Best Ever Cornbread Recipe

Best Ever Cornbread recipe with Gram Irene's Secret Ingredient - always moist and delicious.

Whenever I make homemade baked beans, I always make up a batch or two of cornbread to go with them.  We call it “cowboy food”, although I’m sure the cowboy version would have been a lot simpler and probably not nearly as tasty.

I got this recipe from my mom (Irene), after having tried it at her place and commenting on how good it was.  The texture is great – really moist and tender, not dry and gritty.  The “secret” is in the sour cream.  I’m sure you could make it with whole wheat flour, although I admit, I normally use white or a gluten free blend like Namaste.  I recommend full fat dairy, organic if you have it. [Read more…]

How to Put Up a Snow Fence

How to Put Up Snow Fence - Install Snow Fence to Keep Your Driveway Clear

When I was a little girl up in northwest Wisconsin, we had a lot of Big Snow winters.  The snow started early and lasted all winter long. (Sound familiar?)  The country roads cut through massive snow banks that my friends and I would build tunnels through.  (We always used the buddy system so someone was on the outside to watch for the plow or dig you out if needed.)  One year I made several snow carvings of different animals, each about 5 feet tall – a duck, a horse, a swan – it seems there were others, but I can’t remember now.  Cars would slow down as they passed mom’s place, trying to figure out what those odd shapes were back off the road. 

One of the other fixtures I remember from years ago was grandma’s snow fence.  Grandma had a fairly long, thin driveway, and without the snow fence, I’m sure it would have been blown shut more often than not.  When my brother bought grandma’s place, he planted a treeline where the snowfence had been, which now protects the driveway like the fence protected it for grandma – probably even better.

One of the first things we did when we moved here was to plant windbreak trees, but they’ll take a while to grow.  Like grandma, we have a long, narrow driveway – except it’s even longer than grandma’s was.  Unlike my brother, Rich, we can’t plant trees parallel to it along the whole length, because part of the land upwind from it belongs to our neighbor. 

After spending many days last winter literally stuck at home because the driveway drifted shut almost as soon as it was plowed (see the driveway in the post, ‘The Long Winter), we decided that this year we were going to put up a snow fence in an attempt to keep the driveway passable.  Since my husband will be home again this winter instead of working out of town (yeah!), he needs to be able to get out reliably to get to work.  Our neighbor used a short section of snow fence for one of his worst drifting spots last winter and it worked well, so he was cool with us running fencing through his field just for the winter.  (He does our plowing, too, so I know he’d appreciate it if the driveway stayed plowed for a while.)  In this post I’ll discuss why and how snow fence is used, so you can decide if you’d like to use it for your home. [Read more…]

How to Make Money Homesteading

How to Make Money Homesteading So You Can Enjoy a Secure, Self-Sufficient Life

How to Make Money Homesteading So You Can Enjoy a Secure, Self-Sufficient Life

How to Make Money Homesteading So You Can Enjoy a Secure, Self-Sufficient Life” is a new book by Tim Young, author of The Accidental Farmers: An urban couple, a rural calling and a dream of farming in harmony with nature.  Tim and his wife, Liz, farm at Nature’s Harmony Farm in Elberton, Georgia, where they currently focus on artisan cheesemaking.

One of the most memorable passages in the book (to me) is where Tim discusses the role of money in our lives:

I suspect what we really want is not money.  Rather, we simply desire increased freedom…the ability to do more of what we want, when we want, without our time (labor) being controlled by someone else.  And since most of use were born into a world centered on money, we seem to believe the path to this increased freedom is having more of it.

He goes on to discuss ways to reduce our expenses, which to my mind is a common sense choice for most of us who wish to have greater financial freedom.

