Saturday, April 25, 2009

Back at the Homestead.....

First, I want to thank everyone for the prayers and well wishes. I am doing much better now. My leg still acts up if I over work, but it is improving more each day.

Recently, we learned a valuable piece of information about our sheep. During the times of year when grazing is plentiful, we only have feed on hand for the days when weather is bad or when we will be away from home for the day & unable to let the sheep graze. We give them a mixture of 14% creep and corn. In the winter, they also get hay to give them the bulk and roughage that they need.

Last weekend, the feed store we normally go to was closed by the time we arrived so we had to go to the other feed store in town to buy the creep. That is where we learned a hard lesson. The creep was a different brand than the one they are used to. Well, turns out that when you change feed brands or types the sheep don't always tolerate it very well. Both the ram & ewe became sick & were "off their feed" for a couple of days. They laid around, the ewe only standing up to nurse her lamb. We talked to a friend who let us know the change in feed was the problem. We stopped giving them the new creep and gave them corn and the creep brand that they were used to instead. Within a couple of days, they were feeling much better. After about 4 days of not trying to graze, they began grazing again and are now back to their healthy selves again.

When changing feed brands or types, it is highly recommended that you gradually mix in the new feed into their regular feed. Over a period of 3-4 days, you slowly increase the percentage of the new feed in the mixture until you are able to give them the new feed without the old type/brand mixed in. This allows their digestive system to become accustomed to the new feed without having a bad reaction.

In the garden: the seedlings are popping up very well. Some better than others, but the garden plants are starting to grow. I am looking forward to getting the rest of the seeds planted once the garden is tilled. Our neighbor is planning to come by with his farm tractor to make quick work of it for us. The main garden area is 108' x 88' in size. In addition, to that garden we will have the herbs planted in & around the front yard. I am looking forward to seeing how much we can produce from that garden area. It is the largest we have had to date.

In a couple of weeks, I am planning to have a canning spree. A friend who doesn't know how to can is wanting to learn. She is a single mom and we feel the canning will help her out quite a bit in saving money on her food budget each month. We are going to be canning a lot of meals in pint size jars for her to take home. This will give her a nice supply of quick to prepare meals to stock her pantry with. Homemade soups, stews, and such will be the main things canned. Over the week, I will get a jump start and do some of the canning ahead of time. The goal is to have a month's worth of meals canned for her to take home that day. While I am doing all that canning for her, I am going to be doing the same meals in quart size jars for our own pantry. Over the winter, our pantry became quite depleted, so I am anxious to get a good supply back in there. Having the easy to prepare meals canned and ready to use are a blessing once the garden starts being harvested and the canning from the garden is underway. Often, my Beloved will take a pint jar of a home canned stew or soup with him to work for his lunch. It gives him a break for having sandwiches all the time.

This year, I am going to do something new. I will be keeping an inventory list of all home canned foods that I do. This will hopefully be a help in the future when planning my garden and pantry in future seasons. I have always had a pantry inventory but this time along with the canning list, I am going to have notes tracking how much produce came from the garden and how much (if any) had to be purchased at a farmer's market. By tracking the amount of produce, I can better plan out the amount of garden seed I will need to plant to supply my family with the food we need for the winter. The goal that I have is to grow as close to 100% of our food as possible.

If you keep inventory of your pantry & canning, I would love to read your thoughts and ideas. Feel free to add a comment with your favorite tips for tracking your pantry inventory & garden planning or any questions that you may have. I will try to answer your questions next time I post.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Oh Good Grief!

Last night, I had to go to the Emergency room. I had bruised the inside of my right leg just slightly above the knee nearly a week ago and thought nothing of it. Night before last, I started having "electrical shock" sensations in the area. The sensation was quite strong and painful, occurring 3 times within an hour. So, after Beloved got home from work, I went to the hospital to get it checked out. They found that I had pinched a nerve. I am now having to wear an immobilizer on the leg and use crutches for the next 1-2 weeks. {insert rolling eyes here}
Beloved took the day off today to drive me to town and to help out. Starting tomorrow, I will have help so Beloved will be going back to work.

