What the heck is a “Homestead State of Mind” anyway?

Today I celebrate the fact that we now have actual internet at our house! After a year and a half of only being able to get some partial use from the internet on a smart phone (with very little phone service) or by going to the library to use the computer, I am giddy with excitement at the idea of being able to start offering some new blog posts and newsletter updates again.  So as I sat down this morning with my cup of coffee I was faced with the question? What on earth do I write about first?

That is when it dawned on me that I started this blog, Homestead State of Mind over 3 years ago, and I never really have explained myself or my choice of title.

SO, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…” (if you didn’t just sing that in your head, I’m not sure we can be friends anymore.

Whattheheck

The term homesteading originally referred to the Homestead Act, of 1862 of which granted 160 acres to any US citizen willing to settle on, and farm the land for at least 5 years.  Side Note: My own great grandparents homesteaded land in eastern New Mexico that our family is still blessed to own and it is one of my favorite parts of my heritage.  Now-a-days, obviously there is nowhere in the US that you can actually “homestead” by those terms (yes, even here in Alaska.)

So why is there this large movement of people claiming to be homesteaders?  I’ve actually heard people criticize those of us who use the term “homesteaders” for not living off only of twigs and berries, just as I have heard people criticize  those who use the term “off grid” for having electricity and internet in their home.  

It comes down to this, Homesteading IS a state of mind.  It is the desire for a more self sufficient lifestyle & a simpler way of life. 

Here’s what it means (and doesn’t mean) for our family:

  • It doesn’t mean that we live only off of the land, with no outside income.  My husband works a regular job, and provides for our welfare because that is what God has called him, as a husband to do.  However, he has intentionally chosen work that doesn’t consume him or take him away from his family for large periods of time.  Once upon a time, he was a supervisor in the oil and gas industry in charge of multi-million dollar projects and was on track to just keep moving up the career ladder, but for the sake of his sanity and our family’s welfare, he stepped away from that career path and never looked back.  We have absolutely no desire to chase a dollar or “keep up with the Jones” in any way shape or form.  Our vehicles are functional, not fancy & our home is comfortable and cozy, but maybe not exactly chic.

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  • It does mean we have a subsistence lifestyle which means we try to live as self-sufficiently as possible.  Subsistence is defined as the means of maintaining or supporting oneself.  We hunt, fish, forage, farm and garden for as much of our food supply as we are able.  We preserve food for winter by canning, freezing or dehydrating the food that we raise, grow, or hunt.  Our yard is our garden, we don’t have a carefully manicured lawn for the neighbors to compete with, we have vegetables to feed our family with.  The reason we love going to all this extra effort rather than just buying what we need is that it is important to us to not be completely dependent on others for our survival.  We want to be producers, not consumers, as much as possible.  

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  • It means we worked hard to become debt free and we do things as affordably as we can so that we keep it that way.  If hard work can save us some money, that is what we are going to do.  This past week, my dear hubby cut and peeled logs, milled them as needed (with a chainsaw) and that ended up saving us hundreds of dollars in lumber for our current project of building a bigger shop before winter.  

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  •  It can also mean living a more remote or even somewhat isolated life in order to achieve that simpler way of life.  For our family, that meant moving 3,000+ miles away to the Alaskan interior where subsistence and a simpler way of life is more attainable.  But that doesn’t mean that you can’t live a homesteading lifestyle where you currently are; it is all about making the choice to separate yourself from the rat-race of commercialism and keeping up appearances, and just live your life.

This is just an overview of what a Homesteading State of Mind really means.  Later on I’ll share some small, tangible ways that you can change your state of mind too.  (That is, IF you want to…)

 

4 Keys to Reclaiming Your Thyroid Health

Have you ever had that dream where there is something really important that you need to do or to focus on but you just can’t quite see well enough or move fast enough? Everything is shadowed in darkness, your body is unable to move, there is a force closing in around you, the darkness is swallowing you whole and encasing you in wet, heavy cement that, bit by bit, is beginning to harden… There is no other fatigue like Thyroid Fatigue.

Never fear though, THERE IS HOPE!! One of the most important keys to a Homestead State of Mind is reclaiming your health from Big Pharma and Modern medicine. 

