Thursday 24 January 2013

Homemade Tooth Scrub, by Kira

Homemade Lemon Tooth Scrub

1/2 cup of baking soda, aluminum free
1 tablespoon of sea salt
10 drops of lemon essential oil

Combine all ingredients and store in a sealed jar.

To Use: Wet your tooth brush and place a small amount of tooth scrub on.
Note: If you are adding essential oil make sure it is safe for consumption,
Not all oils are.

We purchase our essential oils from Living Libations.

Oh, this tooth scrub also makes a fresh face exfoliant!


Tuesday 22 January 2013

Developing Industry

One of the jobs on my list is to restore two de-hullers for a customer.
A de-huller may come in a variety of forms for a various grains, nuts, or seeds.
It seems that due to centralization and large scale processing operations,
the small versions of these machines have vanished.

Now that growing grain is returning to small operations,
the need for on-site processing equipment is increasing.
The nearest mill may be too far to efficiently transport grain to,
or there may also be no facility available to process organically grown product
independently of chemically supported crops.

It wasn't long ago that western culture was providing technical aid to developing nations.
Arguably, many of the contributions caused negative implications; dooming inhabitants to cash cropping and burdening them with developed world woes.
However, some solutions actually helped, and in turn,
those same solutions may be exactly what we need to solve our excessively industrialized food production system.

Most grain types require some element of processing to make them suitable for consumption, whether it is for palatability, marketability, or to retain nutrition.
Often, it is removing the outermost portion of the grain called the hull or pericarp.
There are traditional methods that include using a large mortar and pestle which release the grain from the hull, but can be wasteful, and may reduce storage times if performed to a moistened grain.

A mechanical solution intended for developing nations was created in the seventies using basic fabrication materials and can be scaled down or up to suit capacity.
This is just what is needed to suit the current need for small scale producers who wish to process their own grain.

It's not as if my project board is empty, but I am intrigued by the challenge.
The goal is to keep the costs down as much as possible, yet build a machine that is efficient as it is practical.
Produced by industry, these units could be very affordable.
The problem is, like with many other low demand items, there is simply not enough profit to entice big business to produce machinery like this.
Though I expect that Chinese industry makes lots of machines like this;
they're just not imported here.

The point is that we cannot always expect our domestic industry to produce the equipment that is needed by small scale producers.
And processing grain requires quite an array of labour saving devices to make it worthwhile.
In an effort to squeeze competition and increase margins, industry has grown out of proportion and contributes to high volume production at the expense of quality.
If we can return to providing local technical solutions, then we will not need to rely so heavily on large industrial companies to fill the needs of small communities.

Many of the answers lay close at hand in the devices sent to work in developing nations.
I expect that many people felt that the designs were minimalist only to suit fledging nations.
It looks as if the large and complex designs come with their own set of hindrances.
Another lesson that shows that bigger is not necessarily better.


Sunday 20 January 2013

Wood Butter, by Kira

Andrew and I are both doing a little wood working now and we wanted a finish for the wood that was safe for kitchen use and wouldn't chip away in time like a varnish.
So we are trying a recipe for wood butter.
It is a mix of bee's wax and USP grade mineral oil.
If you have ever finished a wood project using an oil you know how nice it looks.
It brings out the natural colours, the wood grain and markings.
I made up a small batch to test out on some small projects and we are going to treat our counter top with it as well.

Wood Butter

4 ounces of bee's wax
16 ounces of USP grade mineral oil

On low heat melt the bee's wax.
In a separate pot, warm up the mineral oil.
Once the wax has melted and the oil warmed, pour the oil into the wax.
Stir together and then pour it into a jar or other container.
Once the butter has cooled keep it sealed.
Rub the butter on with a clean cloth. Once you have rubbed it on,
take another clean cloth and wipe off the excess.
This also gives it a little bit of a shine.

(We are still in search of an alternative to the mineral oil, which is a petroleum based laxative.
Something that won't go rancid, that is potable, and won't threaten people with
nut allergies.)

