants that are native or naturalized to our area. That way, we’re not dependent on ordering from an online source. If we have to order our herbs that we need for medicine, we might as well just go to the CVS pharmacy down the street, we’re not self-sufficient.

Ok, here is the “thing” that needs to be said: herbal medicine Read More

Homemade Birdfeeder Suet Blocks

Ingredients For Homemade Bird Feeder Suet Blocks

Peanuts, Sunflower Seeds and Millet For Suet Blocks

I know I’ve done a ton of posts lately about all the things you can do with rendered deer fat, and I promise I’ll be finished soon, but I’ve got just one or two more.  We try to use all parts of the animal we’ve harvested and feel like not wasting any of it is part of being respectful of the life we took to feed our family.  Here we are making bird feeder suet blocks from the fat and using nuts and seeds grown in our garden.  Everything in these blocks came from right here on our land. 🙂  In hindsight, I wish Read More

Homemade Bouillon “Cubes”

How to make homemade bouillon cubes

 

As I’ve mentioned before, all parts of our Deer get used, and we use the bones to make broth. We then either can it or freeze it to be used in soups and stews later on.  Another way to preserve it, and use MUCH less space storing it, is to turn it into bouillon before you freeze it. As you can see in the picture above, A half gallon of broth reduces down to to fit into two snack cups (the egg is for a size reference).  You can use even less space by Read More

Making Lye From Wood Ashes

how to make lye from wood ashes

Turning hardwood ashes into homemade lye for soap or stripping animal hides is really easy and is just as effective as the commercially produced product.  There is a difference in the two; homemade lye is Potassium Hydroxide (KOH) while commercial lye is Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) and you’ll need to keep that in mind if you are converting a soap recipe or making up a new one.  Potassium Hydroxide, homemade lye, typically makes Read More

Firestarter Disks

how to make a portable firestarter

These portable fire starters are an easy way to make use of things that would otherwise be discarded.  They are simple to make and can be used in an emergency or as a campfire quickstart that can be tossed in your hiking pack. The two ingredients in them, rendered deer fat and hardwood coals, are by-products of our everyday activities that have found a new life as something useful.  We use Read More

Jar Candles From Deer Fat

Deer Fat Candle

Deer Fat Candle

A couple of days ago, I posted about rendering animal fat and used deer fat as my example.  There are many, many uses for rendered fat, and although I know the birds are hungry for some suet and we need more soap, I decided to take the easy way out and highlight deer fat jar candles today.  So, without much instruction needed, here is how Read More

Rendering Animal Fat

how to render animal fat

When I was growing up, my parents and grandparents didn’t let anything go to waste.  I remember my mother and paternal grandmother in the kitchen rendering fat, using it to make suet blocks for the birds and serving up the “cracklins” with supper.  It makes for great memories, but unfortunately, they’re very vague.  Like most things in childhood, I was only mildly interested in what they were doing and committed absolutely none of it to memory.  So, a couple of years ago, when we we were butchering a particularly fat deer, I had the realization that Read More

Food At Your Feet – Make A Wild Edibles Salad!

Salad of dandelion blosoms & greens, violets, wild oregano & lambs quarters

One of my favorite times of the year is when the wild spring edibles start to poke their heads out of the ground.  A simple, extremely tasty, salad can be made from things found right in your backyard.  There are countless variations, but if you’re just getting started learning about wild edibles, the contents of this salad are easily identified because they are things we’ve been seeing all our lives; Read More

Seed Saving – Zinnias

I LOVE Zinnias. My love affair with them goes back much further than just planting them here on our land. We always had Zinnias. My parents had Zinnias, my grandparents had Zinnias and as far as I know, their parents had Zinnias. We welcomed the time of year that we could start them and enjoy their beauty all summer and into late fall. Needless to say, my parents and grandparents saved Zinnia seeds from year to year (that’s just what you did back then) so several years ago when I planted the first Zinnias at our new homestead, I started saving the seeds. Seed saving has many benefits ranging from the $1.50 you’ll save every year, haha,  to the more important fact that, over time, plants adapt to local conditions. Please check out http://www.mnn.com/your-home/organic-farming-gardening/stories/save-seeds-to-save-money-and-improve-your-garden for the whole story behind how plant generations adapt and optimize to soil over time. I’d do far worse trying to describe the biology behind this, they say it much better.

The last of the Zinnias for this year:

Seed Saving, Zinnias

To save Zinnia seed (or other flower seed) I usually leave the spent flowers on the stems until they are dry, or pretty close to it. You will get much better flower production during the season if you immediately clip spent flowers, but I go somewhere in between to get the best of both. Once clipped, I store them for another month or two in a brown paper bag and then shake to loosen the seeds and other plant matter. The “other plant matter” in that mix are petal and leaf bits that I view as a helpful spreader when planting next year. Instead of systematically placing seeds, I can sprinkle the whole mix in the bed I want planted and feel reasonably certain they are well spaced because of the “other matter”. This is similar to what people do with very tiny seeds like carrot or celery. Below is the pic of packaged ones and partially dried ones, in a pretty keeper basin, that I’ve clipped but haven’t gotten around to yet.   If you are saving during summer months, an excellent and quick way to dry them is to put them in a brown paper bag and leave them in a car that is sitting in the sun. This will do the trick in just an afternoon. However, when cool weather hits, it’s better to just bring them inside and wait for them to dry the slow way.

Saving Seeds over to the following year

Fuzzy Brown Things Everywhere! – Leaf Galls

Gall Wasp on an Oak Leaf

Yesterday, my 5 year old and I found the largest leaf gall I’ve ever seen. We’re never sure exactly what insect they’re from when we find one, but it’s always fun examining them. Galls appear as the result of an insect, mite, or fungal or bacterial irritation and can be found most any time of the year, depending on the cause or type of insect. They can be fuzzy, like this one, or smooth. Some even have hard spikey nodules covering the outside. Most of the ones we have found have been like this one and are made by insects that lay their eggs on the plant leaves or stems. The gall casing and plant host house the eggs and later serve as a food source for the young. The offspring, once hatched, dig their way out, then ants, spiders and beneficial insects such as lacewing larvae move in, or so we’re told! As I understand it, galls like this one are generally harmless and can actually be beneficial because of the hatch cycle described. Some floral arrangements even use fuzzy galls as an attractive addition… I’m not sure how I feel about that! We’re far from experts, but we like to observe them and enjoy the wonder of this odd creation from nature.