Monday, January 23, 2012

The Durability of Aluminum Greenhouses

Today is a sad, sad day. For those of you that live in the mid-west, I am sure you noticed the awful storms we had last night. For those of you that don't, we had up to 60-mph winds, torrential rainfall, and tornado watches all night. For some reason that has become the winter norm for us in southern Indiana.

I was a little worried about my greenhouse when I left for work last night. A few panels had blown out from the last storm. I thought maybe a few panels might bust out, maybe even shatter. Oh well, they sell replacements at the hardware store. I didn't expect this though.

Yes, I did cry like a baby. No, I didn't pay a whole lot for it. But this throws back my seed starting schedule, and just the fact that I did put over $100 into it (after purchasing the wood to mount it on), is frustrating.

My dad thinks we may be able to salvage it and use steel framing to build it back up. I suppose we will see what happens. If this doesn't work I am going to try a homemade PVC pipe greenhouse. Either way, I am determined to get some seeds started this spring!

Growing Home

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Using the Freezer to Save Money

There is some produce that I simply don't have the time to attempt to grow. One of these is mushrooms. I love to saute mushrooms to put in an omelet, top a pizza with, put in casseroles, you name it! I got tired of buying them in tiny little cans or spending $3 for a pound of fresh mushrooms though.
As I was looking through the produce I saw several containers of marked down 1lb containers of mushrooms. Then it hit me. The freezer! So I loaded up my cart with 3 lbs of mushrooms for $1.35 a lb and set to work.

I had to make sure that I didn't procrastinate and end up with a bunch of rotten mushrooms, since they were marked down. So as soon as I got home I washed them up, sliced them, and froze them on a cookie sheet. Only put one layer on the sheet though, if you don't, you'll end up with a big chunk of mushrooms that are hard to break apart.

I was thrilled! I ended up with an entire gallon zip-lock baggie full of  mushrooms, ready to use! The next evening I threw a handful in the skillet to make my own concoction of Spinach-Mushroom Chicken. It turned out great.

I have to admit, I used to have the attitude that I should only can and dry everything. If I resorted to using the freezer, then I was being too "modern" and not trying to live how our ancestors did to the fullest. But honestly, if they had access to things we have nowadays, I would imagine that they would think that I was insane for not taking advantage of every method we have to preserve foods!

I still like to make sure things are balanced though. I would hate to lose all of the foods I put away because the power went out and everything was in the freezer. Likewise, I don't want to can things that my family doesn't eat. We don't like canned green beans, so we freeze them so they still have that fresh crunch.

Since this discovery, I have been on the lookout for what else I can buy cheaply and freeze. Abbi over at Proverbs 31 Living just put out a great article about freezing sandwich meat! You have no idea how excited I was to see that. I thought I was the only one constantly feeding wasted sandwich meat to the dogs...

I have also shredded half a head of cabbage that was leftover and just put it in the freezer. With only two of us, it's hard to use up an entire head of cabbage. Now I just grab a handful of frozen cabbage when I make Spinach and Cabbage Minestrone Soup. :)

I also love to pick extra blueberries and strawberries when they are in season to freeze for smoothies later in the year.

Does anyone else have anything that freezes well that saves you money? Please share!

This post is linked to The Country Homemaker Hop, Living Well Blog Hop, and Farm Girl Friday Blog Hop!

Growing Home

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2012 Goals

Last year was a busy year. I almost feel that I didn't accomplish anything that helped further my homesteading goals. But as I think about it, maybe it is because I didn't have any goals established in the first place! Even so, it wasn't such a loss after all. We accomplished several things last year:

  •  I finally got my orchard planted! I have been wanting to do that for the last five years.

  • We began raising bottle calves for our own grass-fed beef for the first time. They will be ready to take to the butcher soon.

  •  As I mentioned in my last post, I found a great deal on a greenhouse for starting seeds.

Goals for 2012
I hope that this year will be even more productive. I think it helps to have specific goals, instead of generalities. So, here are my goals for 2012:

  • Have a successful garden this year and put up salsa, tomato sauce, pickles, and green beans. When I first started canning, I went overboard canning pickles. We don't eat a lot of pickles and it always resulted in excess that went uneaten.  I'm going to learn from that and only can what we will eat this year.

  • Order Buff Orpington chicks to replace the hens we lost last year.

  •  Raise and butcher the cockerels. I have had chickens since I was around ten years old, yet we have never butchered any. I hope this year will be the first that we get to fill our freezer with fresh home raised chicken! The butchering part of homesteading is an area I have always felt that I lack in. I have the "book knowledge" on how to do it, I want to have the experience though!

  • Build a goat-proof fence for dairy goats. I don't plan on getting any this year, but I am hoping for 2013.

  • Find another horse safe hay ring. Having another one of these would save so much hay.
  • Add another bottle calf to the herd. 
  • Plant more fruit trees in the orchard. We still have enough room for about four more trees!

I hope that having my goals written out where I can see them will help me reach them this year. I already have a timeline worked out for when I am going to complete most of my goals.

Does anyone else have any goals for 2012?

Monday, January 2, 2012

It's that time of year again!

I always look forward to this time of year. The time when seed catalogs start arriving in my mailbox, and I can spend cold evenings snuggled up in a blanket drooling over the wide varieties of seeds available. I have already been looking through the catalogs, trying to decide which varieties I will try this year.

Last year I started the majority of my transplants at home for the first time. They turned out okay, even though I had to start them in the window. It made it difficult because they wanted to grow towards the sun, resulting in lopsided little starts. Not to mention the cats liked to knock them over and eat them :(

This year will be different! This past week I found a 6' x 8' greenhouse for sale on Craigslist! So, DH and I picked it up and spent most of Sunday putting it together. It needed new footer boards and a little cleaning up. It is just the right size for starting my tomatoes, peppers, and probably some herbs. Best of all, I don't have to protect them from the cats!

My new (to me) greenhouse. It was like Christmas morning when we went to pick it up!
Another thing I hope that will be different this year is the quality of my garden. Last year was a busy one. I never realized how much work a wedding is until this year! Needless to say, my beloved garden ended up as a plot of weeds. Neglected from the rush of wedding plans and honeymoon. I was able to harvest some potatoes, after digging them up from under all of the weeds. And of course the indestructible zucchini and yellow squash! But other than that, it was a loss.

I am going to learn from my mistakes though! Instead of ordering a packet of every vegetable that looks sooo delicious, I am going to stick with the ones I have experience with. I think it will be better to have a small successful garden, than a large disastrous one ;)

What about you? Am I the only one that gets carried away once those seed catalogs show up in the mailbox?

This post in linked to the Living Well Blog Hop, Homestead Revival Barn Hop , Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways and Simple Lives Thursday.