Recommended Reading

Top Seven Posts of 2012

Here we are, the last day of the year.  I don’t know about you, but I am ready to welcome 2013.  Before we get there, I thought I’d recap some of my 2012 posts for you.  I published 80 posts this year (this post makes 81).

This year, pinterest came on the scene for my blog, and I had to start upping the ante on my photos.   I also started getting some movement on reddit.  It has been a fun year of writing for me, and I hope to do even more in 2013.

Below are the top posts in seven different categories.  Some of them are the most popular and some are posts that I thought were a bit overlooked.  Almost all of them have to do with food.

Most commented on post: Homestead Failures: Confessions of What I Didn’t Do.  Seems like you guys could relate!

Best food post of 2012Garlic Scapes Two Ways.  It’s hard to go wrong with garlic scapes, and they are pretty too.

The most overlooked food post of 2012:  Despite having quite a few comments, there were not very many hits on my Spicy Hot Lava Cakes recipe.  It’s a quick and easy dessert, and very tasty.  Check it out!

Most overlooked how-to post:  When to Harvest Garlic.  Was this old news?  Or not many people growing garlic?  Just bad timing?  I’m not sure why the hits here were low here.

The most popular post of 2012: Practical Ways to Store Food without a Fridge which, thanks to pinterest, surpassed my previous all-time most popular post: 2010’s Handmade Halloween – Garden Gnome Tutorial.

Most “controversial” post of the year: Five Things No One Tells You about Keeping Chickens.  I got some heat on reddit, where this post ruffled the feathers of the chicken huggers there.  Despite that, it has stayed in the all time top twelve of /r/homestead.  It was actually in the top ten until the middle of November.  So yay for that!

The 2012 post I’m most proud ofThe Gamey Taste of Game Meat, Part I.  I really love how this post turned out.  I worked hard on putting it together and it was well received.  I hope to do a few more hunting/game meat posts int he coming year.

If you enjoyed this recap, make sure to check out my top posts of 2011 as well.

I would personally like to thank you, my readers, for visiting my blog, especially those of you who take the time to comment.  Many of you are regulars and I appreciate your frequent comments:  Annie at Learning As We Go, Cynthia in Denver, Jessie: Improved, Robin at Seventh Acre Heaven, Laura H., City Sister, John (aka El Goucho), Alice, Roxanne, dixiebelle, and so many others (I’m sorry I can’t list you all!).  Seeing that people are interested in what I have to say keeps the blog fun and exciting for me.  All of you who comment add so much to the information here.  Thank you!  I hope all of you have a safe and happy new year.  See you in 2013!

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Categories: Recommended Reading, Top 5, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Giveaway: Ax Skills for the Homestead & Wilderness Survival DVD

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Alex Leavens, a survival instructor in the Portland, Oregon area, asking if I would review his DVD, “Ax Skills for the Homestead & Wilderness Survival.”  He thought that my readers here might be interested in his DVD.  After checking out his website, OldFedCo.com, I agreed.

The Review:

I’ve never seen such a detailed “how-to” DVD.  Alex meticulously covers everything from safely handing an ax, chopping wood and making kindling, to sharpening your ax and replacing an ax handle.

I really loved how clear he was about safety.  The graduated 4-Her in me also couldn’t help but think that the instruction on the DVD would really help in the making of a blue ribbon, Grand Champion 4-H project.  I would be totally comfortable having Henry watch this DVD  because it is so thorough and emphasizes safety so well.  This is actually not that surprising though, since in his bio, Alex states he was an Eagle Scout.

I was totally impressed with Alex’s accuracy in splitting and reading wood.  Since it’s easy to impress a beginner, I brought Rick in to watch the DVD with me.  Rick has chopped a fair share of firewood.  He’s not an expert on axes, but he  knows a bit about sharpening tools and safety.  I wanted his point of view on the accuracy of the information presented in the DVD.

It was cool watching the chapters on sharpening and safety and hearing Rick pipe up with plenty of “Yep! That’s the way,” as well as having him tell me what he was learning as we watched.  I liked the chapters on hanging an ax (replacing the handle) because my grandpa gave Rick all of his old tools and this DVD will be a great reference tool on caring for and maintaining them.

It is obvious while watching the DVD that Alex really knows his stuff and is also passionate about teaching.  The DVD is extremely thorough.  There are great close-ups of what he’s doing to sharpen his ax, as well as shots from many different angles showing exactly what is happening and how to do it yourself.   It made me feel like I could choose and buy an ax, use it with confidence and maintain it myself.  Check out some of the clips of the DVD on Alex’s site for some examples to see what I mean.

