Sunday, January 26, 2014

Rendering Lard

I remember mom and dad rendering lard or more accurately, I remember the piggy smell and the green, plastic colander that melted.  I remember the super flakey pie crust that my mom would make with that lard, yum!
When we bought a pig this spring we decided to get the fat to render down for ourselves.  Now, being the perfectionist that I am, I left that bag of fat in my freezer for quite a while.  Well, I finally decided to do something about it.
I had asked my folks how they did their lard, but they couldn't remember, so I found a post at and set off on my adventure.
 I took the pig fat and cut it up into little cubes about 1 inch big.  This wasn't too difficult to do because the fat was still partially frozen.  Made it much easier to cut.  And man! were my hands soft after I did this :)
I placed the lard into my slow cooker and put it on slow.  I would check it every now and again, giving it a stir.  It took a couple of hours to cook down.  
 This is the fat after it had cooked down quite a bit.  I would ladle off the lard as it liquefied.  I poured it through a sieve lined with cheese cloth to get all the little pieces out as I filled the containers.  

I put my lard into freezer containers.  All the other blogs I found put theirs into jars, but mom always used the plastic containers so I did too.  Will do some more research on this to see if there are potential health risks with using the plastic.
Here it is all nice and cold and snowy white.  
 And here is my husband's favorite part, the crackings!  This is the leftover meat portion that was attached to the fat.  Our first meal with them was scrambled eggs!  Yummy, tasted just like bacon pieces.
So that's it.  It wasn't as hard and messy as I thought it would it would be and it sure is nice to have one more thing crossed off my to do list!
What are you procrastinating about on your homestead?  Take a deep breath and tackle one thing!  Let me know how it goes!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Mama's Magic Salve

I love to make things for my family, especially things that are cheaper, yet superior, to items that you would buy at the store.  One of these things is a wonderful healing salve.  It has plantain, comfrey, St. John's wort and calendula, along with olive oil, beeswax and lavender essential oil.
Here's how to make it:

Here are the ingredients.  I got the St. John's Wort and the Comfrey from Mountain House Herbs and the Calendula from Bulk Apothecary.  The plantain, I got from my yard!  How cool is that?  
Now, I am sorry, I forgot to take pictures of the process at the beginning.  I was so excited that it just slipped my mind.  I will do better in the future... I hope.   
Start out by putting 1 1/2 cups of olive oil in a double boiler, then add about a cup of the herbs.  I went heavy on the calendula and plantain because I know about their healing properties and that is what I was really going for.  Don't know too much about the other two plants, but it is on my list to research.  I will be planting comfrey and calendula in my garden in the spring so I won't need to purchase that any more.  Looking into if I can grow St. John's Wort in my area...  Any way back to making salve.  You let the oil and the herbs just warm on the stove - low medium heat - for 1 hour.  Give it a stir every now and again.  It is fun to watch and I think it smells like hay in the summer...  Ahhhh! 
After the hour, strain the oil through a cheese cloth lined colander.  This is what it looks like.  I pull the cheese cloth up into a pouch and squeeze all the oils out of it.  You will need at least 1 cup of the infused oil.  If you have extra (I did), just put it in a jar and you can use it just like the salve, only it is a liquid.  I am going to use it for sore backs and muscles, chapped hands and lips, etc.  

The oil goes back into a clean double boiler along with 1 ounce of beeswax.  The beeswax smells so good!  Heat until the beeswax is melted.
 I have my tins and jars ready for the pour.
Just pour the wax and oil mixture into your containers.  I use a spatula to get all the goodness out of the container.  I also pour it into a measuring cup with a spout, its easier to pour that way. If it gets too solid to pour you can set it back in the double boiler and let it melt again.  I have never had to do this though.  
Once you have poured the oil into your containers, add your lavender essential oil.  I put 4 drops in the 1 ounce tins, 8 ounces in the small jar, which is 2 ounces, 16 drops for the 4 ounce jar.  You can more or less depending on your preference for lavender.  
Clean up is my favorite part!  I know weird right?  I like it because I use my fingers and scrape or rub all the extra out of the double boiler (make sure it is cooled) and I rub it into my hands, my hubby's hand, the dog's paws, you get the picture.  It smells so good and softens your skin so nicely! 
I use this for bug bits, scrapes, cuts, chapped skin, anytime really.  It is a lovely salve for so many purposes and very easy to make.  I hope you will try it soon.  
What's happening on your homestead? 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Prepping 2014

