Thursday, April 30, 2015

Y is for Yarn Bomb

Originally I was going to give you a pictorial and video tour of my yard. However, after going down town and seeing what was going on there for a charity, I knew exactly what I was going to do for Y.

For the past couple of years, the trees, light poles, gazebo and other things in our town get covered in yarn. The first year it was done over night, so when people woke up and went shopping, they were surprised with the yarn bomb. This year I saw them setting up. This is all for a charity and it stays up all April long. Most people like it, although I did hear one person, very loudly, say how gross and messy it made the town look. I think it is cute and the creations seem to get better every year.

So, here is the yarn bombing of Exeter NH, 2015. It all goes to draw attention to Womenade of Greater Squamscott.

X is for X Marks The Spot

Usually when you think of where the x is on a map, you have to dig for a treasure. Every year, I draw up a map of sorts as to where I am going to plant what veggies. It is so not to scale and only a ruff draft. Plus. I tend to tweek things as I go. My treasure is all my veggies to feed my family for the year.

This is map from 2 years ago with all the spots I planned to plant my veggies. My garden has gone from four large raised beds and two small, to one huge bed and one small bed, which is dedicated to my strawberry patch.

Here is the huge bed. I took this in the morning this past Sunday. It had been tilled. I just need to rake it out to make it even again.

Here is the bed tonight (sorry about the sun light directly on). I put up the snap pea trellis's today and the hubby put up the pole bean trellis. I can't lift those huge tree poles myself. All that is needed now is some more compost and manure mixed in and I will start planting my "treasure" this weekend.

Monday, April 27, 2015

W is for Water

Water is something that any homesteader needs a lot of. As of now, all we have been using is a hose and watering our gardens by hand. It takes a long time and is quite hot in the middle of the summer. I have been known to start hosing myself off to keep cool. We tried using sprinkler systems, but there was always areas the water never hit and we have to leave the water running for hours.

I would like to start gathering rain water into rain barrels to help save us money from using the water from the house. Everything I see for a set up requires you to have gutters on your house. This is something that we do not. In fact, no one in my mobile home park has gutters on their homes. I was thinking of putting up some just to collect the water, but not sure if the hubby wants to put holes in our metal roof or aluminum siding. Gathering the barrels wouldn't be too hard, we just need to make sure they are food grade and never held chemicals.

Another way would to use an irrigation system. Something that will cost a bunch of money up front, that we do not have. The hubby wants to go this route. We vetoed using drip hoses already.

I have been over on Pinterest looking up ideas to help water certain veggies better, like tomatoes. Tomatoes don't like to get their leaves wet, it causes blight, so to water down near the roots only. It hurts my back to lean over to water the many tomato plants we grow every year. I have been thinking of making a drip system of sorts using a old soda or water bottle half way in the ground.

We will have to play around with a few different things this summer to see what will work for us or not.

Anyone have any other ideas for us to try? Something that doesn't require a lot of money? Free or nearly is always welcome.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

V is for Venison

As a way to help feed my family, the hubby hunts and fishes. A couple of years ago he got his first deer, a young one that still had her spots. However it was at the end of October. The poor thing would not have made it through the winter. She had no fat on her when she was being processed. But, man was she tender and yummy!

My favorite parts are the tips and back strap. They are the most tender parts in my opinion. I made up this nice marinade for them and I only cook these parts on the grill. Something about grilled foods that make everything taste more yummy. Because there is no to very little fat on deer, you have to add fat to it or cook it in a stew or soup.

I also love it in a stew. I basically swap out the beef for the venison in a beef stew. Tastes the same, but the meat is more tender.

My brother was lucky to be able to get a buck this year and had about sixty pounds of meat from it. He shared some with me and my sister. We haven't had the sausage yet though. He said it is really gamy and I am not sure I want to try it. I'll bring it with me to camp one weekend and cook it along with some chicken sausage. I know my brother in laws will eat the venison sausage.

U is for Urban Homesteading

This seems to be a growing lifestyle, at least since I have been on the journey. I would love to live in a more rural area with lots of acres. But, seeing how we don't and can't for some time, I am living my homesteading lifestyle in an urban area.

I live in a small (two streets) mobile home park. We do have a decent side yard and back yard. Our landlord doesn't mind what we do on our section of land, as long as we keep it neat. The hubby and son have a lot to clean up now that the snow is all gone. As you can see from the trail camera picture above, we have a good sized yard. We now have one huge bed instead of four large beds. I can plant way more. We put our trail cams up every year because we have some visitors that like to eat my veggies. You can seethe groundhog running towards the beds.

We aren't allowed to have outdoor animals, so having chickens, goats, pigs, etc is out. Although our neighbors wouldn't mind seeing chickens running around eating up all the bugs. We asked them already hehe.

So, we do what we can do to strive for self sufficiency.