The section on using an ax in the back country was really cool.  I liked seeing how he set himself up using what was in the woods to split wood, make kindling and make stakes.  He even shows you how to make an in-field sharpening station.  Plus, I loved that even in the woods, he was very consistent and followed all his own safety rules.

Alex makes sure to cover every aspect of one topic before moving to the next.  There is no rushing through anything, and the pace is good for a newbie.  The chapters on the DVD are organized in a logical way, and once you grasp a skill, it’s easy to skip forward on the DVD to the next skill if you are ready to do so.

In the end, while pressing the eject button on the DVD player, Rick commented that he was pretty happy to have a good reference tool on the shelf next time he needed it.  I’m excited to use some of the skills I learned about sharpening and maintaining hand tools on Vera, my grub hoe.

The Summary:

This DVD would be great for:

  • Beginners, new to homesteading and/or hand tools.
  • Those who want to add to their skill set, especially sharpening and maintaining their own tools.
  • People with a wood-burning stove or fireplace.
  • People with a giant wood pile.
  • Youth clubs like 4-H or scouts.
  • Homeschoolers interested in teaching traditional skills.
  • Survivalists, backpackers, hikers, hunters or others that spend time in the woods.
  • People interested in hand tools, restoring old tools, reusing instead of buying new, and/or geeking out with their grandpa’s hand-me-down tools.
  • People who are intimidated by using and maintaining an ax.

This DVD would not be good for:

  • Our great-grandparents who grew up learning these skills.
  • People who are into “more power” or using a chainsaw for everything.
  • People who want to do things quickly instead of correctly.

Disclosure: I received a free DVD from Alex to write this review.  The thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and my own.

The Giveaway:

In addition to being an authority on axes, Alex is a wilderness and survival expert.  He is a former backcountry ranger, firefighter, and survival guide.  He teaches classes in the Portland area, as well as offering ax sharpening services for locals.

Did I mention generous?  Alex promised to give away a copy of the DVD to one lucky reader!   

To be entered into the contest, please post a wilderness or survival question in the comments here before midnight, MST on November 21, 2012If you are new reader here at The Lazy Homesteader, or have been lurking for a while, this is your chance to come out of the woodwork.

I’ll double your chances if you ‘Like’ Old Federal Ax Co. on Facebook and share this post with your friends (tag @The Lazy Homesteader or use one of the buttons at the bottom of this post).  Come back here to leave a second comment telling me that you did so. 

I’ll announce the winner in a separate post, so make sure to subscribe to the LazyHomesteader.com/feed or follow me by email or on Facebook/Twitter by using one of the buttons on the sidebar (above, right).

You have two weeks to enter and spread the word.  Ready, GO!

The giveaway is now closed.  Thanks to Alex and Old Federal Ax Co., and congrats to the winner!

Categories: DIY, Giveaways, Hunting, Recommended Reading, Simple Living, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , | 22 Comments

The Top Ten Posts of 2011

If I hosted an awards show for my blog, the ten 2011 posts that I would give an award to would be pretty hard to pick.  My blogging grew a lot this year.  I went from barely writing in January to really getting committed in April.  We had a lot going on, from crazy experiments to having a baby and getting the house organized.  So in a miss-mash of ten categories, here are the results from 2011 on this here blog.

Best DIY postDIY Pallet Compost Bin – lots of hits on this one, all year.  I think I took great photos and I’m happy with the bins.

The most practical postHow to Peel an Acorn Squash – Who knew this was a universally tough squash for people to peel?

The most shared postOccupy Denver – I’m a little surprised at this one.

Post with the most comments20 Weeks: The Boys Closet – Cleaned! - Apparently, I’m not the only mom trying to keep their kids’ stuff organized!

Post that was hardest for me to push the “Publish” button onConquering Fears: Homeschooling, Josie and Postpartum Depression

Biggest epiphany of the year: Garden Layout and Crop Rotation – Duh!

The most popular post of all-timeHandmade Halloween – Garden Gnome Tutorial pulled ahead this year in October, beating out the former all-time most popular post since 2009, Thrifty Thursday: DIY Garden Gate.

The most overlooked post of 2011:  it’s a tie between Photo Friday: Putting in the Bees and Thursday Tip: Tomato Tags.  I got hardly any hits on either one.  The bee photos were just plain cool, and I thought the tip about zip-tying tags to tomato cages was brilliant.  It worked great this year, by the way.