Along with everything else, I'm also working on being more prepared for emergencies here on the homestead, so I thought I would bring you along for the ride as well!
Now our family is working really hard to get out of debt - long story for another day - so extra money to stock up on stuff is hard to come by, but I figure every little bit will help.  We also get paid every  two weeks so, that is how I'll be doing my food storage building.
On Payday (Friday) the hubs and I head off to a fast food restaurant where we do our budget.  It is very calm and cozy and we love the way it is working out for us.  I bring a list of bills, when they are due, and and updated bank balance.  Then we divvy  up the money.  Works for us!  Saturday either I or we go to the store and get our groceries, if we have money to get them for that month.  I know, we live life in the fast lane!
So this week, I will be adding some evaporated milk to my cart.  I do have quite a bit of this already in stock, but will continue to stock it.  I do need to make sure that I am using ALL of my stores though, not just the "normal" stuff.  I will pick up one can for each adult in the family.   Since my youngest is 17, I consider that we have six adults in the family.  So I will get six cans of evaporated milk.  I will also be adding one 64 ounce jug of juice for each family member. I printed off some coupons so that it will cut the cost a bit.  I will also check out the different grocery stores we shop at and check for store brands.  I want my family to have a good food storage, but I don't want to go further into debt to do it.  I am also going to start working on picking up some toiletries and HBA items, so I will add 6 rolls of toilet paper (72 rolls, total) and some soap/body wash to the haul.  The recommendation is 3 per person (this is for a 3 month supply), but I already have some of this stocked so won't buy that much.  I am also being really fussy about what I use so this might have to wait until I do my next Melaleuca order.   I am also working on teaching myself to make soap and so on.
Another thing I will be working on is our water storage.  I have been keeping up on this pretty well, but I need to work out a rotation system.

 We use milk jugs, 2 liter bottles and juice jugs to store our water.  Now, I know that people have arguments against milk jugs and such, but it is what I have so it's what I use.  It has worked ok for us so far.
I date the jugs with the month and the year and them store them all together on the top shelf.  That might have to change, those puppies get heavy after awhile.  By the way, this water is good, it is just the light and the way my camera takes photos!  
We are also working on building up a CASH reserve.  So it is of course, cash that I keep in the house ready for emergencies.  Hubs doesn't even know I have it.  I am putting $2.00/person/week in an unmarked envelope that I have hidden away.  So I am putting $12.00 a week in the envelope.  Should have a nice stash if I can keep  it up all year!  
I'm working on some sort of inventory system.  With four teenagers who see my food storage as a grocery store, this is an area.  So in the next week, I'm going to come up with an inventory for my water storage and beverages.  Wish me luck!  
I'm also working on 72 hour bags for each of us.  Again, this is an area that I'm making these up with things that I have or can get cheap.  So with that in mind, here  is what I have, so far, in my BOB (bug out bag).  
 So here is my bag.  It is an old back pack that one of the kids used.  I do need to update it though, because the bottom of it is pretty thing.   Wouldn't want all my goodies falling out!
In the big section I have an extra sweat shirt and a couple pair of wool socks.  These are Realtree Girl socks that I got on sale - and they are pink!  I love pink.
 In another pocket, first aid kit, first aid instruments, an extra knife, and a  fold up fuel stove with some extra fuel.  I need to get something to cook with yet, but like I said, I'm outfitting this as I go!
Some cleaning wipes, waterproof matches (in the orange water proof case) some tissues, sanitizer and a couple of "sporks" to eat with!  
I also plan on purchasing at least one water container with this pay, if the budget will stretch.  
So those are my prepping plans for the next week or so.  What's happening on your homestead?  