Thursday 17 January 2013

Hot Loggin'

Hot logging is a forestry term for taking logs straight from the stump to the truck.
In these parts, the colloquial meaning is a little different.
Sometimes you may not get your firewood ready for Winter.
Or maybe there's not enough to make it all the way through the burning season.
So you need to head into the forest to get some fuelwood.
The problem is that Winter can be a challenging time for bringing firewood in,
depending on the amount of snow and the equipment available.
So when you say you're going hot loggin',
it means you're out of wood and will be getting some more the hard way.

I found out this year that our tractor doesn't do well in a bit of snow.
It works fine for clearing snow, but our woodlot is too hilly to get good traction.
Our friend Alain Fournier of Al's Handyman Services,
recommended using an ATV for getting the wood in.
I didn't think our old machine would do the job, but I remembered a old trick for off-road traction and thought it was worth a try.

You simply remove the air pressure from the tires which creates a big soggy footprint in the snow.
It worked great for me.

Winches are most often on the front of an ATV,
which is fine as long as you can carry on going forward when stuck.
A winch at the rear is a better plan because it can drag you back out of a muddy hole.

In this case, the winch is pulling out and dragging logs to be brought to the house.
Without keeping my hopes up, I chose a big log first.
That way I would get a good idea of the limitations.
To my surprise, the ATV was up to the task.
The snowy ground made for easy skidding and the cold air helped the tire traction.
(It was about -15C today.)

An ATV can be a very efficient and effective piece of equipment.
They are usually very reliable and most models are built to last.
Their engines are small and efficient, yet powerful coupled with a low gear transmission.
ATVs also tend to be expensive so buying one isn't always practical.
Ours was a hand-me-down that took some work to bring it back into service.

At the moment, there is not too much snow in the bush.
If it gets deep, this rigging may not work.
For the meantime, however, it will get the wood in without much trouble.

We also have a snowmobile on deck, ready to be put into service should the need arise.
I built a logging arch on skies for hauling logs.
The last time I tried it, the snowmobile lost traction.
Mind you, the log was quite large, so it might be worth trying again with a more modest piece of tree.

I know that it all sounds fun.
And it can be.
But there is also a lot of getting stuck, or parts breaking,
and sweating, and cursing, and sore muscles at the end of the day.

In case you're wondering whether or not it's all worth it,
wood stores a great deal of heat.
The gasoline that goes through the chainsaw, the ATV, and even the snowmobile, would not even come close to heating the house.
Today it took roughly 50,000 BTUs of gasoline to bring in
about 10,000,000 BTUs of wood.
Of course, a wood fire is much more comforting than a gasoline fire.

In the long term, I would like to eliminate our need for gasoline altogether.
For fuelwood, it would mean harvesting wood closer to the home, and choosing small diameter trees and branches instead of the large trees we take now.
It would also mean having more time available for collecting.
We plan on living in a cabin once the kids have left home which will reduce the amount of wood we'll need.

At this point, I'm doing well to keep us warm.
We do have electric baseboard heaters, but they are set to come on only if the temperature goes below 10C in the house.(Which does happen from time to time.)
There is plenty of suitable fuelwood in the woodlot and there is always a way of getting it from forest to stove.
But there are other things I would prefer to be doing rather than fetching wood.
Today's run worked well, and if conditions hold,
I won't need to do much hot loggin'.


Sunday 13 January 2013

Getting Warmer

Despite having been well prepared beforehand,
I still found the chimney installation to be a challenge.
The instructions are clear and concise.
But there are small details that can aggravate a straightforward job.

Few people will recommend scrounging chimney parts.
It's great if you can find what you need,
but a good flue is critical to safe and efficient wood burning.
We chose a quality, Canadian manufacturer.

The instructions are most clear about nominal measurements, such as clearances.
What the manual can't help with is each case scenario for every installation.
That part is up to you,
as long as you adhere to the meaurement guideline.

To be honest,
I obsessed for days about this job.
Having finished it,
It was much simpler that I thought it would be.
(Though I did manage to complicate it.)

The cookstove is to arrive next week.
Installing it should be easy as long as we can move it.
Having heat in this building makes it functional.
Now it's time to find more firewood.


