Thursday, September 25, 2008

The McDonough General Store

This afternoon I had to take a drive about 7 miles away to our little country store in the neighboring town of McDonough. It was such a beautiful drive, the leaves are turning and are beautiful shades of gold, red, green and brown. There is one farmer on the way there who lives at the top of the hill who farms with horses, and it was my lucky day as he was out there with his two gorgeous horses. I think they are Belgiums, and they are just so majestic with their harness on and hitched up to his wagon. What I especially like is that when you go past, it is so quiet, just the gentle rattle of the harness every now and then.

McDonough is one of those little towns that most people just drive through to get somewhere else. This town has many homes that are little farms with a big variety of farm animals. Most being horses and chickens, some pigs, many goats and a few with miniature horses and even a donkey or two. There are a few houses with the eggs for sale signs out front.

The McDonough General Store is the typical Mom & Pop type store with Mr. and Mrs. Gorman being the Mom & Pop. The store seems to be pretty busy when we go there. It has become our favorite place to go for what we call "fast food", which just means that I don't have to prepare and cook it. They have a nice deli and sell various sub sandwiches, we buy a couple pounds of lunch meat so we can make sandwiches at home. Also they have a old-fashioned ice cream parlor. The customers that come in there all seem to know one another and probably have all their lives. If you are new though, they will welcome you warmly and include you in their conversations.

The McDonough General Store looks as if it should have a pot belly stove right in the middle of it, and maybe one day it did. Now it is filled with a good selection of groceries that you are most likely to run out of. Except for gas and kerosene. Right now it has a sign out front on the gas pumps "Sorry, Out Of Gas". Too much money to fill it up. Besides most people probably only buy a little to get to the next big town to fill up, so there is really no profit there. Now the ice cream freezer is probably one of their best sellers! When we go there, we usually pick up a half gallon of Hershey's Moose Tracks ice cream........our favorite!

During the summer and holidays it gets alot of traffic from Bowman State Park which is very close by. The Fingerlakes Trail isn't much further than that so hikers usually end up picking up supplies there also. Many people from NYC and NJ come here to get away from the city as we aren't too far from there. So you never know who you'll meet there.

So if you ever get out this way, make sure you stop in there and say hi.

Have a good day!


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lil' Red, My Little Red Hen

In my previous life, I lived a cushy life. Had my hair and nails done at a salon almost weekly. I had a membership at an exclusive health club plus I had a beautiful home gym in my home. I went almost daily somewhere to "race walk", like the various school and our local university tracks. Drove a beautiful corvette that I stored every winter. Now, I look at myself in my mirror and say "how did you ever stand it?" What a waste that existence was!

Now I think about all the money I spent on those trivial things.......and think about all the great homestead tools I could have bought instead! I keep picturing my first husband, (who was a Long Island transplant) if I brought home a pet chicken and told him, that she was going to be living in a dog kennel in our kitchen! Wow! What a reaction that would have set off!

My present husband and I were certainly meant for each other, just didn't find each other till later. So we are making up for all that lost time. Anyway, I received a call from my mother in August of 2000, and she told me to come to her house and she had a chicken for me. I thought she meant one in the freezer or something along those lines. She said to bring my cat carrier......??????? So when I got there, my niece was carrying a big Rhode Island Red chicken around under her arm. Now, I was into homesteading, but had no experience with chickens as of yet, but I had to act like I was not afraid of being pecked and know what I was doing. So I brought her home.

She had come onto my parents' porch the night before, and my father saw her and shooed her away. He had no idea where she came from. They live in the country, but do not have animals themselves. In the morning she was back on the porch perched on a bench with her head under her wing, sleeping. So the kind hearted Daddy that I have, fed her some scraps.

So I brought her home in the carrier and she seemed fine. I was cooking supper and my husband was sitting on our deck with the cats and our dog around him, when she just flew up onto his lap. She just sat there. I think she was trying to butter him up to letting her stay.

I was trying to figure out where to keep her. We live deep in the state forest in upstate New York, and there are lots of critters out in that forest that like chickens. So I dug our dog, Nikita's puppy kennel out that she had long ago, outgrown. Made a little box for our chicken to sleep in. Added newspapers on the bottom and fastened a water and a feed dish on with one of those little bungee type hooks. I named her Lil' Red. Her and I bonded almost instantly. She followed me everywhere. Even met me at the car when I got home from shopping or anywhere. She was noisy when I was gone. My husband said she'd cackle like crazy if she heard me drive in the driveway and she was inside in her kennel.

I knew absolutely nothing about chickens. So I went to our local feed store and bought a bag of laying mash and crushed oyster shells (they told me that I needed it for her). Soon it became apparent that she loved being a house chicken! I had read that you can't really keep one alone as they like to be in a flock and they won't lay if they are alone. Well, our Lil' Red made us and our other animals at the time, 2 cats, 2 horses and especially our dog, Nikita her flock. She would go out with the horses and they were fine with her there picking up their scraps. Nikita and her though hung out together and she loved to be out there with Nikita when she was eating a bone, so she could pick up the bits that would drop from it. Nikita would growl at her, and it never phased her one bit.......she'd just scratch and peck her heart away.

Then we got different cats. One in particular, Callie, really liked Lil' Red alot and hung out with her. Though there was a period in Callie's life where she got real sick and almost died. I nursed her back to health and she is good still today. But while she was sick, she would not turn her back on Lil' Red and acted like she did not trust her. Once she was okay again, she was back to playing with her and rubbing on her beak.

I will finish this story later this week.

Hope everyone has a happy homesteading day!


Monday, September 15, 2008

My Frugal Grocery Shopping Plan

With the price of groceries increasing so much in the last few months, along with the price of gasoline and other things, I am diligently working on a very frugal grocery shopping method. Another important factor in my plan is that we have shut off our gas refrigerator with the hope of saving enough money by not running it to purchase solar refrigeration. So I have to sacrifice.

When you are not using refrigeration or a freezer, you have to preserve even the foods you bring home from the grocery store as well as your garden produce. So instead of buying a few different packages of meats, you buy the number of pounds of meat that will fill your canner twice. For me that is going to be 14 quarts. Many people choose to do pints of meat, but my husband is a hard worker and a big eater. So I have to do quarts.

I look at my local stores' flyers, and my local Price Chopper sends me their's in my email as soon as it is available. I buy my meat there so that is where I start. I know that the day I buy the meat, I have to come directly home and start canning. I have everything ready to go. Go early in the day and get started and you will have it done before you know it.

I have been studying my grocery receipts and check book to see exactly where my money has been going. What I found was that we have been spending way too much on food out. We don't go out to eat often, but we do pick up pizzas, subs, wings and very rarely, Chinese foods (my favorite). So I am going to nip that in the bud right now, before it becomes a habit.

I listed most of the meals I make and the ingredients needed for them. Now I will try to stock up on those ingredients and not sway from my lists for anything extra. So for now my plans are to can ground beef, ground turkey, chicken and turkey. Plus canning chili and beef stew. That doesn't sound too expensive nor too hard to do. Jackie Clay, my favorite writer (Backwoods Home Magazine) says you should can about 3 varieties of chili so you don't get tired of it. So I will do that, one being a vegetarian type, as sometimes I serve it with a sandwich and do not want the extra meat.

For now, my plan is to have the food on hand for 20 different types of meals. That way you do not eat the same meal too many times in any month, unless you want to. The most important part of my plan is to purchase the food, especially the meat, when it is on sale. I am looking forward to trying this and will let you know how it goes and how much money I have saved.

Have a great homesteading day!