Friday, January 3, 2014


I am finding that the simple life isn't as easily attainable as I originally thought.  It seems like one step forward and two steps back.  Here's my question; Can we back away from technology without a major reset?  I find myself getting caught up with all of the tech stuff around me.  Stick with me here, I do have a point.  LOL  Just having a really hard time getting to it... I feel like I am the ONLY one struggling with this.  Who knows, maybe I am.  How do we live a quiet simple life, when technology (computers, internet, TV, satellite, etc) seems to be so necessary to our everyday life?  I'm a part-time writer, hoping to become full time and to be able to support my family and homestead with my writing, so I kind of need the technology that is tripping me up.  I feel like I'm caught in a Catch 22.
It is my intention to be honest with you, dear reader, I want to share my expectations and to make my journey a transparent one.  Some of this might be kind of raw and rambly, but sometimes that is where my brain goes.
Ok, so this is what has brought on this deep thought, my #3 son went to a friends house.  These two have been friends for years, but this was the first time he had spent the night at Z's house. Z is rather sheltered according to the world's standards, but a very nice boy. His mom was the stay at home mom, only had one car, dad walked to work.  The family went to church every time the doors open.  I'm ashamed to say that I kind of stereotyped this family.  Z has been to our house several times.  Anyway Son #3 went to his house to spend the night.  He had a great time.  What did they do?  They made gingerbread houses and played games.  What????  I haven't been able to get my kids to do this for years. Not that I haven't suggested it.   Now, I should say that Son #3 is 18.  When I talked to him about this, he just said that everything is so simple over there, one family computer, little TV that wasn't turned on the whole time he was there and they are just happy.  He couldn't really tell me what was different. So when he got home, we tried to play a game as a family, but he wanted no part of it.  Off to facebook he went.  So I'm puzzling this over...  This is why I'm questioning our ability to move back from technology.  In our house we all have computers or tablets or game systems or _____.  I don't even know what we have.
So I'm doing a lot of questioning here.  Probably won't get any answers today, but I feel that just questioning is valuable in itself.  So I'm looking back at how I grew up, and honestly, how I have brought up my kids. The goal was to grow up and get our families, to have more than our parents did.  And somehow we expect to have it all, the nice house in a good neighborhood, the new car or cars, the clothes, the purses, the shoes...  we expect that we can have this all. And not only do WE expect to have it all, we expect to be able to provide it for our children.  As if it is our right, or maybe we aren't successful if we don't have it all.  So we think we need these things so we go to college, where this Superwoman Dream is more ingrained into us and then move into the work force.  So we have student loans and car payments and house payments and credit card payments and pretty soon this dream of having it all has become a nightmare.  I have looked at societies view of being successful for too long and have worked to dig myself deeper into the nightmare that seems to be unending.
So I am at the point of can we do this without resetting?  I would LOVE to move to a new place, but God doesn't seem to agree with me on that at this point, so I will continue to struggle with these questions as I push forward on my homesteading journey.  Nothing worth having comes easy, right?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Weekend Homesteader: Post 1

The book The Weekend Homesteader: A Twelve Month Guide to Self-Sufficiency by Anna Hess is broken down by months.  Each chapter or month then gives you 4-5 things to work on, plan for, or think about regarding your homestead.
For January the first task to do is a soil test.  Here in Michigan that's not possible right now as our fields are covered with at least a foot of snow.  This task was on my to-do list for last summer though and didn't get done, so it is a good reminder for me to get it done!  Actually, it MUST be done this spring!  Our hay field have never really had anything substantive put back into it in many years.  Long story... that I won't go into to!
Anyway, here in Michigan I had to go to our Michigan State Extension Service and pay for the test (done), get the box with mailing label (done), and go out to the field to get the sample to mail in.  This is where my plan fell apart.  But, I'm all ready as soon as the snow thaws, to finish this task, and mail it off to Michigan State University.  This process may be different for you.  Hess gives three suggestions about getting soil samples done...