I was diagnosed in 2010, with hypothyroidism and was put onto the typical thyroid medication.  It was during my first pregnancy and my thyroid just tanked; it was no surprise really, both of my parents had also been diagnosed with thyroid dysfunction.  I had no idea at the time just how vital and how all-encompassing thyroid function really is.  All I knew was that I was tired all the time and struggling with my weight.  In reality, thyroid dysfunction affects EVERYTHING, absolutely everything. 

But after 8 years on thyroid medication I found that my levels were only getting worse, and my dosage increasing over time rather than improving.  Let me tell you folks, there IS a better way.  I wish I had known earlier how much we are able to support our own endocrine system with diet, supplementation and for me, the most important component, essential oils. 

Here are 4 keys to support your own endocrine system and thyroid function:

  1. Diet – By this, I do not mean “dieting” like, “lose 20 lbs in the next 30 days” fad diet nonsense.  What we’re talking about here is good nutrition and avoiding or moderating a few particular culprits that are fighting against you.  Two of the main Bad Guys that are going to sabotage your thyroid are caffeine and quick sugars (anything that will spike your blood sugar.)  This is all a balancing act folks, a tired thyroid cannot defend itself against a dose of adrenaline and both caffeine and quick spikes to your blood sugar do exactly that. 
    • Caffeine.  This is one of the hardest things for me to do because I LOVE coffee.  But deep down, I know that it does not love me back.  If you are a coffee addict like me, and some days herbal tea (which I also love) just isn’t going to cut it, chicory root is a great substitution and comes with a whole host of its own nutrition benefits.  There are many brand choices out there, I use Dandy Blend, which you can find it on Amazon.  It combines Chicory root and Dandelion root for a super beneficial nutrition boost to your day.  Another herbal option with a pick me up is Yerba Mate, which has its own (more gentle) non-caffeinated energy boost but this option will be more like an herbal tea rather than the darker “coffee fix” of chicory root.
    • Quick sugars.  Many others I have spoken to will say that avoiding gluten all together is the key, and that’s always a safe way to go; but for me, I’ve found that I can tolerate some gluten in moderation.  The key is fermentation.  I can enjoy sour dough bread in moderation without all the negative side effects because the fermentation process eats up the sugars in the wheat.  But we’re not just talking bread here folks.  Sugars, highly processed grains and fruit should also be avoided or moderated.  Along with sourdough bread, I have found that I can occasionally enjoy some fruit (berries are lowest on the glycemic index and your best choice) and whole grains like brown rice, whole oats etc. but not on a daily basis.  Overall, a lower carb style of eating is a good rule of thumb.  Weight loss is also something that will help to improve your thyroid function but since weight gain is a symptom and byproduct of a slow thyroid, it can become a vicious cycle.  Lowering your consumption of quick sugar foods can help both with your weight and with your thyroid at the same time.
    • Supplementation – This one for me is very simple.  Vitamin D, Iodine (with Kelp) Magnesium and a good probiotic.  (Rather than purchasing a probiotic, I use a variety of fermented foods to support my digestive health, but Young Living also carries pro and prebiotic products that are fantastic.  Plexus also provides a fantastic line of supplements, but for me, Young Living has been life changing. Young Living also has a Thyroid Suppliment called Thyromin which is a special blend or extracts herbs, amino acids, minerals and essential oils that maximize nutritional support for healthy thyroid function. 
  2. Sleep – Once again, we are working to support your thyroid and an overly taxed adrenal system will stop you in your tracks.  Getting regular sleep is vitally important.  If you are having trouble sleeping Cedar wood and Lavender essential oils are my favorite combo to support a healthy sleep cycle and as an added bonus, Cedar wood oil is one of the beneficial supports for a healthy thyroid. 
  3. Endocrine disrupters – This is one aspect that I didn’t take seriously enough for quite some time.  Chemicals like artificial fragrance are known endocrine disrupters meaning they seriously affect and hinder your endocrine (or any hormone) system.  I slowly began to weed out as many of these chemicals over time and hadn’t realized the real difference that it had made until after our move to Alaska last year.  During the moving process I found my old favorite perfumes and candles and I started using some perfume here, burning a candle there… and then I started cleaning cabins for some side work.  The combination of fragrance and chemical cleaners sent me spiraling!  Headaches, inflammation, fatigue, brain fog and mood swings were OUT OF CONTROL.  Thankfully I realized what might be happening.  As soon as I stopped using the scented perfumes, lotions and candles and started bringing my own Thieves Cleaner (from Young Living) to work, I was good as new again!  The difference was unmistakable, I am so grateful to have beautiful smelling oils for perfume and diffusing, and an exceptional, plant based, household cleaner at hand at all times.
  4. Essential Oils – This one is no joke people, I don’t know that I would be successfully off of thyroid medication without it.  Endoflex – This is my main go-to here, a powerful combination of oils that support healthy thyroid function.  I find that I get the best results when I take the Endoflex, Clove and Copaiba internally and thanks to Young Living’s line of vitality oils, you know that they are safe.  I DO NOT suggest ingesting any essential oil other than Young Living.  To my knowledge Young Living’s line of Vitality oils is the only line of essential oils to be granted a GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) by the FDA for ingestion. Some other oils that will help support your thyroid are:
    1. Frankincense
    2. Myrrh
    3. Myrtle
    4. Cedar wood
    5. Clove
    6. Basil
    7. Lemon Grass and so many more…
    8. Ningxia Red (superfood, antioxident drink)