Saturday 12 January 2013

First Eggs & Smoothies, by Kira


The past few days:

Smoothies (with beets)
Wild children
Our first egg - from last summers hatch.
A busy daddy - working on the schoolhouse.
Crocheting clothes.
A teething 14 month old.
Lots of wet outdoor clothing drying by the woodstove.


Thursday 10 January 2013

Our Homemade Laundry Soap, by Kira

Family Size Batch
2kg pure washing soda
2kg pure borax
1.25 kg pure soap flakes
500g sea salt

Mix well and store in sealed containers.

Add two to four heaping tablespoons per load.

I sometimes add a couple drops of essential oil to a load of laundry, lemon and lavender are my favourites.


Wednesday 9 January 2013

The Building Permit

Now that Christmas has passed and Winter has settled in,
I have run out of excuses to put off completing my building plan application.
If you aren't up on old news, we were caught building the schoolhouse without a permit.
The neighbour complained and had the inspector come down here to set us straight.

Fortunately, I followed building code and the structure is well within our prescribed property line setbacks.
The building inspector was relaxed and only asked that we file a proper application.
The cost was never an issue, but the permit requires a site plan and building drawings.
Both take desk time and I had no intention of spending more time than necessary sitting down during the good weather before Winter.

I kept going with the building despite the visit from the inspector.
He never told me to stop.
The roof needed to be finished and walls closed in before Winter.
So that was done.

But to carry on, I need to cover walls up and hide the structure.
It's best if I get my permit done so that there can be a formal inspection.
It's understandable to finish the roof, but perhaps I should leave the walls open until I get the green light from the municipality.
That means getting the permit application done.

It's taken two days of measuring, and calculating,
drawing, and cursing.
Building a structure according to drawings is one thing.
Doing it the other way around is more frustrating.
The site plan was a tricky piece of work.
There are long measurements and strange orientation.
If the building layouts were all square, it may have been easy.
But alas, everything is on a crazy bearing.
I have a few new grey hairs to show for trying to orient everything as correctly as possible.

Now it's done.
I hope.

The application has been submitted and now I wait to see what happens next.
There shouldn't be any major problems other than omissions in content.
I realized afterwards that I missed a few details.

But it's not like a school project.
The municipality simply needs something on file to show that there has been due process.
The schoolhouse is properly constructed and we're not even close to crossing any property lines.
This isn't the city where a few inches of error could mean a major court battle.

To be honest, I will feel a great relief once the permit process is through.
Even though I made a calculated decision to not apply for a permit,
the fear remained that I would be found out.
Now that I have been, the pressure is off.

It's all for the best really; having been caught.
Perhaps I should thank my neighbour for that.

Monday 7 January 2013

Time to get back on track.

It's been a year since our first blog post.
We've shared a great deal of our life from the past twelve months.
The plan had always been to blog everyday for a year.
And though we have skipped quite a few days over the past month,
we managed to take some time to post about the day-to-day life
on our homestead.
I had often wondered what the next step would be once the year had passed.
Honestly, I felt that we would stop daily blogging and post weekly instead.

Now that the year is up,
it's time to make a decision.

A typical day doesn't provide much time.
Raising three children and building a farm absorb every moment.
It is a truly wonderful way to live.

But managing time can be difficult.
It's not a matter of simple allocation,
but a constant compromise of give and take.
Each day, something or someone won't get enough.
And though our priorities are clear,
the day must remain versatile to make the most of each minute.

Homeschooling has become an important part of everyday
and though in essence it is fun and easygoing,
the devotion of time remains a challenge.
The fact is that sending our kids to school would actually waste more valuable time than there is to spare.
So time spent on education has more to do with the age of our children
than with how they will be taught.

It may seem as though I'm leading into the swan song of this blog,
but that is not the plan.

Even if we can help inspire only a handful of people,
then sharing our experience is worth continuing.

I have always felt obligated to post daily.
Not for the sake of our readers,
but for the neurotic goal of posting every single day.
That's not healthy for me or for our content.
Lately it's been hard to post because of long stretches of repetitive work.
There's always beauty in the fine details,
but kindling inspiration should be natural and cathartic,
and not mechanical and methodical.

