Ways To Begin Homesteading Where You Are



Back when I would only dream of a homesteading lifestyle, I didn't think about all those things I could begin doing right where I was - in a rented condo in town.  I always thought "someday.....".  Someday I would have property, someday I would have a garden, someday I would preserve my own food, make my own products, etc.  Regardless of whether you dream of someday having a piece of property in the country or plan to live on a small postage stamp space in the city, there are many things you can do to adopt a homesteading lifestyle.  You just have to figure out what you want to do and give it a try!

Here are a few ideas:

Grow Your Own Food
You can have a garden just about anywhere, it's the size that may be limited.  If you have a decent sized backyard, you may be able to accommodate a garden bed or two.  Grow veggies that your family eats and use your space well by combining plants that grow well together and can be layered together {think the "three sisters" - corn, beans and squash}.  If you have a small space, try container gardening.  There are many varieties of veggies that can be grown in containers.  If you have no space, try the next item.

Grow Your Own Herbs/Learn To Use Herbs
Herbs are used in so many more ways than just culinary uses.  We use them in our skincare products, for all of our animals, in tea and in herbal salves, balms and ointments.  They can be easily incorporated into flower beds {make sure there's no way animals can urinate on them....}, garden beds, in a container on your porch or deck or grown right on your windowsill.

Plant Semi-Dwarf Fruit and/or Nut Trees
There are tons of semi-dwarf varieties out there allowing you to easily incorporate trees that produce delicious edibles in your yard.

Learn To Save Your Seeds
Start seed saving with your smaller garden so you're a pro once you've doubled or tripled the size.  It's a great way to save money every year and I love the challenge of growing things that cost me little to nothing!

Make Meals From Scratch and In Season
You don't have to grow your own food to cook from scratch.  And you certainly don't have to strive to cook everything from scratch.  Choose a few things every week or every month.  Learning to cook what's in season will allow you to begin thinking of ways to use up your produce while your garden is in bounty.   Shopping from a local farmer, a local farmer's market or the grocery store for in season produce opens your eyes to what will grow and when in your area.

Learn To Preserve Food
Again, even if you don't grow your own produce, this is something totally do-able.  Learn to water bath can, pressure can, oven can, dehydrate, freeze, and ferment.  It may seem scary or overwhelming, but if you aim to try one new thing every year, before you know it you'll be on your way to using every single thing you eventually grow.

Raise Some Critters
If you have the space and ability to do it, why not consider adding a couple of chickens, meat rabbits or a hive of honeybees to your backyard?

Practice Being Frugal
Learning to make do with what you have and recycling materials, products, etc. are part of the homesteading lifestyle.  Much different than hoarding, keeping potentially useful items on hand and well organized means you can quickly patch a fence before an animal gets out, fix a feeder, or get the tractor running again without having to run to town or hire someone else to do it. In addition, paying off debt and learning to live on less will help you become a successful homesteader.

What types of things are you planning on trying this year?



More Homesteading Posts:
Homesteading Where You Are Series
How We Homestead Series
25 Ways To Make Extra Money On The Homestead
Raised Bed Gardening
Freezing Veggies
11 Tips for Eating Real Food On A Real Budget
Stocking The Pantry and Freezer
Homemade Laundry Detergent
10 Tips for Planning/Starting Your Garden
Homemade Cleaners


Disclosure: In an effort to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendations, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for your support and please know that I will only feature products I love.

Weekend

shoveling snow - a weekly task



an aging Allie




Oliver LOVES chewing his bones

Emerson LOVES the snow!

It was a beautiful, sunny day today.  Chilly, but lovely.  We've had bits of snow throughout the week and are rumored to have quite a snowstorm tomorrow evening into Tuesday.