We grow all our own veggies, hunt and fish.

We can, freeze and dehydrate all our veggies and meats.

I cook from scratch, meal plan, shop frugally and use coupons when I can.

I make my own detergents, line dry my clothes in the warm months, and only run the washer or dryer at night to save on electricity.

What other things do you do to help you live more sufficiently?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

T is for Trellises

Because of where I live, I always try to grow vertically as much as I can to give me more space to grow more veggies. Pole beans and snap peas are the easiest things to grow on trellises.

A couple of years ago, the hubby got some very large broom poles that he had picked out of the trash at some construction site. He drives a concrete truck and is always at construction sites. The stuff that these people throw away is amazing. We have got so much wood for the garden beds and such for free.

Anyway, he used these poles to make me a pole bean trellis. It was nice. I added some twine to it to have more bean plants going up it. Harvesting the beans at the top was interesting though lol. I had to drag out my kitchen three step ladder and that wasn't even big enough.  The poles ended up snapping off in the ground. The wet soil kinda rotted out the poles.

Last year the hubby and Matt made me a new bean pole trellis. It is even taller, I need to drag out my hubby's huge step ladder to get the beans off the top. This one is made out of thin trees from the forest area behind our house.

We used pvc pipe to make a couple of snap pea trellises. I add either twine or trellis netting to them so that the pea vines have something to grab a hold of. I had tons of snap peas last year. I would eat them as I harvest them, snack on them instead of chips and then gave a bunch away.

The trellis in the front has twine and the one in the back has the netting. The netting lasts longer, a couple of years, but both trellises have to have the netting replaced this year. We had 8 feet or so snow in this bed this past winter, way over the tops of these two. These are about 5 feet tall.

Tons of flowers and tons of vines. I had to attach some of the broom poles from the old bean pole trellis to the snap pea trellis to keep it from falling over. When it was full of the fruit, it got very heavy.

This year we are planting some sunflowers again to use for seed snacking and for the cucumbers to climb up. It supposedly makes the cucumbers sweeter to plant them next to sunflowers.

I have a couple of other ideas for way to get the small watermelons and cantaloupes off the ground too. I am just hoping we have the time and resources to make them.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

S is for Soups

When it is cold out, we eat a lot of soups and stews. I have to be in the mood for them, but my hubby could eat them pretty much every day. Here are a few of our favorite soups and stews.

Vegetable Beef Soup is my favorite. So many veggies in a tomato stock. I tend to throw all sorts of veggies and ground beef. I might have to thaw some out for dinner tonight. Yummy! I make enough of this soup to give us like 6 meals out of it.

Beef Stew is another favorite of ours. I change up the recipe at times. The hubby grew up with a rather plain palate, I grew up eating all sorts of seasoned foods. So, I have been slowly changing up our recipes to add more seasoning to them. The hubby hasn't complained too much. Meat is getting so pricey now, so I tend to add a ton more veggies than meat. We all love our veggies, so we don't mind.

I also make a Venison Stew (recipe to follow in another post). Hubby was lucky enough a couple years ago to get us some venison for the winter. This past year he was unable to get out to hunt, so no venison. Well, almost none. My brother was able to get some and he shared it with us. He is a 911 operator and they get like five or so calls a day about deer getting hit by cars. They are usually put down to stop their suffering and because the meat is fresh, it goes to the next person on this list that is kept. My brother got 60 lbs last time.

Finally, Corn Chowder (or chowdah as we say up here. I am from the Boston area after all hehe). This is the hubby's favorite. Well, next to my Chicken Noodle or Rice Soups. All my soups have a ton of veggies, all grown by me or a local farmer. I try to support the little farmers by getting things I have had no luck growing, like my potatoes and corn.

I make my own beef, chicken and veggie broths for all my soups as well. It is so easy to do. I just put the bones and veggies for the beef and chicken stocks into a crock pot, cover it with water, and cook over night. For the veggie broth, I collect scraps of my veggies and add those to my crock pot, add water and cook for several hour to over night. Then I pressure can them. All done.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

R is for Rheumatoid Arthritis

This is a topic that I, sadly, am very familiar with. I won't go into a ton of detail here, but if you want to read more, I do have a RA blog, Homesteading with RA, (I have been neglecting badly though) and it details my life with it. The link for it is in the menu bar under my heading picture as well.

First off, RA is not an "old person" disease and it is not "just arthritis". It annoys me when someone says that they have a touch of arthritis. I am not saying that they do not have arthritis, but it can not be compared to RA. RA is a chronic systemic inflammatory disease.

There are hundreds of different types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis are the most common ones. Osteoarthritis usually effects older people, where as RA does not discriminate against age. There are some people in my RA support group that were diagnosed at 18 months.

