Category Archives: Homesteading

Deciding on a Grain Mill

We are in the market for a grain mill.  We can’t wait to join the thousands hundreds dozens of other folks who spent countless hours preparing their own flour.  Now you know us, we don’t want just any ol’  electric mill that you can buy at Walmart and that will grind your flour in mere seconds.  We want one that you have to crank yourself.  And we want one that won’t break.  That appears to be a tall order.

So we’ve done some internet searching and consulted our favorite bloggers.  At least those who like to do things the slow way old fashioned way.  I think we have settled on a Country Living Grain Mill.  Everywhere we look, we only find satisfied customers.  We were also considering the Wonder Junior Deluxe mill, but the reviews were mixed.  One reviewer said it took her 1 1/2 hours to grind wheat fine enough to use for bread, which required double grinding.  That seems like a really long time to me.  The cost is about half that of the Country Living mill so we are tempted to try it.

And talk about getting the horse before the wagon, we’ve already purchased a supply of wheat, corn and oatmeal.

Thanks, Courtney.

Ricotta with my Home Ec Club

We made ricotta a few weeks ago.  We, as in my friends from church, and ricotta, as in the cheese.  That’s right folks you heard correct, I made cheese.  Even though I really just watched, I still consider it a personal accomplishment.  I’ve tried 3 times in the past to make mozzarella and 3 times it ended in tears.  (It was all the milk’s fault; it was UHT milk, not at all the right thing)

Now about the Home Ec Club, that’s what we’ve coined it, a group of ladies from church, all with an interest in seeing how cheese was made, got together and did it.  Just like that.  Everyone brought different talents to the party, we had two dairy farmers, one woman who pasteurizes goat milk, one experienced cheese maker, one food scientist who can’t make cheese to save her life (that’s me), one mom who was happy to leave her kids at home with dad, one mom who was just happy to get out of the house and one mom with four kids who love cheese, and cartoons.

We started out our lovely cheese making adventure by enjoying a cup of coffee, or two, or three and chatting.  An hour later we watched a pasterization demo, chatted, watched two far more talented ladies than myself make the cheese, chatted some more and then ate lunch.

It was so much fun.  I encourage you to start asking your friends if they would like to learn how to make cheese too.  You may end up making new friends as well as cheese.

Oh and I was sent home with a wedge of fresh ricotta.  It was delicious.

Thanks,  Courtney

Top 10 Reasons Why I Love Dehydrated Fruits and Veggies

While pregnant this summer, I said no thank you to canning.  Not because I don’t love puttin’ up stuff, but because I couldn’t stand to see my ankles get any more swollen.  So we resorted to drying, and by we, I mean Robert.  He dried  everything.   Sometimes fruit and vegetables that I was planning on using for dinner would disappear out of the crisper.  I would march into Robert’s office, sniff the air, see his guilty look and know instantly that in the dehydrator hiding under his desk was my bell pepper and the last of the strawberries.  At the time I thought he was really going overboard.  But I owe him an apology (don’t tell him)  because I use them constantly.

And here’s the top 10 reasons why I love dehydrated fruits and veggies:

10.  They take up less room than the fresh or canned

9.  I get to make cute jar labels (post coming soon)

8.  Zombies probably would prefer fresh fruit so we’re safe in the event of…

7.  Another use for Tattler reusable lids

6.  Every soup I make gets a handful of zucchini = healthy

5.  I don’t have to send Robert to the store for one jalapeno

4.  Technically I am still eating local and in season

3.  Way cheaper to use a dried tomato than to buy one in the dead of winter

2.  Even after being dried and rehydrated organic, CSA-grown tomatoes still taste better than any tomato you can buy at the store, winter or summer

1.  Robert did all the work

Thanks, Courtney

Washing Machine Troubleshooting

Oh, the things I’ll do to save a buck.  Courtney and I bought a washer/dryer combo last April from a used appliance place in the nearby town.  The prices were great, but now it is not working. And it gets better, the guys who sold me the machine won’t return my phone calls.  I’d love to go down there and let them know what  a great job they are doing, but I’m not really the confrontational type.  Instead, I’m fixing this myself and telling the world, so that we can all be independent of those unhelpful, fly-by-night sales guys with their “warranties”.

I’ve had trouble locating resources on how to fix, so I’m writing this to help others.  We have a Whirlpool Ultimate Care II, which I think was a late 1990’s model.  The problem was that we had standing water in our washing machine.  It stopped working mid-way through a cycle.  The timer ran it’s course, though and was in the off position. Pulling out the start button yielded a bunch of clicking and buzzing, so I suspected that I needed a new timer mechanism.

A local appliance parts guy was very nice and helpful and talked me though the troubleshooting.  He wanted to save me a few bucks, because the timer was a $75 part.  That is nearly what I have in to this machine, by the way.  I think we only paid $260 for the washer-dryer pair.

Steps in troubleshooting the timer:

1. Verify that the pump isn’t jammed.  To do this, pull the drain hose out of the wall and lower it into a bucket.  If water flows freely into the bucket, then the pump is likely working and not jammed/frozen.