I don't have any idea why it took me so long to try one, but I finally bought a french press for coffee last weekend.  I always hear "the best coffee you'll ever drink is made with a french press" and "you have to use a french press - you'll love it".  Alright, alright.  Everyone who has said that to me is correct.  It's easy and absolutely delicious.  Smooth with just the perfect amount of acidity.  Sorry keurig - you're taking a back seat!  If you haven't yet tried it - all the lovely things you've heard are true.  :)

I shared with you last week we were participating in a Chili contest at our Farmer's Market this weekend.  I also shared with you that J was positive "we" would win.  Unfortunately, he was wrong.  Out of the 15+ chili's entered, a venison chili won first place for the 2nd year in a row.  It was a ton of fun and made for a busy day - congrat's to the winner!!  The good thing was I made enough chili Saturday night to also have it for dinner and tried a new Corn Muffin recipe to accompany it that was out of this world!  I'll be sharing it this week.

On to farm news.  The Coop Girls are back into full egg laying mode.  It's nice to see a little stockpile growing in the refrigerator.  Did you see the photo of Big Allie above?  The poor girl is aging.  I couldn't believe when I went out to photograph them yesterday how much older she looks in just the past week and a half.

Speaking of chickens.....we have rats.  Ugh.  Not a nice problem to have.  We actually had a family of rats living under our coop.  They are all gone except, we believe, one.  The MENSA rat.  This thing is amazing.  He can outwit J with anything he comes up with to try and catch him.  We keep saying we need to buy a game cam to put out in the outdoor coop to see what goes on.  As much as I dislike rats, I would love to watch him carefully maneuver around every single trap and steal almost every bit of food left to bait him.  J gets infuriated, as you can imagine, every morning he goes out there and sees he is outwitted again.  Quite honestly, we've wondered when we would end up with a rat problem since our closest neighbor is, well, I believe a hoarder.  He has quite a selection of farm animals, although it can be difficult to see them among all the stuff spread throughout his property, and has feed, hay, etc. all over the place.  Nicest person in the world, I just wish we had a bit more of a buffer to avoid this.

On the menu this week:  Spinach and Cheese Manicotti with Salad and homemade bread; Stovetop Steak with Creamy Mushroom Tortellini and Broccoli; Jerk Chicken Quarter with Mac and Cheese and Squash; Chicken & Veggie Stir Fry with Rice; Chicken and Dumplings; Baked Cod with Dill Sauce, Rice and Green Beans.

Hoping you've had a wonderful weekend!!



Disclosure: In an effort to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendations, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for your support and please know that I will only feature products I love.

Weekend

Jack on "his" bed

Annaliese

Caylie and Anna's first eggs!

Birthday boys - Emerson and Oliver
If you follow us on facebook then you know yesterday morning started with a tragedy.  Not for us, thankfully, but sadly for one of our neighbors.  Saturday morning they heard their pigs squealing and the rooster frantically crowing and went outside to find their barn up in flames.  The barn is demolished and they lost his 3 pigs and a couple of chickens in the fire.  It is believed to have started from an extension cord.  They are keeping in good spirits, as tough as it is, and grateful they and most of their animals are ok.  It sure makes you realize how much you could quickly lose and confirms the need to show gratitude for everyday and for every little thing.

It has been exceptionally cold with the lows in the negatives and highs in the single digits to low teens.  As you know from last weekends' cold weather report, the animals are not very happy about this.  Oliver still believes his limbs are slowly freezing off, the Coop Girls think it's a mean and awful trick someone is playing and even poor Emerson gets a bit bummed now by the cold, although he's still absolutely thrilled with the snow.  I'm amazed we have any left in the yard as much of it as he eats!

Right now it's all ice.  Ice everywhere.  The driveway is full of it, the sidewalk, the steps - all ice.  Yuck.

I vowed at the beginning of the year to try using my slow cooker more often and have finally started working on that goal.  I'm trying to write 1 or 2 new slow cooker recipes onto the weekly menu plan.  Do you make more than main dish items in yours?  I don't use my slow cooker much for soups, sides or desserts and am trying new recipes in those categories as well.