The 2011 post I’m most proud of:  Unplugging the Fridge: Cost vs. Inconvenience and Project Review – Some of the math gets fuzzy before I suss it out properly in the comments.  But bottom line is, without a fridge, we’re saving about 30% on our electricity bill, give or take.

The most popular post of 2011Gardening and Culture: Are Food Gardens Just for the Poor?

Which posts did you like best?  Rick liked all the ones where I talked about cutting down the tree – but that saga was just too long to get an award from me.  ;)

What are you hoping to see more of here in 2012?  Chickens?  Bees?  Canning?  Gardening?  The kids (Mom)?  Recipes?  Organizing?  Crazy Experiments?  Anything you want me to cut down on (I make no promises on the crazy)?

Have a safe and happy holiday ringing in 2012!

Categories: Recommended Reading, Top 5 | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

reCAP Mason Jar Caps

Sorry for the lack of posts this week and only minimal last week.  We’ve been ridiculously busy between hunting and H’s birthday and such.  I’ve got a couple of posts in the works that should hopefully be up soon.  But in the mean time, I had to share this.  Thanks to Erica for pointing me in this direction.

I had to share about this project – the reCAP Mason Jar Cap and the cool site, kickstarter.com, that is helping the reCAP’s inventor get funding.

The reCAP is a BPA free, recyclable, reusable plastic screw top cap to fit regular mason jars.  It’s a one piece design, great for pouring.  And it’s inventor is getting funding through people’s online donations on the site kickstarter.com.  I believe she has already reached her funding goal of $10,000 by November 8th, but people can still back her project  (as little as a dollar or up to $350) if they are interested.  I did, and in return I’ll get to try one of the reCAPs as soon as they are made (projected to be January).

I had to share this because I think both the reCAP and the kickstarter site are great ideas.

Check them out here:  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1917107415/recap-mason-jar-caps

If you are an entrepreneur, check out the kickstart site.  The site collects pledges for you and if your goal is not met, nobody looses out, but if it is, you get the money you need to get started.  Fabulous!  So much better than a loan!

I can’t wait to try my reCAP!

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Community, Recommended Reading | Tags: | 6 Comments

Occupy Denver

Saturday night I went down to the capital building to the Occupy Denver protest.  Denver is one of over 1500 cities showing solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York.

Saturday afternoon there was a march on the state capital.  4000-5000 people joined together to march down 16th street.  I couldn’t get down there in time for the march, but I went with C and Manuel, my mom’s husband, to join the few hundred remaining protesters around 6:00pm.

I’ve never been to anything like this.  The Occupy Wall Street movement is a peaceful protest, but the Denver police department and Colorado state patrol lined the streets in full riot gear.

As we walked down Broadway from Colfax, the citizens started moving into the street, chanting “Police are the 99 percent!” and the police line backed up.  I got chills.  I was almost moved to tears, and I wished I had my camera ready to get that on video.

We spent some time walking around among the protesters.  We got a lot of warnings to “get that baby out of here, before they gas us.”  One guy warned us that we were taking her into a “really volatile area.”  I have to admit, after the third or fourth such warning, I was a bit intimidated.

Manuel shot a few videos with his phone and in one, you could hear a citizen shouting, “They have automatic weapons.  Why do they need automatic weapons?”  I was glad to be there and also nervous.  I wonder just how far we are entrenched in this bizarre culture of fear. In reality, it really was pretty calm.

Rick and my mom were watching the news reports, and the police began making arrests.  Around 6:30 we saw two people getting arrested for “blocking traffic.”  Odd since the police were the ones in the streets, and the street was completely shut down anyway.  The citizens stayed on the sidewalks and in the park for the most part.  And after reading a few news stories I realized just how much is sensationalized.

The whole time we were there, we didn’t hear any people shouting “shame” at the police.  We did however hear chants and shouts of “Protect the kitchen!” when the protestors gathered around the food tent, linking arms, to keep it from being trampled to the ground.  And chants of “Peaceful. Peaceful.” as the police formed lines and advanced on the group in the park.

We stayed until about 7:30pm when we saw several more police vehicles show up followed by a couple of ambulances.  The police had formed lines, seven or eight officers deep and started advancing on the crowd.  As Manuel and I walked back to the car, I stopped and asked an officer on the fringe of things why they were in such heavy gear and out in such force for a peaceful protest (hey, I figured they wouldn’t arrest or pepper spray a lady with a baby strapped to her).  The officers were polite, and explained their position (you know, being prepared, just in case, and all that).  Of course they are just doing their jobs.