“…This sweet and tangy drink’s formula includes wolfberry, which is touted for its health benefits. Also featuring plum, aronia, cherry, blueberry, and pomegranate juices and extracts, Young Living’s NingXia Red is packed with superfoods to support overall wellness.

In addition to these antioxidant ingredients, NingXia Red’s formula includes pure vanilla extract and Lemon, Orange, Yuzu, and Tangerine essential oils for a great-tasting, healthy treat.

Young Living NingXia Red benefits include support for energy levels, normal cellular function, and whole-body and normal eye health. A daily shot of 2–4 ounces helps support overall wellness with powerful antioxidants.”

*I also use Young Living’s Progesence Plus Serum and Lady Sclareol or Sclaressence to finish rounding out the support for my female hormones.  Something important to remember is that when one part of the Endocrine System is out of whack, it’s a spiraling cycle of dysfunction.  Working to balance all hormone related systems will improve all systems.

All in all I am posting this in hopes that someone else who is struggling with their Thyroid health will find some improvement in their own quality of life like I have.  If you are interested in finding out more about the essential oils that I have mentioned here or how you can buy the highest quality oils available at wholesale prices, follow my link here. https://homesteadstateofmind.com/2018/02/01/discovering-essential-oils/

Happy Thyroid Awareness Month folks, it is a happy one for me and I hope that soon, you will be able to say the same.

*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nurse, or any other form of medical professional. The content of this blog is simply my own experiences and opinions and have not been evaluated by any government agency. This information is not intended to “diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.” Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.

Taco Night!

Being raised in Southwest Colorado (with Eastern New Mexico roots) I am a bit spoiled when it comes to Authentic Mexican cuisine.  Having known for quite some time that we were going to take on this crazy adventure and move to Alaska, I made the determination that moving to Alaska certainly wasn’t going to keep us from our favorite foods.

One of our family favorites is, of course, the beloved Taco.

This week I whipped up some Tacos and thought I’d share some SUPER easy recipes that will ensure you can have Taco night ANY night (not only when you’ve been to the store to buy Taco Seasoning and Taco Sauce.)

If you want to get the scoop on how enjoy Taco Tuesday (or any day) without packaged, processed ingredients look no further than these 3 links.

Easy Taco Sauce from Scratch

DIY Taco Seasoning Blend

Homemade, Traditional Refried Beans

DIY Taco Seasoning Blend

Taco Seasoning

Okay folks, this post is a super short one, no time to muddle around with a long winded explanation or story.  If you don’t already know about my love affair with Tacos, or why the super short post here, you can read the rest of my Taco Sauce recipe post here.

For now, I’m going to get right to business and share my homemade Taco Seasoning Blend recipe.