Speaking of cooking, the Farmer's Market we sell at is having a Chili Contest this coming Sunday.  All the vendors are asked to enter and we are entering a version of this Chicken Chili recipe.  Jay was doing a little smack talk this past Sunday.  He was telling vendors not to bother bringing their chili because "we" are going to win.  We????  I asked.  Since when do "we" cook?  He decided the "we" was me cooking and him eating it = "we".  He has named "our" chili the Kick-Ass Cobble Hill Chicken Chili.  There you go.

Jack is as naughty as ever.  His "mission possible" last night was keeping us all up.  He makes any mission like that possible by biting your toes, jumping on your back, rubbing against your face and racing around the bedroom like a Nascar driver, all while you try to sleep.  Then, like most cats, while we work all day he rests up for the next night's activities.  Quite a life.

And speaking of critters....guess who turns 5 tomorrow????  My big boys Oliver and Emerson.  Yup - can you believe it?  Emerson is wishing for lots and lots of cookies for his Birthday.  Oliver is wishing for a big bowl of homemade chicken and rice - his favorite.  They will get the chicken and rice and a cookie each.

Hoping you had a wonderful weekend!!!





Disclosure: In an effort to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendations, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for your support and please know that I will only feature products I love.

Weekend






our almost complete bathroom/laundry layout 


Have you ever had a weekend where you got so many random things done it felt like 2 weekends rather than one?  That's this past weekend for us.  It was a busy and successful one.

Although each of the two mornings started in a hurry and ended with exhaustion, there was still something satisfying, some sort of comfort, in the entire weekend.  I think after the craziness of the Holiday season, having just simply a busy weekend is a relief.

First, the weather.  It's cold.  Negatives at night and single digits to low 20's for daytime highs.  Bits of snow, bits of ice, and bits of wind pretty much sum the week up.  All the animals except Emerson are feeling bummed out by the temps.  Oliver thinks his feet are freezing right off every single time we take him out.  He's getting good at walking on 3 paws during his dramatic reaction to being forced to go to the bathroom outside.  He's not, however, so good at walking on just his 2 front paws although he tries in his effort to show us how very much he dislikes the snow and ice.

The Coop Girls dislike it even more.  We open the Coop door to let them out and 2 or 3 girls come out, scope out the weather, turn around and tell the others how awful it is.  Every single one of them gets back on the roost to return to bed.  We tried persuading them by putting their daily treats outside.  Nope, doesn't work.  They let their treats freeze into big ice cubes rather than making an effort to go out and eat them.

So, Emerson is the only critter excited about Winter in our household.  I swear he believes winter {mostly the snow} comes every year just for him.  He hops through the snow like a bunny some days and races through in sheer excitement other days.  Even at 5a.m.......this is clearly not learned behavior from either of us.  We aren't very lively at that time.

We've pretty much finalized our plans for our new bathroom.  I've attached a couple of almost complete drawings above.  We've made 2 more minor changes since those drawings.  We've also figured out all details such as porcelain marble-like tiles for the shower with a river rock floor, white furniture, nickel hardware/fixtures/shower valve, dark brown bamboo flooring, and quartzite countertops.  The renovation includes new insulation, drywall, windows and door.  That's what has been so challenging, trying to figure out how to best use the new space. The kick-off weekend isn't until Mother's Day weekend, but we can begin gathering the materials and placing orders for special order items over the next couple of months.  Very exciting!

The market has slowed some but still keeps us busy.  We're placing container and ingredient orders this week to get stocked back up on all existing product and to get our new product out.  We have shaving brushes being made by a fellow farmer's market vendor and shaving mugs will hopefully be made for us soon by a potter we've been speaking with. We have a couple of other accessories in the works that are exciting too.

On the menu this week:  Stuffed Cabbage Rolls {farmer's market vendors are still selling fresh cabbage} and Kohlrabi Salad {leftover from the garden}; BBQ Pork Chops with Scalloped Potatoes and Green Beans; Baked Tilapia with Salad {greens from the farmer's market} and Rice; Chicken Chili with Rice and Cornbread; Spaghetti and Meatballs with Corn; and Chicken, Rice and Broccoli One-Skillet Meal.

Hoping you had a wonderful weekend!!