I realize that attending a protest for just an hour and  a half, and leaving when things start to get heated totally makes me the diet soda of protesters.  But it was more than nothing, and I plan to go back in the very near future without Cora.  I still won’t be able to stay – she is breastfeeding and I can only be away for so long.  But I plan to keep showing my support in little bites and chunks as I can.

There are probably a lot of people like me that might want to stand up, but for some reason they can’t be at the protest (or like me, have little kids and may not want them in such a charged environment).  Here are a few simple things that anyone can do to help, without attending a rally:

  • Close your bank account with a large bank and open an account with your local credit union instead.
  • Buy local or handmade items for all your holiday gifts, or better yet, make gifts yourself using locally sourced materials.
  • Buy your food at a farmers market instead of from big corporations.
  • Make your own food at home instead of going out or buying it in a box (granola is just oatmeal, honey, oil and nuts baked in the oven – this is a great alternative to cereal).
  • Gardeners, buy non-GMO seeds from seed companies not owned by Monsanto.  Here is a decent list of which are safe and which to avoid.
  • Sign a petition online or in person.
  • Donate supplies to your local Occupation.
  • Donate money to the cause.
  • Spread the word.  Facebook, Twitter, email, telephone, blogging, whatever!
  • Pay in cash!  Credit only helps serve big banks.

I also realized that a lot of people still don’t understand what Occupy Wall Street is all about.  And why would I be posting this on my homesteading blog?  Food Democracy Now posted that,

4 firms control 84% of beef packing, 66% of pork production and 1 company (Monsanto) controls more than 93% of soybeans and 80% of corn grown in the U.S.

Occupy Wall Street will affect us all.  Here are a few good articles that might help in understanding what the Occupation is all about:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rep-keith-ellison/occupy-wall-streets-real-_b_1009368.html

http://www.businessinsider.com/what-wall-street-protesters-are-so-angry-about-2011-10?op=1

http://www.yesmagazine.org/new-economy/the-most-important-thing-in-the-world?utm_source=wkly20111014&utm_medium=yesemail&utm_campaign=mrKlein

Or simply…

Now is the time.  Spread the word.

Categories: Community, Recommended Reading | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Jam Fever!

Last weekend, we went to Palisade for our annual trip to Bracken Orchard to pick peaches.  We drive 240 miles over the mountains, each way, so we want to make sure we make the trip worth it.  This year, we came home with 368 pounds of peaches (slightly less, since about half a box was Fuji apples).

   

We had 15 pounds for my sister and 40 pounds for some friends, but the rest we’ve been working on getting put up for the year.  Most of them are sliced and frozen in quart-size bags, and many get made into various jams for our use during the year and for gifts.  We canned some a few years ago, but we feel like the frozen ones are more versatile and last us longer.  Plus they are easier to put up and take up less space.

True to form, I decided to defrost 40 pounds of the plums that were given to us last year at peach time.  We didn’t have time then to process them properly, so of course I thought we’d have time this year!  What is wrong with me?!? I spent the whole week making plum jam while Rick sliced and froze the peaches.  I didn’t get all the plums done before some started to smell “off,” but I got most of them taken care of.  Smarter people would have just defrosted a little at a time.  Then I moved onto the peach jams.

This has been the most fun I’ve ever had jamming though.  My friend Kristen has been a godsend, coming over twice to make jams.  We got a little crazy the second time, trying new recipes.  I spent a good portion of my grocery budget last week on organic Madagascar vanilla beans, green cardamom pods and various liquors for our jam.  Some combos we tried:  Peach with Honey, Vanilla Bean and Brandy (wow – the smell!), Plum Lavender (AMAZING!!), Peach-Plum Ginger, Plum Noir (ooh lala!), and a couple of original creations, Kristen’s Honey Peach Cobbler jam, and my Jalapeno-Honey Plum.  We’ve had a ball.

I’ve even ordered special jars.  I hope they arrive by this weekend (I plan to make Peach, Blueberry and Grand Marnier jam and my favorite traditional peach preserves), but if they don’t make it, I’ll use them next year. I found most of these recipes on the Punk Domestics site, by the way.  If you put up – you should definitely check it out!

So what are your favorite ways to use peaches?  Plums?  Any awesome jam recipes?

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Community, Recipes, Recommended Reading | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

Review: “Preserving with Friends” and that’s what I did.

