Rain-forest Sounds

Living in a rain-forest has its perks.  People may not remember that the Appalachian Mountains are covered by one of a very few temperate climate rain-forests in the world.  The sounds from the front porch every morning make it glaringly obvious.

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under agrarianism, birds, homesteading, wildlife, woods

Daily Simple Breakfast Oatmeal Recipe

One of my pet peeves is how recipes on the internet are usually preceded by an autobiography and timeline progression of how the recipe came to exist.  I will give you the recipe and then if you decide to continue reading that is your choice.

Daily Oatmeal: Serves a family of 9

What you will need:

  • 3-1/2 Qt pot
  • 2 cups whole oats (or 3 cups steel-cut oats)
  • 1/2 cup powdered milk (or 1 quart milk)
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup dried sweetened cranberries
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 quarts water
  1. Crack 2 cups whole oats in mill – as coarsely as possible without letting any whole grains make it through unbroken (2 cups whole oats should make approximately 3 cups “steel-cut” oats)
  2. Combine all ingredients in pot.  Pour the water in last and fill to within a comfortable distance of the top of the pot.  You will be stirring frequently and sometimes vigorously to stop any burning and sticking, keep this in mind.
  3. Cook over medium-low heat for 3 hours total, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon.  If you feel any residue build-up on the bottom of the pot, use the wooden spoon to stir it back off the bottom.  As long as you stir within 15 minute intervals you should not have a problem.
  4. After 1 hour the liquid should be up to almost boiling temperature you will notice the oatmeal forms a dense bottom and you can hear it boiling underneath this.  It is very important to stir until all grains are scattered evenly through the liquid every 15 minutes.
  5. After 2 hours you will notice the oats swelling and the liquid will begin to thicken noticeably.
  6. After 3 hours if desired add 1/4 stick of butter, remove from heat and stir until fully homogenized.
  7. Let cool 10-15 minutes then serve!

If faster cooking time is desired:

  • Begin cooking on high heat but staying with it at the stove and stirring constantly for 15 minutes.  Then reduce heat to medium-low and stir for 5 additional minutes.
  • Resume recipe as if there is 1 hour left.

We have this oatmeal 4 days a week and we have never heard any complaints about lack of variety.  As the children filter into the kitchen in the morning I can hear more than one say “Yay, oatmeal! Hey guys we’re having oatmeal today!”  Sometimes we have plain oatmeal without the cranberries, sometimes we have dates, a can of fruit, frozen berries, or anything else we feel like putting in.

This entire recipe costs less than $1.50 and feeds our family of 9 comfortably so that we are all full for 3-4 hours even when working outside.  If you don’t have a mill substitute 3 cups steel-cut oats and the rest stays the same.  I added information about shortening the cooking time, but in my opinion this should not be done –  the longer and lower temperature it cooks the better the quality of the finished meal.

If there is any oatmeal left (never at our house) it can be put in the fridge and is good if not better after a day or a few days in the fridge.  If it is sufficiently thickened you can even fry it in some oil for a breakfast treat or bake it and slice it up as a bread.

1 Comment

Filed under children, homesteading

Garden Row Markers – Woodburning

Rowmarker3

Over the years, we have made many attempts at differentiating all the rows of a garden in some way that’s easily visible while in the garden.  Each of them has failed in one way or another.  This year, with the arrival of our 8 year old daughter’s All Season Strawberry Collection from Burpee’s, we decided to try yet another iteration of the garden row marker – woodburning. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under agrarianism, art

Meat Rabbits; or How Children Can Provide Substantial Assistance on a Homestead, Part 1

Buck

Mature breeding buck

A few years ago we began asking the children this question: “If you could pick one farm project, what would it be?”  We got many wide-ranging answers, some realistic, some not.  One answer was given by our son – meat rabbits.  Our first step was to have him do what free and readily available research he could.  Once he exhausted our own home library, we bought the Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits, a pre-owned copy of course.  The Storey’s Guide series are one of our go-to introductions to any topic.  They are well-written by experts in the specific topic relevant to each book, they start from the beginning specifically for someone with no knowledge of the topic, and they go into enough detail that anyone could start that project without a more advanced book. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under agrarianism, children, homeschooling, homesteading, rabbits

Mountain Art, While Supplies Last

Balancedrocks

Mountain art

With the snow relinquishing its hold on the hillsides, we have been spending much more time wandering through the woods.  If I walk slowly enough, the woods will reveal creative opportunities in every direction.  At my feet there is a pine cone that looks strangely different from the rest.  To my right, a rock that sparkles in the sun.  On the bank beside the path, a gnarled root that would make a great paperweight or bookend without any alterations whatsoever.

On a recent trip two of our children carried half of their body weight in rocks home because they couldn’t bring themselves to leave such wonderful treasures behind.  When they learned they wouldn’t be allowed to bring armloads of rocks inside, they quickly found creative outlets for them.  For one a massive addition to her fairy garden, to another a great start for a decorative stone border for her strawberry patch.