Disclosure: In an effort to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendations, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for your support and please know that I will only feature products I love.

10 Most Popular Posts of 2014

2015 is here, but before we can move forward with new posts, I thought it would be fun to look back and see what were the most viewed posts of 2014.  A sincere thank you goes out to all of you who have followed us through the year.  Sharing our life with all of you has been a blast and the comments and emails in return have been treasured more than I can express.

With a mix of homemade bath & body to pantry items to chicken-keeping, this year's list features quite a variety.  If you would like to check out the 10 most popular posts of 2013, they are here.

Here we go!  Here are the 10 most popular posts in 2014:

10.  Lemon-Poppyseed Moisturizing Sugar Scrub
Sugar scrubs are easy to whip up and great gifts to give.  This one leaves your skin smooth and moisturized!


9.  25 Ways To Simplify Your Life
Fitting for the New Year, but perfect for anytime of year, is the idea of simplifying.  So many of you have reached out to me after reading this list and finding it helpful.  Thank you!!


8.  16 Ways To Successfully Cut Your Food Budget
Another that's perfect for the New Year, this is a list I've compiled of some of the things we've done to effectively cut our budget.  It takes a little work initially, but it's worth it when you see the savings stack up in your savings account!


7.  Whipped Butter Cream Body Butter
I started posting homemade bath and body product recipes last year and you've told me you want more so look for more coming soon!


6.  Chicken 101:  9 Things We've Learned Raising Chickens
This is a post I wrote shortly after we began raising chickens to list a few points those considering raising chickens may want to think about.


5.  Making Your Own Spice/Herb Blends
Featuring 16 Spice/Herb blends, you're sure to find a few favorites to add to your own pantry as well as a few to make for hostess or Holiday gifts!


4.  Snowmen Made of Socks
I was surprised this made the list!  Cute little snowmen made of white and patterned socks!


3.  25 Ways To Make Extra Money On The Homestead
Hopefully you'll discover an idea or two you hadn't thought of!



2.  Making Homemade Laundry Soap
Super simple and money-saving, whether you choose the liquid or the powdered, this is a great recipe that works well.  The original post is here and the updated post is here.


1.Chicken Coop 101:  13 Lessons Learned While Building Our Coop
This post is not a surprise.  At nearly a half million views, this is by far our most popular post every year.  And if you'd like more specific info about our coop, you can visit The Chicken Coop at Cobble Hill Farm.

I can't wait to see what 2015 brings!
Happy New Year!!



Disclosure: In an effort to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendations, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for your support and please know that I will only feature products I love.

Looking Back and Looking Forward {and 2015 Goals}



My days began to blend into each other starting in late summer.  Everyday being more or less the same.  Get up at 5.  Take out the dogs and feed them breakfast.  Pack orders that need to be shipped and answer emails.  Make coffee, get ready and pop in toast for breakfast.  Head to work by 6:30.  I've been doing 3 people's jobs, more or less, for the last few months so the days have been a blur.  9-10 hours later drive home.  Take out the dogs, make dinner, do dishes, make products and answer email.  Go to bed and start it over again.  {J is on chicken duty - they are not forgotten :) } Saturdays are full of making and packaging product as are Sunday mornings.  Then it's off to the market.  Sunday evenings I get an hour or two before dinner needs to be made and it all starts over again.  I am focused on making changes to this craziness.

It takes effort to not let one day blend into the next and I'm at the point where that goal is not only practical, but necessary.  I have a staff returning from a leave and am hiring another, so that will drop my daily duties from doing 3 jobs to a measly 1.  I can't tell you how grateful I am for that.  At our own business J is helping make product, and as he builds up his confidence in doing so he is getting us more ahead.  This way, Saturdays and every weekday evening does not have to be devoted solely to product creation.  With the Holidays over our business slows slightly allowing us to take a much needed breathe and begin to look forward to 2015.

With both excitement and gratitude.