2. Inspect the wiring harnesses to be sure a mouse didn’t chew through wires, or that something wasn’t exposed to vibrations, wearing through a wire to cause an electrical short.

3. Verify proper operation of the lid latch button.  This is the button that the lid presses on to let the washing machine know that the lid is closed.  It should stop operating while the lid is open.  There is a pretty complex way of removing the outer sheet metal to inspect/replace this button.  I bypassed this step because we found our washer with the timer in the Off position.  That tells me that the timer kept going after the problem occurred.  If the lid latch was sending an open (meaning, stop) signal, the timer should have stopped in mid-cycle too.

In the end, I found a timer on eBay for $39 delivered.  It arrived in three days. I was so proud of myself.  I slapped that new timer in and … nothing!  I was wrong.  The timer did sound better than the old one, but the machine still didn’t work.

Frustrated, I turned the machine upside down again.  It was at this point that I decided to take the hoses off of the water pump and stick my fingers inside.  I wanted to verify that the impeller was spinning freely.  I imagined that water would still flow through the pump if it was frozen, so I could have gotten a false-positive on troubleshooting step one.  Much to my surprise, I felt something different, and pulled it out.  It was a tiny little pink sock to fit our four month old bundle of joy.  I put everything back together and the machine has worked just fine for several laundry loads now.

I should now add something to troubleshooting step one: water should come rushing out, rather than trickling out.  I was filling the bucket at a rate of one gallon per minute, and it should have been more like three gallons in thirty seconds.

Yes, I’m officially an appliance repair guy educated in the school of hard knocks.  Does anyone need washing machine timer P/N 3953553?  I’ll make you a deal!

Thanks, Robert.

The Deliberate Agrarian

Many of you already know that I’m a huge fan of Herrick Kimball, author of the Deliberate Agrarian blog and also many books including Anyone Can Build a Whizbang Chicken Plucker and Anyone Can Build a Whizbang Apple Grinder and Cider Press.  He also has a monthly blogazine called The Deliberate Agrarian. 

This month’s article was about a very inspiring answer to prayer.  He has finally landed the deal of his dreams and will soon close on sixteen acres of farmland.  Oh how Courtney and I would love to do that too.  I congratulate Mr. Kimball.

Later in his post, Mr. Kimball made a reference to an article he wrote in January 2008 titled An Agrarian Style Economic Self Defense Plan.  I really liked that article and it helped me better define the way I felt and set a plan about what to do.  At the time I was concerned (and I still am) about the direction of our country’s economy and wanted know how to better prepare.  This is why we spend our spare time reading and applying what we learn about gardening, animal husbandry, food preservation, etc.

At the bottom of that article, please also read the comments section.  I always read the comments at the Deliberate Agrarian because they are also usually chock full of useful information or advice.  One person linked to an article by Mark Cuban titled, The Stock Market Is for Suckers.  I couldn’t agree more.  Another commenter recommended Survivalblog for more information.  I did get stuck there for more than four hours as warned in the comment and became a daily reader.   Find your way to the precepts page on that blog to find out what it is all about.  There is always practical, useful information posted about self sufficiency.

Thanks, Robert.

Sinus relief

The past month has been very low on blogging activity here; since the birth of our daughter, we’ve been quite a bit busier.  In the mean time, we also had a very bad cold run through the house.  This cold started with a sore, scratchy throat and then ended up settling in your sinuses for a few days doing the runny/stuffy combo.  Pressure was created to the point where your nose feels as if it is six times bigger than it really is.

I started doing a little internet searching about prevention of sinus infections, because I wanted to steer clear of a doctor’s visit and antibiotic medication.  I was very surprised to find tons of natural remedies out there.

Here’s what I did: several times daily make yourself a hot cup of tea.  Green tea or black tea, whatever your preference.  A little caffeine will help you feel better.  After steeping the tea, add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, a dash of cayenne pepper and a little honey to combat the sour taste of the vinegar.

I’ve always known that hot beverages will help drain sinuses, but the apple cider vinegar does the same thing.  Especially when hot, those vapors rise and do their magic.   Spicy foods also make your nose run, and so that was the cayenne’s contribution.  The main point is that you want to get as much of that stuff out of your sinuses as you can and it will help to alleviate the pressure too.

It made me feel a lot better and so I did this several times daily and continued a day or two after I thought I was better.  A few days later, Courtney started with a sore throat.  I immediately made her one of these doctored-up teas.  Much to our surprise, her symptoms disappeared!  I had also read that taking a little apple cider vinegar soon after noticing symptoms of a cold can completely change the course of a cold and shorten its duration.

I’ve also read that a neti pot can help to remove a lot of that sinus junk, but I didn’t try that.  Maybe next time.

Thanks, Robert.

Harvey is back

One of my favorite websites is active again.  The Modern Homestead.  The author, Harvey Ussery, took some time off to write a new book, but now he’s back at it, writing all sorts of interesting articles.  He centers mostly around raising poultry and fowl, but also has an extensive gardening advice section as well.  I really like his idea about setting up worm bins down the middle aisle of your greenhouse.  I spent a fair amount of my spare time last summer reading everything on that website.

Thanks, Robert.