This has really brought to the forefront the thought of what happens when one person is sick or recovering from an injury when you live off-grid? It isn't as easy to work around as it is when you have electricity and the daily tasks are done by machines.

I can see that we will have to have some kind of plan set in place for the future. Not that we are looking forward to another such incident, but to be prepared. When you do everything the "old way" and do not use laundry machines or other conveniences there has to be a preplanned alternative for how things get done. We are lucky this time in that we have a family member who was already planned to visit for a month and is arriving today.

Families with older children have the help of their children to pick up the slack when Momma or Papa are recoving from illness or injury. If there are no older children or other relatives nearby to help, you must have a plan of action. This is one area of our lifestyle we have not had need to address yet, but are going to start working on very soon.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Life Off-Grid

Greetings! I finally got to a library to have a chance to update the blog. Thank you to all who have stayed in touch via snail mail. I love receiving and answering the letters.

Life off-grid has been a wonderful change in our lives. It is such a blessing in ways that we hadn't planned on. We are getting into a smooth routine now that makes in many ways our lifestyle feel effortless. Yeah, I know...... that is hard to imagine! LOL

Our ewe had a baby ram about a month ago. He was all black when born but is now showing signs of his wool lightening. Soon, he will be the cream (off-white) color of his parents with a black face & legs. We have yet to name him. We have 2 ewe lambs on order to be companions for the new ram. This is mainly to avoid him trying to breed with his momma in the fall. The adult breeding pair, the new ram, and the 2 new ewe lambs will complete our breeding stock. We also will be getting a third lamb that we will raise over the summer to be butchered in the late autumn.

We have been given great news. Our 1890 home is not in a bad of shape as we thought so we are remodeling it as originally planned. We are following our dream of remodeling it as closely to what it may have been like in the 1890's. Not having electricity, that is even easier now.

Ever want to confuse your power company? Try convincing them over the phone that you want them to remove the electric meter and cable from your house! It was so funny. First I talked to them & they simply couldn't work their mind around the idea of someone choosing to not have access to electricity. They tried everything to talk me into keeping the meter box & cable. Not getting anywhere with them, Beloved had to call them the next day and get firm about it. Next morning, the worker showed up and kept asking "Are you sure about this?" I was so sure about it that I helped to remove the cable! In less than 10 minutes, we were 100% off-grid.

The first day was surreal. I am amazed at how much background noise that appliances make. It was so quiet that I was able to sit and listen to the birds outside even though all windows and doors were shut. A few weeks later when we had large fluffy snow falling, you could actually hear the snowflakes hitting the windows.

Our garden will be plowed soon by our neighbor with his large farm tractor. Once done, we will start preparing to plant. Our last frost can occur in the last week of April, so we will only be planting the root and cool weather crops at first. The garden is going to be larger than any previously planted. We are going to be canning as much as possible to supply our pantry for the winter months. I am also going to start canning meat. I checked with the local OSU Cooperative Extension Service and received printouts of all the instructions and information needed to safely can meat for pantry storage.

About 2 weeks ago, we were able to find a treadle Singer sewing machine that needed refinishing and minor repair for a very low cost. We bought it and I have refinished the cabinet. Beloved helped me to oil and remove rust from the sewing machine to get it back up and running. Now, we only have to get the tensions & possibly the timing adjusted. I found someone who is going to do it at no cost, so I just need to find a time to take it to him. He will adjust it while we are there.

We do have 4 out buildings to be built this spring & summer. The first is an outdoor privy and a small outdoor shower room. With our needing to remodel the bathroom (including repairing the floor) we will need the outdoor facilities while the work is being done. We also will be building a cougar-proof chicken coop and a storage shed.

I am so thrilled with the way our lifestyle has been changing. There is so much peace and contentment in it. I love the simplicity of the Plain life.

I will try to update the blog more frequently. Now that we are getting into our routine, there will be more opportunity to come to the library. Thank you for the prayers and encouragements.