There is NO REASON to be wasting your money on those packages of Taco Seasoning from the grocery store again.  Seriously folks, keep your money, avoid the MSG and other processed ingredients and lets get back to basics.

I keep a jar of this seasoning mix on hand at all times.  It makes dinner such a cinch and I never have to worry about running to the grocery store for it (or Taco Sauce.)  Its also great to have on hand for Taco Soup when I need a REALLY fast meal.

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So here you go.  Not much introduction or instruction needed.

Taco Seasoning Blend

  • 2 Tbl Chili Powder
  • 1/2 Tbl Garlic Powder or Granulated Garlic
  • 1/2 Tbl Onion Powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried pregano
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne powder
  • 1 tsp arrowroot powder or other thickener (cornstarch, flour, etc.)

 

 

Easy Taco Sauce from Scratch

I LOVE TACOS…

I mean, who doesn’t right?

Whether its corn tortillas, flour tortillas or jicama shells; ground beef, pulled pork, chicken or steak; pico de gallo, pickled onions, Asian slaw or taco sauce; no matter what you put them in, fill them up or what you top them with, Tacos are just the best food there is.  In fact, even though we just had tacos night before last, all this talk about tacos and I now am craving them again.  (sigh)
While I love to try all kinds of variations of Tacos, the original, basic version of ground beef (or elk in our case usually… and by next year it will be Moose or Cariabou) and a corn tortilla is still probably my favorite. It feeds hungry hubby’s and kiddos in a jiffy and keeps everyone happy. Whenever we have taco night, it is always made with my Homemade Taco Seasoning and this yummy Homemade Taco sauce.

So since we had tacos the other night and I whipped up a batch of this sauce rather than paying who knows how much for it at our local small (expensive) grocery store, I thought I would share the recipe with you.
Now, we eat a LOT of tacos. It is probably a weekly or at the very least, a bi-monthly staple around here. Thankfully there is also no need to make this sauce every single time you cook tacos, I just whip up a batch about once a month. (But I probably wouldn’t let it go much longer than that without canning it.) If you have a larger family and wanted to make a big batch of this, just double or triple the recipe so that you could have enough for multiple meals as well. But to be honest, the recipe is so simple that it doesn’t take much effort. Just simply whisk the ingredients together in a sauce pan and set it to simmer on the stove while you brown your taco meat. It’s that simple. I wish I could sound intelligent and creative and give you a long list of instructions… but I just can’t. There is nothing more to tell you other that what to use!

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Easy Taco Sauce from Scratch

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Homemade Taco Sauce

  • 12 oz can Tomato Sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons Vinegar (white or apple cider)
  • 1 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1 Tbl Cumin
  • 2 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • a pinch of cayenne (or more depending on your family’s tolerance of heat)
  1.  Whisk all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring up to a simmer.
    Simmer on med-low heat while you make your tacos or at least for 20 minutes. (This is important to give the flavors a chance to develop but keep it low and slow so that it doesn’t reduce too much.)
  2. Remove from heat, cool & store in a glass jar. (Can be served cold or warm.)

It’s that easy folks.  Nothin’ to it.

If you want to take it a step even farther, try my Taco Seasoning Blend as well!  With these two recipes you will have excellent Tacos with NO processed ingredients.

And just as a bonus, I’ll also throw in my recipe for Homemade, Traditional Refried Beans.

 

DIY Hugelkultur Garden Bed

*This blog post was actually written in back in June.  Due to a supremely busy summer, I am months behind in sending out updates.  🙂

This year I am super excited to be trying out a hugelkultur (pronounced hoo-gul-culture) bed in one of our raised beds.
Hugelkultur simply means “hill mound.”  They are traditionally a raised bed in which soil is mounded up over a pile of rotting wood, leaves, grass clippings, straw, compost or whatever biomass you have available.

