Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My New Pressure Canner Works Great!

For Christmas this year I bought my own present. My husband needed a new laptop as his died never to be revived or used again. Really dead this time! I sold my old one when it died for $45.00 on eBay to someone in Puerto Rico. He wanted to work on it I guess. There were a lot bids and I started it at .99. We didn't even try with this computer as he said it was not able to be fixed. It is in the attic for now. So I bought a brand new Presto 23 quart canner from Amazon. That was my present. My other two canners were both used so this is my first brand new one. 

Before I buy anything especially a pricey item.....I check out the Amazon reviews. The canner I looked at was the Presto 23 quart aluminum pressure cooker/canner. It had 147 five star reviews. I kept thinking I wanted a bigger canner so I could fill it with more jars. Then when I was studying the page on Amazon, I realized if I am canning on a gas stove the burner is small and it would not heat the whole bottom of a much bigger canner. If I canned on my wood cook stove that would not be a problem, but I usually can on the propane gas stove. The reason is that canning on a wood cook stove means you need a large supply of wood. And then you have to keep it going hot the whole time. Tires me out just thinking about that! LOL 

Another thing to remember if you are researching which canner to buy is that if it says 23 quarts that does not mean that it will hold 23 quart jars.It holds 7 quart jars or 9 pints. You can put a rack on top of the pints and add another layer if you want. I haven't done that myself. It is BIG canner as in tall. I could never lift it off my stove full of jars and water. I am short so it is a stretch for me taking the jars out but I can do it. It is not impossible. So if you are shorter than 5'2" you might want to consider that. Otherwise, it is a wonderful canner. I love it and have canned several times in it already.

The Presto pressure canner can be used as a water bath canner by not locking the handles past the V point on the lid. It can used for canning all your fruits, jellies and acidic foods. I haven't used it yet as a pressure cooker but it can be used that way also. The manual that comes with it gives you good directions and recipes for pressure cooking. I plan on trying that sometime soon. Should come in handy cooking meats since I eat low carbs now, and meat and salads are the main focus of my meals.

I bought two of the Presto Pressure Canner Regulators to use on my new canner and my older Presto canner. That way I have been able to convert the pressure canner from the gauged model to a weighted model. I didn't know you could do this until I read the reviews on Amazon written by others who had done this. It turned out to work great! Made canning so much easier. I don't have to spend my time monkeying with the flame on the stove to keep the pressure at 10 lbs. The regulator has two rings that add 5 psi each. So I removed one ring and the canner stayed at 10 psi.  I was able to look at the dial gauge and it was consistently on the 10 psi. I never leave my kitchen when the canner is going, but this time I did feel safe enough to go into another room for a few minutes since I could hear the regulator.

Canning is my favorite homesteading chore next to gardening. Now with two canners I can process a good amount of food. I will be planting double the amount of vegetables this year as I have made a vow to get away from buying as much grocery store food as I can. Looking forward to a full pantry going into the winter! 

Copyright © 2010  Kathleen G. Lupole

Monday, March 29, 2010

Vitamin C Plentiful In White Pine Needle Tea

My husband has been sick the last few days. He had a hard cold. Knowing he is not one to catch colds or get sick very often I thought I better do something to help him recover as quickly as possible. I harvested some white pine needles the other morning. The other side of our horses' paddock is a field that has quite a few young white pine trees. Patches, my cat walked down there with me and it was so beautiful and peaceful in the early morning hours. I could smell the pine trees before I even started picking. The birds were singing and it was so quiet except for them.

I picked a basket full and brought them back and rinsed them off. I put a handful in a pan and covered it with water and brought the needles and the branch they were growing on to a boil and then turned it down and let them simmer for about twenty minutes. The house smelled like pine! Love that smell!!!

I put a green tea bag in a cup and covered it with the boiling pine needle tea and let it steep a little bit. Then you can add sugar or sweetener of your choice such as honey or stevia. I didn't use any in my cup. I made the tea throughout the day for my husband and he is already feeling better and hardly coughing at all. It worked very fast. The conifer trees are full of vitamin c and that is why it cured early settlers of Scurvy.

Hope you are having a nice spring. Our spring was pretty nice but has turned chilly and rainy. Though having rain in the spring is a good thing. Gets rid of the dirt and grim of the winter. Plus we need the rain to get our grass and plants turning green.

Copyright © 2010 Kathleen G. Lupole

Thursday, March 25, 2010

No Refrigeration Is No Problem!

Yesterday I bought 30 pounds of ground Angus fine beef and canned half of it yesterday and will do the rest this morning. I have been canning all our meat. We do not presently have refrigeration so this is the only way I can keep meat, fast foods and vegetables. I have been doing this for two years now and like it so much that even after I get our solar refrigeration I will continue. When you have meat frozen it does not have the flavor my canned meat has. I think after a period of time the flavor improves so much. Kind of like the fact that leftovers always taste better the next day. 

I can as much food as I possibly can. From my garden, my forest and even from the store. I do pretty good as we use it all up through the winter. This summer I am planning on canning like crazy. I will be buying as much as I can from local farmers, farmers' markets and even the grocery store before my garden starts producing. Living in New York state, my garden does not produce the foods I can till later in the summer. I am also going to be dehydrating berries, squash and broccoli this year. 

 When I can my meats I always can all the broth and juices too. So if I finish with the meat and there is any broth or juice left, I mix it together. Then reheat it and can that too. When I need broth for soups, stews or gravies I can use my own which is so much better than anything store bought. 