The past year has marked a significant change for our family.
It hasn't been a lifestyle transition, but a shift of emphasis.
Homesteading is full time and not just on weekends.
We are still just beginning,
There is a lifetime of learning and experience yet to share.

December was a calamity of falling behind and catching up.
But I'm ready to get back to forging ahead.
That means finishing up old projects.
That means starting new ones.
That means keeping the blog going.

But I won't be posting for the sake of meeting a personal goal.
Most days around here offer great new and fun experiences.
But other days can be repetitive tedium that fail to inspire me.
Upcoming posts won't be daily or every weekend.
They won't be fortnightly or on every Thursday with an odd numbered date.
We need each day to be as flexible as possible,
and besides,
I don't do well with routine.

The good news is that Kira will be posting more frequently.
We are a team after all, and she has a great deal to offer.
Expect more wonderful photography and a sharpened gardening prowess.
The coming year promises to be exciting
and we will post as much of it as we can.

As I look back over the posts,
many of them are simply introductions.
There is so much to build on.
So many details left untold.

And though each day seems too short,
I have no qualms about dedicating every single one to help inspire others to fulfill their own homesteading dreams.
When you don't see a post,
it means we're learning something new,
or working late on a project,
or reaching out,
or just taking some time to refresh so we can keep going.
There is much to do and all of it is important.
That includes our blog,
so stay with us.


Friday 4 January 2013

Leek, Potato & Bacon Soup, by Kira



Today I made leek, potato and bacon soup,

served up with homemade flat bread.

The soup recipe is from our friend Sauly.

It was so tasty I wanted to share the recipe.

Thursday 3 January 2013

2013 Seed List, by Kira

Brandy wine
San Marzano
Cherokee Purple
Black Krim
Yellow Pear
Zebra Stripe
Orange Flame
Golden Nuget
Red Pear
Thai Lime
Red Russian
Orange Sun
Golden Detroit
Bulls Blood
Yellow Stone
Scarlet Nates
Cosmic Purple
Orange Danvers
Astro Arugula
Freckle Romaine
Pink Sweet Pea
Florence Fennel

(OG indicates certified organic seed.)

Calendula, Dark Orange OG
Calendula, Flashback OG
Dill, Bouquet OG, Greensleeves OG


Nasturtium, Dwarf Jewel OG

Oxford Blue 'Love-in-a mist' (flower that produce edible seeds called Nigella or Black Cumin.)

Poppy, Ladybird

Ground Cherry, Aunt Molly's OG

Corn, Strawberry Popcorn OG

Pea, Tom Thumb

Cucumber, Lemon OG

Zucchini, Costata Romanesco OG

Beans, Dragon Langerie OG, Runner Bean, Painted Lady

Tomatillo, Purple OG

Tat Soi OG


We will still have other plants to add; lavender, rosemary, potatoes,
and grain.
And I am sure that there will be more fruit planted this year as well.


Tuesday 1 January 2013

So it begins! by Kira

January 1st, what a beautiful day it was! I was feeling inspired.
The sun was warm, the air cool and brisk.
I wanted to get outside with my camera and the kids.
We did just that; a walk through the forest to deliver some chicken carcasses to the coyotes and check out THIS year's planting grounds!

My mind has been racing. What am I planting and where?
There is talk of new hugulkultur beds, a green house, growing grain and hops,
perennial herbs and the list goes on!

My seed list is nearly complete. The first order is going in tomorrow.
This order is from Cubits and another smaller order through Sage Gardens.

Auren and Fern will both be building and maintaining their own small gardens this year for a homeschool project,
starting with seeds and managing the plants until harvest.

For the most part I am planting everything I did last year,
with a few subtractions and some new additions.
Once I place my orders I will share my seed list.

My goals - Have extra seedlings to sell
- Plant enough plants to feed us though to the following spring
- Preserve, can, ferment, sauce, stew!
- Keep all of our own seeds for the following year

I am having fun planning, dreaming, building on paper, brainstorming and researching.
It won't be long and all my dreaming will be put to action.