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They boast the advantage of holding moisture & building fertility and are great places to grow your vegetables, herbs and fruit.
The wood will gradually decay which will aerate the soil meaning it will be a no-dig bed. The rotting wood will also act as a consistent source of nutrients for the plants and the composting material also creates some heat which can help to extend your growing season. The wood will act like a sponge in which water is stored and then released during dryer times. Some even claim that after the first year, if you have the right climate, you may not even need to water your hugel-bed.
There are many, many variations of a hugel-bed from creating large hills or mounds to filling a traditional raised bed with the same materials you would use in the mound style bed. While I would love to build a true hugelkultur mound, with the insane rabbit population on our property right now, it just isn’t a feasible option until we can afford the fencing material to protect our garden area. So for us this year, we just filled the bottom of our raised bed with rotting logs and covered with a soil mixture of rotting moss, aged manure and wood shavings. (Having no leaves or grass in this sub-arctic terrain to utilize.)

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I’m anxious to see how well it works as I’m not sure if I used enough wood or not or how well this local black spruce will work. I know that if the wood is too hard, there is a bit of a debate regarding the use of hardwoods for a hugel-bed. Some say that the wood will take too long to breakdown, taking years and years before you see the advantage of the decomposition process; others say that you want to use harder woods so that you can reap the benefits of the process over time.
I actually used wood that was already rotting, hoping to get immediate results, we will have to wait and see whether or not that was a mistake. Because I’m in the experimental stage of my soil mixtures and permaculture practices, I don’t mind having to redo a bed next year or the year after.
I also didn’t use many of the recommended layers of a hugelkultur bed because here in this climate we don’t have things like grass clippings or leaves. We are in the middle of a black spruce forest blanketed with moss so that is really all I had available. We are also so new to the area that I didn’t yet have any half rotted compost yet.
We filled the bottom of our *hugel-bed 30% of the bed with rotting wood and topped it with a soil mixture of wood shavings, rotting moss, top soil and a small amount of aged manure I had a really limited supply this year and wanted to see if the rotting wood provided enough fertilization. Remember, one of the most important aspects of a “Homestead” state of mind is to, as much as possible, work with what you have on hand without running to the store for every little thing you need.
I wanted to compare the results of my bedding options to see which soil mixture works the best. I also wanted to safeguard my vegetable harvest by not putting my “eggs” all in one basket. So I planted 3 main raised beds (which was all that we had materials to build) filled with 3 different soil combinations.
• Bed #1 was filled with what I have always used previously in my raised beds: peat moss (purchased from Lowe’s), finished manure and pearlite (or vermiculite.)
• Bed #2 was filled with top soil, local “peat moss” equivalent, finished manure and pearlite. (By “peat moss” equivalent, I mean the soft, under-layer of soil that develops right under the moss layer that blankets our forest here.)
• Bed #3 was the *hugel-bed described above.
I expected to have an issue with acidic soil because the mixture in my two experimental beds contain so much rotted moss and pine material but according to my soil tester, the pH is sitting right about 7.5 actually borderline being too alkaline which just shocks the pants off of me. I will continue to monitor the pH occasionally and have some wood ash on hand to neutralize the soil if we see it drop below 6. We added a small amount of steer manure from Lowes to get started but was really hoping to use some goat manure from someone local. A new friend here said I could use her left overs if she had any more but had one more person coming to load up before me. If I am lucky enough to get some, I will use it on my potato beds. (She also said that she had seed potatoes that I could use, which I have no more bed space for, so I need to go outside and start digging a trench or mound set up for those ASAP. I expect the rabbits to be a problem for anything that is not protected but since you burry potato stalks just as soon as they appear, I am willing to risk the attempt.

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So these are the beginnings of my adventures in learning to use permaculture style practices in a sub-arctic climate.  I will report back at the end of the summer how the different soil mixtures compared to each other as well as how the Hugelkulture bed did in general.

Simply Perfect Crunchy Granola

Well, here we are, getting settled into our new homestead here in Alaska and life has been crazy to say the least.  We have so much work to do, spending every morning leisurely enjoying a hot breakfast of bacon, eggs and fried potatoes is nothing more than a picturesque fairytale right now.  As busy as we are, I need a few quick-fix tricks up my sleeve for breakfast and rather than falling back on store bought cold cereal, homemade granola is the ticket. Unlike the sugar-laden, empty calorie fluff from the store, (which, let’s face it, does no one any good because everyone is hungry 15 minutes later.) Hearty, homemade granola is made with healthy ingredients and will stick with you 10 times longer than that stuff with unpronounceable ingredients.
Aside from a few stove top suppers, our first experiment in cooking with my Kitchen Queen wood cook stove was some toasty, yummy homemade granola. I spent a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon attempting for the first time, to use the oven in my wood cook stove.  To be honest, there was more of a learning curve than I had expected in using said oven and after 2 hours trying to bake the stuff, we ended up toasting the granola on sheet pans on the stove top rather than baking it. It still came out great!