2014
Looking back on 2014 brings ups, downs, challenges, frustrations and celebrations.  Some of our accomplishments on the homestead included:  raising meat birds for the first time {and successfully}; having a full garden that fed us well from Spring through Fall; meeting our financial goal for the business {as crazy as the number we set seemed at the time for a first year}; we've kept on track with a meal plan and grocery budget, although we brought it from a monthly meal plan to a 2-week meal plan while we've been crazy busy;  I was published in a couple of popular publications and our products were featured in a couple as well; I was able to get in the habit of regularly practicing gratitude.

Some of the areas we need to improve on:  we were both so busy with our day jobs and our business, we didn't make much time to can as many items as we would have liked to; we did not get as many green beans as years past leaving us few to freeze for winter enjoyment; we have been behind on making product since late summer and need to get ahead; we didn't plan the laying hen rotation very well and were left with no eggs for almost a month {our hens are either too old or too young - not many right in the middle}; we were not successful in getting much done in the way of updates/improvements on the house or outbuildings.

2015
I've always loved lists and am a visual person, so I'm a big fan of writing down my goals for the year {as well as 5 and 10 year goals}, and re-visiting them quarterly to try and keep myself on track.

Here are some of our goals for 2015:

Homestead
  • Add a beehive.  Or two.  This was on last year's list and it didn't happen.  We've talked about it.  A lot.  Just didn't take time to do it.
  • Raise enough meat birds to provide for us all year.
  • Build a bit better and more permanent home for said meat birds.
  • Plant even more veggies and fruit than years past.
  • Try our hand at growing mushrooms.  Another one that was on last year's list and didn't get accomplished.
  • Can and preserve more - try some new canning recipes.
  • Make more time to spend will all the Cobble Hill Farm critters.
  • Expand the bathroom.  SO excited about this.  Our current bathroom {yes, we only have 1} is the size of a very small closet.  We will be more than doubling it and adding the laundry room to it.  
  • Continue to purge.  We don't have too much as far as clutter, but I would like to continue purging.
Finances
  • Continue working toward our goal of living debt free.  We currently only have a mortgage for debt.
  • Save, save, save money to be able to purchase a larger piece of property in 2017 and pay cash for it.
  • Our budget is pretty well set and adhered to - we don't purchase much in the "extra's" department so staying on budget with grocery shopping is what we'd like to continue.
Blog
  • I have missed posting so incredibly much so I'd love to get back to posting 3-4 times a week.
  • More photos with us in them.  {yup - there are people at Cobble Hill too!  :)) }
  • Incorporate videos - how to's on soapmaking, canning, etc.  Just have to teach my patient husband how to use the camcorder......
Business
  • Keep up with sales and keep our products in stock!  
  • Keep up with Wholesale orders and get the newest accounts' orders filled.  Begin to accept more wholesale accounts by the end of the first quarter. {we have a list, just need to get caught up}
  • Do a better job keeping up with entering expenses into my spreadsheets. {I stink at this....}
  • Continue to slowly grow our product line - facial and shaving products are next.
  • We have set a hefty {read as crazy} number to hit for sales....... we're going for it!
  • Move the business out of our home into a rented space.
  • Have products featured in 6 major magazines.  Yes, 6.
Creativity
  • Not much time to devote to creativity for 2015, so expressing myself through photography is a huge help.  I hope to continue to improve on my photography and find time to try new things.  Maybe in future years this category will include jewelry-making, creating quote art, and learning to make pottery.
  • Learn to knit.
  • I had hoped to have a book outline written in 2014 but that did not happen, so I'd like to work on getting more of my work {writing and photography} published and continue working toward the goal of writing a book.
It's overwhelming to look at the list, but I will break many of the goals down into steps that I can try to accomplish by specific dates.  I also make the ones that seem a bit open-ended more defined.  This makes each item seem more doable.

How about you?  Do you set goals with the New Year?  What are some of the ones you'd like to accomplish?




Disclosure: In an effort to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendations, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for your support and please know that I will only feature products I love.

Happy New Year!

image source:  istockphoto.com

Wishing you a Happy New Year!!





Disclosure: In an effort to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendations, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for your support and please know that I will only feature products I love.