OA is when bone rubs against bone. Yes, it hurts a ton. RA is when your joints are inflamed. Your immune system is all out of whack and your body starts to attack your joints. RA also affects your organs such as your lungs. Because I am also an asthmatic, I constantly worry about my RA getting into my lungs. RA is also very painful and makes your joints stiff and makes you very fatigued.

I was also diagnosed with Fibromyalgia a year after my RA diagnoses. Fibro is chronic pain in your muscles. Your nerve endings are all out of whack and are constantly firing. It is very painful as well.

I have noticed that RA has been made a little more "popular" if you will on tv commercials. Or maybe it is just that since I had been diagnosed, I have noticed those commercials more. Enbrel and Humira are the most shown commercials on tv. One thing that annoys me, as well as other RA sufferers, is how it portrays us in these commercials. It makes it seem like if you take this medication, you are practically cured. There is no cure for RA.

I started out with a medication called Methotrexate. It is a chemo medication and is used to treat leukemia in children in very high doses. I took 30 mg a week and that made me sick to my stomach. It made me feel for the little kids having to take this crap. It also raises the levels in your liver, so you have to get blood work every month.

I then went to Enbrel and continued with the Methotrexate. Sick, sick, sick and I had an allergic reaction to Enbrel right after the first injection. I tried it for 6 months and then I was taken off it. It never worked for me.

Next up was Remicade. I was still taking Methotrexate as well. My Remicade was done as an infusion. I would be stuck to an IV for at least 3 hours once a month. I slept through it most of the time. It also made me tired and sick for a few days after. I was on that for 6 months as well. We even upped the dose to the highest you can go. It did nothing for me as well.

Enbrel, Humira and Remicade are all TNF blockers. None of them worked for me.

Currently I am on Actemra. It is also an infusion, but only takes an hour to do. I usually bring my laptop with me and watch a movie. Actemra is IL-6 receptor. I also had to stop taking the Methotrexate because the Actemra also raised my liver levels. I am on the highest dose level for Actemra, but it is working for me, finally. I was also put on Simvastatin because Actemra raises your cholesterol levels and mine has always been high. Mine is hereditary and not linked to diet/exercise. I do still need my pain medication every day and I still get breakthrough pain, but it is nothing like what it was before.

One day there will be a cure, but probably won't be in my lifetime.

How I spend the time during my infusions. Watching the newer Star Trek movie on my laptop and reading Grit magazine during last months infusion. This month, I worked on posts for the challenge.

Q is for Quiet

Apparently Blogger never posted this post yesterday like I scheduled it to do. *sigh* So here it is a day late.

After living 30+ years in the city, what I long for is sprawling land, forest and quiet. I want to live where there are acres between neighbors, not feet. I want a little farm. The hubby has been looking every night for that perfect place for us, but there is always something wrong with the properties. Tonight's property was the farthest thing from quiet.

We found a cute 3 bedroom place that has a separate 2 car garage that has a 2 bedroom loft upstairs. Only issues with the place is there is no open space for a garden. It is surrounded by forest, which is nice, don't get me wrong.  Three days a year every fall, the traffic by this house is horrid, bumper to bumper. Right behind this property is the home to the huge Deerfield NH fairgrounds. Not so quiet.

It is relatively quiet where we live now, but we are in an urban area in a small mobile home park. I want more land, to see nothing but grass and trees, birds and bees. Someday this will happen though. It is a goal for both me and the hubby.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

P is for Pressure Canning

Pressure canning is something that is fairly new to me. I have only been doing it for about 3 years now. I have always been afraid of it blowing up in my face. Honestly, it is really easy to do, once you get the hang of it. I use it mostly to can my veggies such as green beans, corn, carrots and potatoes.

I started out with a Presto canner and hope to someday upgrade to an All American canner. I was lucky to find another Presto canner at a yard sale last summer. The previous owner had only used it once and to can jams. I use my boil water bath canner for that.

Having two pressure canners makes putting up my veggies so much faster. It does make the house hot though, so I tend to do it at night, which means I am not finished until after midnight most nights.

Canning green beans has been the easiest, and the most often thing canned here. We love our green beans and always grow a ton. Enough to have a jar 4 times a week if needed. All I do is add the fresh green beans to a hot and sterilized jar, add some canning salt (not needed, but I like the taste it adds to the beans) and some boiling water. Whip down the rim, add the lid and put on the ring, but not too tight. After it has been canning at 10 lbs of pressure for 20 minutes, they are done. I have to wait for the pressure to drop down in the canner though. That takes about 30 minutes or so. Then I can open the canner and take out the green beans.

Here they are fresh out of the canner. I love to listen to the ping of the lids sealing. The next day, I will check to make sure all jars are sealed and wash up the jars. I take the rings off before I store them though. I have always been told to do that so that we can tell if a lid has come unsealed. Not to mention the rings rust really easily.

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