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Granola is one of those things that can be changed up 1,000 different ways depending on what you have on hand and what your own dietary restrictions might be. We use whole grain oats as our base then boost the nutrition value with all the yummy add-ins that take it over the top like flax, pumpkin & chia seeds and nuts.
The only downside to this recipe is that when I make it I have to make a seriously monster-sized batch because at all stages of preparing it (raw, cooking, cooked, cooling and put away in the pantry) I have greedy granola gobblers steeling it by the handful.
Hubby and kids alike can’t stay out of it.  We also love using this recipe when making trail mix by adding nuts, dried fruit and chocolate chips or candies.

For a long time my granola, while quite tasty, never held together in the big, crunchy clumps that I was looking for.  It always fell apart into individual oats, nuts and seeds which was rather disappointing.  So in order to save you from my own frustration, here are 2 simple tips for getting big clumps of crunchy granola that is the perfect breakfast cereal or trail mix base.

  1. Make sure that ALL the oat mixture is thoroughly coated with your honey/oil mixture.  (If you increase the oat/nut/seeds to more than what I have listed here, you will also need to compensate by increasing the honey mixture as well.)
  2. DON’T stir the granola while it is baking.  (This is so important.)

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Simply Perfect Crunchy Granola

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

• 6 cups whole oats
• 2 cups sliced almonds
• 1 1/2 cups pecans (chopped)
• 1/2 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or sunflower seeds
• 2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes (sweetened is also fine but an unnecessary addition of sugar)
• 1 1/2 cup raw honey or organic maple syrup
• 1/4 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
• 3/4 cup coconut oil (butter is also okay but will not yield the same crunchy results) 

  • 1 Tbl cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 Tbl cardamom
  • 2 tsp Vanilla extract
    • Optional super-seed addition
    • 1/2 cup flax seeds
    • 1/2 cup chia seeds
    • 1/2 cup water

1. In a small bowl, mix the flax & chia seeds with water and allow to soak while you get the rest of your granola mixture ready. This will produce a sticky clump of seeds that you will gently break up into large chunks and fold into your oat mixture later.
2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together your oats, nuts & pumpkin/sunflower seeds.
3. In a sauce pan, add coconut oil, honey and coconut sugar. Stir frequently while heating until just melted & combined. Do not boil.
4. Add vanilla, maple or other extract to your honey mixture.
5. Gently add super seed mixture to your oat mixture, keeping gumball sized chunks if possible.
6. Heat your honey, sugar & oil mixture over the oat mixture and toss to coat thoroughly.
7. Spread out on sheet pans (I like to line mine with silicone baking mats or parchment paper)

8. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, rotate your pans to ensure even cooking and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes.

9. Turn off the oven and let the granola continue to toast and crisp up for up to 1 additional hour. If it is browning too much, remove it from the oven and allow to cool.
(Or if you are using a wood stove with a broken temperature gauge like me… Bake for 1 hour, then pull your baking sheets out of the oven and put them on the stove top to finish crisping up.)

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I promise that you and your family will love this, especially once you fine tune your own personal adaptations to the recipe.

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7 Step Cold-frame Raised Garden Beds

Well it’s our first week in Alaska and it’s already a flurry of unpacking, organizing and getting our actual homestead set up.  Of course the first thing that I want to do is get my hands dirty! This spring has been most unusual with the lack of farm animals and gardening to refresh my soul.  Moving from our small hay farm in Colorado to our forest homestead in Alaska meant no animals and no planting or gardening this spring.  It was a springtime of packing, packing and wait for it… more packing.  This has left me a very confused farm girl as I am accustomed to have my hands in the dirt and farm babies to enjoy long before May.  Babies will have to wait this year, as we have too many other things that need our focus but getting a garden started was first priority.