Pros About How to Make Money Homesteading

  • Suggestions for Reducing Expenses and Eliminating Debt
  • Many, many ideas for income streams – from those that require larger acreage to those that can be done in a small home or apartment
  • Interviews with real homesteaders are various stages in their homesteading journeys
  • Personalized Homestead Entrepreneurial Life Plan Template to help your organize your homestead income making ideas

Each of the 18 interviews includes the following questions/information:

  • Name
  • Location
  • If you left a “real job” prior to breaking away to become more self-sufficient, what was it?
  • Homestead/Farm Highlights
  • What inspired (or scared) you into pursuing a more self-sufficient lifestyle?
  • What were your criteria when looking for land?  how did you make your choice?
  • What are your income streams now?
  • Why did you choose these income streams?
  • How did you acquire the knowledge/skill to generate income this way?
  • If starting over again on the path to self-sufficiency, what would you do differently?
  • If relevant, what do you miss about city/urban life…you know, the “real” world?
  • Finally, what advice do you have for someone considering leaving a “real job” to become more self-sufficient?

This information can help readers to see if a similar option may work for them in their area/circumstances.

Cons About How to Make Money Homesteading

I’m always a fan of photos, so I would love to see the small black and white images replaced by color, but that doesn’t significantly impact the utility of the book.  I was also hoping to see more interviewees who were making a full time income off their homesteads.  Instead, most are still working full time away from home.  Hard numbers would be great, too, although I realize most people would be uncomfortable sharing that information.  There’s a better breakdown of potential hourly wages from various homesteading income sources in The Weekend Homesteader.

To Summarize:  If you’re stumped for ideas for possible revenue streams to fund your homesteading dreams, this book is chock full of possibilities.

Win a Copy of How to Make Money Homesteading

Tim in sponsoring this review and giveaway.  One Common Sense Homesteading reader will win their very own copy of “How to Make Money Homesteading”.  Just use the rafflecopter widget below.  Leave a blog post comment, sharing your ideas for making money homesteading or the challenges you face working to create an income.  Good luck to everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

All entrants must be over 18 years of age.  Contest sponsored by Tim Young.  Open to residents of the United States only.  Winners will be chosen within 48 hours of contest completion.  If winner does not claim prize within 48 hours, a new winner will be chosen.  Retail value of prize is $9.86.  Contest ends 11/24/2014 at 12:00 CST.

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Preparing for Cold and Flu Season with Essential Oils

Preparing for Cold and Flu Season with Essential Oils - How to use essential oils as germ fighters and immune system boosters.

This week’s installment on prepping for cold and flu season is a guest post by my friend, Jo, from Jo’s Health Corner.  Jo has a TON of great information on her site about using essential oils, and she’s shared some of her experience preparing for cold and flu season with essential oils.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are concentrated extracts that have been distilled from aromatic trees, herbs, and grasses. They are located in leaves, stems, fruits, roots, flowers, and bark of different plants. The essential oils are responsible for the plant’s unique aroma. [Read more…]

Putting the Garden to Bed – Musings at the End of Another Gardening Season

Putting the Garden to Bed - Musings at the End of Another Gardening Season. Why my garden looks messy, and that's just fine with me.

Written on 11/7/2014 as a personal facebook post.  I got so much feedback on it I decided to add some photos.

Today I put up the driveway markers for snow plowing, emptied the kitty litter out by the fruit trees to discourage the mousies, spread the ashes lightly around the garden, took out the compost, brought in the last of the pumpkins from the greenhouse and the little fairy from the garden, fed the birds, tucked some bins and posts into the greenhouse, and added more corn stalks on top of the parsnips to hold the straw down. The boys moved the water jugs around the grapes and blueberries for extra protection, and filled the wood racks. Tonight I froze celery and made pumpkin leather.

Driveway markers - prepping for winter snow

If this winter is anything like last winter, the neighbor who does our plowing will need these to tell where the driveway is between the drifts. You can see how deep it got in the post, “The Long Winter“. 

Preparing the parsnip patch to overwinter

The parsnip patch. First, the parsnips are covered in straw or leaves. Then I put corn stalks over the top of the straw to keep it from blowing away. The water filled jugs are added to catch snow (along with the cornstalks) and protect the plants even more. In spring these will be one of the first crops harvested from the garden.

Blueberry patch, fenced and protected for winter

We put a fence all the way around the blueberries to keep the deer at bay, with wooden lattice blocking the prevailing wind. Water jugs create protective microclimates around each plant to protect from deep cold. (Last winter we got down to 50 below zero.)

