I find it necessary to address the sustainability of each of the methods of growing that I will be comparing in my Battle Royale. Sustainability is very important to consider when undertaking any agricultural venture. When I say sustainability I mean it very literally, not just speaking from an environmental standpoint. Can this method be sustained indefinitely under the current or foreseeable future conditions?Continue reading
Category Archives: homesteading
In my last post (Battle Royale (Agrarian Style)) I revealed that I have indeed used a tool on a tractor to accomplish an agrarian goal. I used a single shank subsoiler, aka chisel plow or ripper, to help prepare a hillside to become a productive orchard. There were definitely ways that I could have used hand tools only to suit this purpose, but it would have taken years worth of work and crop rotations. This solution allowed me to jump ahead with minimal investment of time and money, and with minimal negative consequences. Read on if you are interested in the reasons behind this exception to my rule (Hand Tools: The Simple Choice).Continue reading
I am starting new gardens from scratch this year, and in the interest of learning new things in new places, I have set up an experiment to compare a few different methods of gardening. I will keep this as brief as possible, and expound upon each of these methods as I update you with progress reports over the following years. Each bed will be planted in the spring with potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and an assortment of vegetables, along with a row of sunflowers and buckwheat. I have no expectations or knowledge of how the results will look, this experiment is purely out of curiosity and I am excited to see how the different methods turn out. How will they yield, handle drought, soaking rains, etc?Continue reading
Every fall cucurbits rise to fame and infamy. They appear on porches as testaments to their diversity, as monsters and vampires, as modern art disguised as a vegetable smashed on the ground. They bring folks to a local farm, bring families together around a hot pie, and bring coffee lovers to love or hate the words ‘pumpkin spice’. They are a symbol of fall, harvest, and abundance. I am thankful for them. I am most thankful not for the pumpkin, however, but for the Butternut – cucurbita moschata.Continue reading
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.
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
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- After 2 hours you will notice the oats swelling and the liquid will begin to thicken noticeably.
- After 3 hours if desired add 1/4 stick of butter, remove from heat and stir until fully homogenized.
- 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.
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
“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.