And while I am missing my greenhouse in Colorado,

CO Greenhouse

I am equally excited to try out my new cold frame boxes.

We built 2 cold frame style raised garden beds and one regular raised bed so that I can get a jumpstart on getting some produce on the table and some root crops stored up for winter.

The beauty of a cold frame system is that not only can you recreate a greenhouse effect for starting plants early and protecting them from a late spring frost (which in Alaska can happen at anytime,) you also can also harness that same greenhouse effect late into the fall, extending your growing season by, once again, closing those boxes up to protect from early frosts.  It also provides some protection from deer (or perhaps in my case caribou or moose.)

Cold Frame_2

As you know, one of the most important keys to living with a homestead state of mind is learning to use what you have on hand rather than running off to the store for the perfect materials or ingredients.  Sometimes this results in not having the prettiest Pinterest perfect project, but you will save a ton of money and are using up valuable materials rather than creating waste.

If you google or do a Pinterest search for “cold frames” you will see that the options are endless.  The concept is so simple that you really can tailor the boxes to your specific needs & plants and use materials that you already have on hand.

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In our case, we bought tin siding from the home improvement store for the boxes, and were able to just use materials we already had on hand for the rest.  We had two glass doors, although we don’t really remember where we acquired them, and some scrap pieces of polycarbonate siding from our greenhouse in Colorado that we brought with us just for this type of project.  My mountain man, bless him, dug through the scrap wood pile left here by the previous owners and that provided us with the lumber we needed to make it all work.  (Had we not had scrap wood lying around, we could have harvested a few small trees for the corner posts instead… we have quite a few.)

DIY Cold-frame Raised Garden Beds

  1. If you are using glass doors or windows, measure your tin and cut it according to the size of the glass you will be using.  The glass doors that we wanted to use for the lids, were 7 foot long, so 7 foot beds is what he built.
  2. Cut four posts or boards for the corners of your boxes and cut the top of the board at an angle that will accommodate the height and slope of your cold frame lid.  If you want to have taller boxes so that mature plants can be closed inside in the fall, you will also need to extend the height of your box above the raised bed depth.  We used the polycarbonate siding for the sides to allow more light into the box.IMG_0069
  3. Nail or Screw your tin to your boards creating the base for your raised bed. Add polycarbonate sides around the top of the tin if desired.IMG_0074.jpg
  4. Place your lid on top.  This was part of the beauty of using old glass doors for the lid of our boxes.  With hinges already built into the door, we were able to screw them right into place with no further modifications.  If you aren’t using a glass door, you can build a hinge on the back side or even build your cold frame lid to be lifted off of the raised bed rather than using the hinged lid design.
  5. If you are using tin or another flexible material for the sides of your box, reinforce the sides of your boxes so that the weight and pressure of the soil does not bulge out the sides.  We used a rebar spike (concrete stakes from our last shop building project) on either side of the bed for reinforcement.Cold Frame
  6. Fill with your favorite soil mixture (6-12” depth is all you need for most plants, 12-18” for root vegetables.)
  7. Start planting!

There is no reason to wait to get started with a project like this because you don’t have a lot of time or money for fancy materials.  Just look around at what you have and see what you can do with it!  More often than not, you will have something that you can work with and that will keep supplies purchased to a minimum.  Believe me, if you are going into the whole “homestead” or farm life expecting everything to be perfectly Pinterest perfect, you will go broke in no time.  🙂

Happy Planting! 

 

DIY Earl Grey Tea

My heart is closely connected to the scent of Earl Grey Tea.  When I drink a cup I am filled with a sense of strength.  It is uplifting, yet relaxing, boosts my confidence, relieves stress and the most important asset is that it brings my English Grandmother to my mind.

My love for my Grandma Hilda, in turn, has instilled in me a love for all things English, where deep roots of our family run.  I miss her dearly and cherish anything that will remind me of her, so it only makes sense that such a strong English tradition would take me back to her.

But why the automatic mood boost?

The secret is in that magical ingredient…

Bergamot.