  • Your local Extension Service
  • A & L Eastern Laboratories
  • UMass Amherst
Hess also tells you how determine the type of soil that you have.  It is very informative and I will definitely be doing this when the white stuff is gone.
I will also post the findings of my soil test when I receive them in the spring and share with you our plan of attack to revitalize our soil.
Meanwhile, we are planning on adding some bushes and fruit trees to our homestead.  I will be working on a budget with my dear hubby.  We are working really hard to get out of debt, thankfully, he sees the importance of improving our land so that we can be self sustaining.
So, what's going on with your homestead?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Life on the Homestead this Last Week

I hope that everyone has enjoyed their Christmas and is looking forward to 2014.  2013 has been a rough year for my family and I'm not too broken up about seeing it leave.
I have been spending time with my hubby and kiddos, basically doing whatever they want to do and using the in between times to try out some new things.  Here's what I have been up to lately...
I work with some wonderful ladies at my school.  They are always going above and beyond what they need to do to make life better for the kids.  Our staff does something for them, but I decided that the ladies that work with my kiddos deserved a little extra.  I took some pint jam jars, painted them white, the put some red stripes on it.  I sanded it a little bit to rough it up.  I love the distressed look.  I found some really cute flannel with 2 bears hugging for the top, then spray painted the screw bands white and filled it with mints.  Just a little something to say thanks!  for all they do for out kids!
Next, I made up some of this super easy, yummy bread!  This is from the book Artesian Bread in 5 minutes a Day.  It is delicious!  I will take pictures and share the recipe when I make it next time.  It make four loaves.  I gave one to my mother in law, along with a basket of canned and frozen goodies.  I forgot to take a picture of it, gotta get better at that...LOL
I tried to make some felted soap.  This is with a  bar of Ivory soap that I had in the cupboard.  I have a couple more that I am going to practice on before I use my good scented soap from Melaleuca.  I like the way it turned out and enjoy using it in the shower.  The wool is supposed to be a good exfoliater and the lanolin in the wool, makes it a softener.  Also wool is supposed to be anti-microbial so the soap doesn't get all smelling.  I'm just not real satisfied with the way it looks.  The stripes are too... stripey!  I will keep you up dated as I perfect my technique.  
Well, this is just a bit of what I have been up to this last week.  What have you been doing on your homestead?

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Hello all, and thank you for stopping by.  I am settling into my home here in blogdom and looking forward to sharing my journey in homesteading.   I grew up on a farm and was determined that I would not end up on a farm again, I did pretty well for 22 years, but the homesteading bug has bit me bad!  :)  Now, I'm not talking about a full fledged working farm in the way I have always thought of, but I am thinking of a farm that will sustain my family and allow us to pursue our dreams.  We have quite a way to go to get to this place, and that is where this blog comes in!  I am hoping to chronicle my journey and I hope you will join me.  For 2014, I plan on following the book by Anna Hess, The Weekend Homesteader.  I am looking forward to learning as I go.   
I also plan to work on my family preparedness and will be sharing that.  
I am the mom to 4 adult (well almost) children.  My oldest is 20 and my youngest is 17.  Luckily none of them have indicated the desire to fly the coop anytime soon.  ;)  Being with my family is my greatest joy and is one of the reasons I am moving toward homesteading.  I got caught up in the dream that I could have it all, the job and the white picket fence, you know the Super Woman dream.  Now I realize that dream isn't the one for me and I need to get back on track.  It might take awhile, but with God's strength and grace, I will make it.  I hope you will join me in my journey.