It’s interesting to me how my perspective on the garden has changed over the years. I’m sure my garden looks like a mess to the average passerby, as all the neighbor’s gardens are neatly plowed for spring. But when I walk outside, I see flocks of birdies hanging from the seedheads (wild and tame), foraging the abundant harvest. I know that if I wanted to, I could nibble right along with them, for many weed seeds are edible to humans, too. I have a bucket of plantain seeds waiting by the door to be stripped off their stems and stored for cooking. A few stray huckelberries hide here and there in the wildness. There are still fresh herbs that could be harvested for tea.

Lambsquarter, wild relative of the popular quinoa

Lambsquarter, wild relative of the popular quinoa. Seeds can be ground for a cereal grain, or sprouted for use as sprouts or microgreens.

Chocolate mint plant in late fall

Chocolate mint plant, still green, tasty and ready to harvest. It makes a wonderful herbal tea, and tasty chocolate mint extract.

Hardy greens, wild and tame, are still standing in the cold. Kale, chard, spinach, cabbage (new heads sprouting), mallow, plantain, thistle – all still firm and green. The cold mellows out the flavor. I munched while I was working. Harvest now continues well past hard frost. There’s more food than most people realize if you just know what to look for and are willing to try new things.

Rainbow Swiss chard

Rainbow Swiss chard – frost brings out the bright colors

Putting the Garden to Bed - Musings at the End of Another Gardening Season. Why my garden looks messy, and that's just fine with me.

Cabbage sprouting from plants that have already been harvested. The new heads are tender and delicious.

volunteer spinach

Volunteer spinach, strawberry spinach and chamomile. These will hold up to some cold, and new plants will likely emerge in the spring.

If I pull back mulch and look under the dead plants, it’s so alive! All the little critters don’t need to dig super deep into the soil or relocate. Yes, sometimes the troublemakers overwinter along with the good guys, but there are generally enough good guys to keep them in line.

Which brings me to the conclusion of my rambling – today I am grateful for this crazy abundance, and the eyes and knowledge to see what’s been in front of me much of my life that many people never notice. The plants, wild and tame, that are like old friends to me now.

What does “Putting the Garden to Bed” mean?

My friend, Amanda, who helps me out with social media for the site and is new-ish to homesteading, asked me what I meant when I talked about “putting the garden to bed”.

I don’t have a set routine, that’s just the term I use to refer to all the odds and ends that get done to wrap up another harvest season.  All the trellises and fences are carefully taken down and stored for use again next year.  The garlic and parsnips are mulched to protect them from the winter cold.  Every young tree and small shrub is fenced or wrapped (or both) to protect them from deer and rodents.  Items that will be damaged by the cold and snow are also brought in, like hoses, rain gauges, garden ornaments and the like.  Any landscaping fabric that was used to provide extra warmth to heat loving garden plants is pulled up, cleaned and stored for reuse.  Sometimes I cut down cornstalks and wild grape vines and use them for seasonal decorations.

We keep harvesting and preserving until the garden is buried under snow.  Even then, some things like wild seed heads are still available.  Many crops that are brought inside when hard frost threatens are processed further, into things like kraut and fruit leathers, or canned, dried or frozen for even longer storage.  Right now I still have ground cherries and tomatillos rustling around my counter, as well as a few large zucchini and a few hot peppers.

There are seed heads from plantain and amaranth waiting in bins.  I bring them into dry so they shed their seeds more easily.  We’re going to try popping the amaranth seeds this year.  They’re supposed to pop up like miniature popcorn.  I’m tincturing wild roots from dandelion, burdock and yellow dock to use for medicine.

Sometime in the next couple of months, I’ll go through my seed inventory and decide what I need for next year, and in February I’ll start planting things like onion seeds that need a long time to grow.  A few herb and flower seeds germinate better after time in the deep freeze, so that needs to be accounted for as well.  We’re working on adding more trees and shrubs to our permaculture plantings, so I’ll need to talk to my husband and boys about what gets planted next, and how much we can reasonably add in one season.

This is where we’re at right now.  I’m grateful that we still had a harvest, in spite of the difficult weather (cold, wet spring; cold, dry summer; cold, wet fall).  Looking forward to trying it all again next year.  :-)

How does your garden grow? I’d love to hear from you!

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Cats, Kids and Playing Hooky

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The Long Winter