Burl

The burl on this tree will make a few beautiful bowls or one gorgeous bushel basket.

What I love about these woodland art supplies is that as long as we manage the wilderness with gentle benevolent intent, there will always be more creative project prompts ready and waiting.  I never go into the woods with an artistic purpose in mind.  The things I see and find will guide the process organically.

The balanced rocks in the feature photo took maybe 3 minutes of my time, but I get to watch their journey through the seasons for the rest of the year.  I definitely didn’t expect that I would do that on that walk, but there was a pile of stones that was just waiting for rearranging.  I don’t doubt that snow will knock them over this winter, but that will just give me a clean canvas for next year.

Leave a comment

Filed under art, trees, wildlife, woods

Children in the Woods

childrenwoods

We often take walks in the woods.  All of us appreciate the wilderness, discovering new things on every foray.  Yesterday I got a chance to focus on a few subjects more relevant to hunting (both wild foraging and deer hunting) by leaving the path.  Leaving the path is something you only want to do if you are confident in your knowledge of the terrain, but even so it still requires some faith in yourself and random circumstance.  I of course stressed the dangers of leaving the path, and we discussed the other options available to us before putting it to a vote which was almost unanimous. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under children, homeschooling, Uncategorized, wildlife, woods

Helpful Children

“Many hands make light work.”  I would argue that many small hands make light-hearted work.  Children love to help, and often get giddy with excitement when there is an outdoor job to be done.  Many times the job to be done couldn’t possibly accommodate as many workers as have volunteered, so I try to delegate down to the smallest task to involve as many willing helpers as possible.  Usually this means the smallest children have completed their part of the job very quickly and move on to asking poignant and sometimes existential questions about the work we are doing, followed by spontaneous outbursts of energy which most times will culminate in a game of tag around the area where I continue to work.

Like the phases of matter, solid to liquid to gas, these phases of children’s helpfulness are just part of the natural order of things.  They heat up and cool down, settling back in to take a knee for a couple more questions before exploding outwards at full speed with no warning.  If I were to time how long the job would take, I would not be surprised to learn that it took me far longer to complete the work with their help than without, but neither I nor they would have gotten nearly as much enjoyment out of it.  Pausing to wipe sweat from my brow becomes a moment of joy, my sore back and aching feet forgotten as I watch the children squealing with joy when a hand just misses its mark or a ball goes flying over a head.  They are helping me dig this hole just as much as if they held the shovel themselves.

Leave a comment

Filed under children, homeschooling, homesteading

Tree Planting Season

the_pruning-book3b_a_monograph_of_the_pruning_and_training_of_plants_as_applied_to_american_conditions_28190329_281458118942929

The day that bare root trees arrive in the mail is always an exciting day. It’s a day for dreaming, even for those of us who are usually so well grounded in reality. These finger-thick twigs with a few roots at their bottom will explode into a 12 foot tall solar-powered fruit factory in 5 years or less, and then continue bearing fruit loyally and faithfully for decades upon decades as long as you remember to uphold your part of the contract.

Upon arrival, you must remember that these trees are in the most vulnerable part of their existence. They are young, fragile, and their roots are not in the life-giving soil where they belong. Can you imagine what that must be like? Of course you can, you were a young adult once – Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under agrarianism, trees, Uncategorized

Compost!

Compost

Compost is the breakdown product of organic wastes, containing large proportions of humus which is a long-acting soil fertility booster. Any organic material (not talking about certified organic designation, just the carbon-based once-living kind of organic) can be composted, eventually becoming soil again as it once was before being integrated into an organism.

“Composts offer a practical means of maintaining the soil fertility which is the most important factor in the successful operation of a subsistence farm….There are available on practically all farms and gardens many materials which are useful for composts, although the farmer or gardener often fails to appreciate their value. Some of the common materials which are often wasted are leaves, straw, muck, vegetable tops, grass clippings, and garbage material which is inedible for chickens or pigs.”

~C.C. Fletcher, 1935 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under agrarianism, soil

Crop Rotation and Diversification

Image scanned from 1938 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture "Soils and Men" - Article: "Crop Rotation" by Clyde Leighty

Image scanned from 1938 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture “Soils and Men” – Article: “Crop Rotation” by Clyde Leighty

The concept of crop rotation is not a new idea. It is an idea as old as agriculture. Crop rotation, simply put, is growing a variety of plants in a planned manner to ensure that one species is not grown in the same field for multiple years in a row. It requires a certain amount of diversification, and on the larger industrial scale it can present problems in the need for many different equipment schemes for planting and harvesting. Modern agriculture ‘solves’ this dilemma by ‘scientifically’ replacing, in the form of fertilizer, what it considers to be all of the nutrients that the crop has removed from the soil in the previous year, and replanting that same crop. There are many problems with this plan that are not in the scope of this article to address.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under agrarianism, soil