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The Earl Grey blend is named after Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, the British Prime Minister in the 1830’s.  It is said that he received a gift, most likely by a Chinese diplomat, of tea flavored with bergamot oil

“Bergamot orange (Citrus bergamia) is a small citrus tree which blossoms during the winter and is grown commercially in Calabria, Italy.[13][14] It is probably a hybrid of Citrus limetta (sweet lime) and Citrus aurantium (bitter orange).[15]”

My sister and I used to joke that we could both drink Bergamot essential oil straight, the scent is just so intoxicating.  So once we realized that Bergamot was the magical ingredient our beloved Earl Gray, it didn’t take long to connect the DIY dots.

Earl Grey

Earl Grey is one of my favorite afternoon pick-me-ups….Bergamot is one of my most prized essential oils.  It’s a match made in heaven… it’s just perfection, plain and simple.

This recipe is beyond simple, but the really important key to it all is to only use the highest quality ingredients.

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Your ingredients are:

Black Tea 

Bergamot Essential Oil – I only use Young Living Essential oils.  It is absolutely VITAL if you are ingesting essential oils to only use Therapeutic, Grade A, Organic Essential oils(Don’t be fooled by oils labeled “100% Pure” which are only actually required to contain 5% of the actual essential oil in order to be labeled that way.)  

*Orange peel or Rose Petals, optional

 

To infuse your own Earl Grey tea :

  • Drop 4-16 drops of Young Living Bergamot Essential oil to the sides of a glass mason jar.  (I realize that this is extremely vague but it really varies from person to person.  My husband likes it best when it is mild, while I enjoy it very strong.)
  • Add your loose, black tea leaves (2 cups) and any other added ingredients (citrus peel, rose petals, etc)
  • Stir/shake the contents of the jar vigorously to coat.
  • Let the tea “cure” for several hours up to a few days.

You can drink a cup right away but I recommend being patient and letting the mixture cure.  For best results use within a few months as the flavor will fade over time.

This has been one of my favorite Homemade/DIY projects that I have ever done, I hope you love it as much as I have!

Earl Grey Collage

The Truth About Chicken Poo

I’ve decided to name this photo “The Truth About Chicken Poo”
truth about chicken poo
You see, I’ve been trying my hand at photography (at a very amateur level, mind you) while starting out on this blogging journey and I’ve found that it’s not always so easy. 
Last summer when I first took this picture I really loved it, really, really, loved it.
And then I saw it..
That speck (or two) of chicken poo, sticking out there like a sore thumb, ruining my beautiful picture of summer bounty. 
This was how my thought process went that day:
“I can’t use this picture!  There’s chicken poo on my eggs!”
“But it’s so pretty…”
“If it isn’t perfect it CANNOT be posted on my blog page.”
“But.. maybe I can learn to use photo shop!”
“I don’t have time for that.”
“But it’s seems like such a waste to not use it, the light was just right that day…”
And so on and so forth.  You see, unfortunately good photos really do matter when it comes to the blogging world.  If your pictures are crappy, well people aren’t going to read your blog.  It’s just a fact of life.  However, I was so caught up trying to make things “social media perfect” that I was refusing to let the reality of homestead life, be shown on my page.
This is the problem with social media in our society today.  We are so careful to only put our absolute best pictures up, only our perfect selfies taken at the most flattering angle, only our Pinterest worthy successes and never our failures.
We are creating an image for ourselves that, frankly, is chicken poo. 
A false image that in turn, makes others feel bad about themselves.
“I’ll never be able to look that good”
“My kid’s birthday cake never looks like that”
“She ALWAYS cooks gourmet food for her family, I don’t have time for that!”

Comparison is the thief of joy.

— Theodore Roosevelt
It’s a wicked cycle.  And while I do need to strive to have pretty pictures for my blog, and it’s fine to post a successes that we are celebrating or the things we love about our lives, we need to remember to put the REAL us out there, drop some truth bombs, funny pictures and failures.
Let’s stop this epidemic of comparison that is plaguing our culture and put truth back in the picture.
We all have some chicken poo in our lives, don’t photo shop the truth from your pictures.
Everybody’s chickens poop.