At the end of May, Calamity Jane gave away ten copies of Harriet Fasenfest’s DVD, Preserving with Friends.  I shamelessly plugged myself and won one of the copies on the condition of giving it a thorough review.  I was so excited to receive my DVD in June, and it was so generous (and trusting) of Harriet to give away ten copies!

Then I had a baby in July, and Harriet and CJ probably thought I took the DVD and ran, but I didn’t.  I watched it and took notes while I was breastfeeding. At first I was daunted by a three and a half hour DVD, but it is broken up into lots of short, easy to digest segments, which worked perfectly for me.  I was able to watch one or two sections during the kids’ nap times.  It also includes some cool bonus features if you stick it in your computer (printable charts, pectin making instructions, etc.).

I have made jam and pickles before, so I was tempted to skip over the beginning where Harriet talked about boiling water bath canning basics, but I am glad I didn’t.  The DVD offers a lot of great tips, and my favorite was boiling your jam in a low, wide pan so that the liquid evaporates more quickly, and that she was working outside on her grill!  Two of the most daunting parts of jam making (the time it takes and how hot it gets in my non-air conditioned house) solved, right off the bat!

I wish I had this DVD when I was learning how to make jam.  Actually seeing how Harriet does it made it so much easier to understand.  Much less intimidating!  When I got to the canning fruit section, I found myself saying that I could can tomatoes!  I always wanted to but was too intimidated!

The gems offered in this DVD continue throughout with Harriet’s guests, showing different techniques for making pickles, fermenting and something I was most curious about, pressure canning.  She has the experts in each of these fields sharing their recipes and tips.  Actually seeing the methods helped me so much more than just reading about them in a book.

The DVD includes a bonus section featuring the basics of dehydrating with an electric food dehydrator, freezing with a vacuum sealer and storing root vegetables like onions and garlic.  I wish there was more on these techniques, but they could probably be a whole DVD unto themselves!

Then this weekend, after picking some fresh berries, I had a friend over and we put Harriet’s techniques to the test.  I know I promised to do the plums, but since they are frozen and we had fresh berries that we didn’t want to go to waste, we tried Harriet’s recipe for strawberry jam.

Using a wide pan really saved time and I was really happy with the turn out.  And my friend who had never done any canning or preserving before was happy to try it and she even borrowed my DVD.  I was tempted to give it away too, but I actually plan to re-watch some sections after I get a big jar for fermenting and a pressure canner of my own.

Also, as a side note, I love the name of the DVD.  It is much more fun to preserve food with a friend.  Much more fun.  So thanks too, to Kristen for coming over and jamming with me!

Usually I don’t promote products on my blog, but I have to say that I really liked seeing these techniques, and since so many of us are teaching ourselves these arts, the Preserving with Friends DVD is a great alternative to a book.  It is excellent for visual learners or for giving yourself that confidence boost to stop thinking about it and actually getting yourself some jam in the cupboard.  It’s totally worth the $24.95 to purchase it.  So, get yourself Harriet’s DVD, grab a friend and stock that pantry!

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Recommended Reading | Tags: | 4 Comments

City Famer Review

I just realized I never posted my final review of City Farmer by Lorraine Johnson, so here it is.

I really liked this book.  The author is funny and addresses a lot of today’s major food issues in a lighter way.  Rather than making it feel like doomsday is coming, the book gives the reader hope that they can make a difference in their own city.  I liked that she called into question the perceptions of cultural and economic status of the people who garden, from the White House planting their lawn with food throughout different presidencies to HOA’s forbidding vegetable gardens (and the moral grounds to do that), to guerrilla gardeners getting arrested for planting at the offices of public officials (because then we’d have everyone and their uncle doing it).

As I continued reading I found myself inspired to start a community garden in vacant lots around my city and spying out places to plant fruit trees and asparagus patches on my way to the grocery store.  There are countless stories of communities coming together to create successful gardening projects in their home towns and neighborhood streets.  Schools, churches, business people, farmers and urbanites living in harmony, growing their own produce.

Johnson also briefly addresses beekeeping and romanticizes urban chickens.  Though I know a lot of urban homesteaders that are totally into keeping their mini flocks as pets, I’ve learned the difference between food and pets the hard way, so I have a somewhat less romantic view of urban hens.

Overall I recommend reading City Farmer if you want to be inspired to convince your neighbor to try vermicomposting and wonder if your city will allow you to plant vegetables in the medians of the streets.  It was encouraging to read how people everywhere are growing food, truly anywhere.

Categories: Recommended Reading | Leave a comment

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