To save money I am cutting out even more processed foods and making my own. I had already cut out most of them but had a few left. Now I am going to be working on eliminating them also. Buy your own ingredients and mix them up in your kitchen. Give your family good substance that is made with love and caring hands and heart. The manufacturers do not know you or your family. They don't care about what their additives and chemicals do to you. They just want to make you buy it. 

Copyright © 2010  Kathleen G. Lupole

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Time Garden Planning

As I am planning my garden this year I am struck by how many people do not take the time to do this themselves. People will always comment to me about how great it is that I garden but they don't do it themselves. It makes no sense to me why all people do not do this. Once you have put it in, it does not take that much time. You can mulch it so the weeds won't be a big problem. The food is so much better grown in your own garden.

Look at what a head of lettuce cost in the grocery store or even a local farmer's market. Many people are getting premium prices at the farmer's markets and farm stands due to the fact that the food is fresh and mostly organic. Some can't be labeled organic due to government regulations but it is organic just the same. You can grow that food yourself. Instead of paying those prices, use that money to pay for the seeds and some hand tools. Find a local horse owner to buy some rich compost from. There you go!

I use raised beds that my husband built of out of boards and then we have some we built out of rocks and one with cinder blocks. The cinder block ones are really easy to do. Another way to build a raised bed super easy is to buy the bags of soil at WalMart or Lowes or wherever. Lay it on it's side so it is flat on the ground. Then cut a big square on the bag almost to the ends, but not quite, leave some room there. Plant your seeds or plants in it just like that. It is like a little raised bed. You can have it on your porch or deck or in the yard. Very simple.

The idea is to plant wherever you can. Who needs those big lawns? I laugh at those people......complaining about the price of food, or about how the food in the stores is so full of bad stuff or horrible tasting (Why can't you get a decent cucumber or tomato in a grocery store is beyond me! I quit buying tomatoes in stores long ago.). Containers are also another good idea. I use a few containers too. I put them around my yard or on my deck too. Lettuce is something I grow a lot of. Salad vegetables.

Since I follow a low carb food plan, I make sure to grow lots of low carb foods. I also have many berries growing here and they are a low carb fruit. It does not take much money to get started. Just a piece of dirt or a few pots of dirt and some seeds. I do not use a rototiller as we feel it is not good for our dirt or the air. Bad enough that my husband uses a chainsaw, though soon he is planning on upgrading to a crosscut saw for our firewood.

So pick up a few packets of seeds next time you are out. Buy dirt if you have to or find some in your yard. If you have a chemical put on your lawn....STOP doing that! Just think of your lawn as future food. You can grow a lot of food out there and save so much money if you learn to preserve it for winter. If you have children it is so good for them to learn the skill of gardening. Times are getting worse and worse.......the days of gardening can save your family's life, now............and in the future.

Copyright © 2010 Kathleen G. Lupole

Monday, March 15, 2010

Running Water On The Homestead

Hobo is trying to get a closer shot at my chickadees!

We have been seeing signs of an early spring here. Usually March is not a really nice month though this year it started out very nice. The last few days we have had some high winds. Even blew down a tree in our back yard that gave us some nice firewood. Still waiting for my first robin to show up. Our chickadees have been staying out in the woods more now, though this morning they were back on my deck. In the spring they move into the forest and the robins and other birds arrive from the trip down south to take over our yard and garden area. Our favorite time of the year is listening to them sing as they build their nests and care for their babies. My husband loves to wake up in the morning to their loud songs and listening to them sing again in the evening.

Someone recently sent me a message wanting to know how to prepare yourself for living off-the-grid without running water. For us, it was like we had gone on a vacation and since it was summer we adjusted ourselves to it gradually. At that time we brought in covered containers of water in from the well. They were on the floor in the kitchen and we used a dipper to dip them out. If we needed hot water I had to heat it on the propane cooking range that was in the house when we bought it. I have since replaced that stove.

The only way to adjust to not having running water in your house is to set up all the things in place to help it run smoothly without running water. Food grade water containers would be a good start. Several large stock pots that will sit on your stove so you can heat them. If you do not have a sink with drains it will be harder to wash the dishes. In the beginning I used two plastic dishpans on the table. Make sure your dishpans are the kind of plastic that can handle hot water.

Presently in our bathroom we have one of those water bottle things with a spout at the bottom, that sits on a wooden rack with a container on the floor under it to catch water dripped. You can use this to get water quickly in the bathroom or to wash your hands. Though you would have to put the water in a container and take it to the tub to do that due to the drain. Our bath tub has drains and that makes it easy to use for baths or showers. We can take showers with a pot of water sitting on the floor of the tub and pour the water over you. Or our summer option is warming six 2 liter soda bottles that sit out in the sun all day. Nice and warm in the afternoon and just right for a shower. Building a outside shower would be a nice addition to any homestead.

As far as, running is not running water. The only way you can have that is if you bring it into your house as far as the plumbing is concerned. I am used to living without now, and could live like this the rest of my life if I had to.....but hopefully we will have running water within the next year or so. You will remember it often if you cannot handle carrying pails of water in. One thing it will do is teach you real fast how to conserve water. We are very conservative of our water consumption. I plan on staying that way even after I have it in my house.

Hope this helps a bit. I have written past blogs about other ways in which water use is affected on the homestead. Here is a link to one of my Face Book friends who built an awesome outside shower: Outside Shower Check it out and it has nothing to do with selling anything. A homesteader with a great idea and building skills. 

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

March Is Here At Last!!

My son Jeffrey going to get the mail.

I have had so many things going on lately that I had trouble getting back here. I am currently working on an article for this blog that was requested by one of my readers and friends. I will be writing about living without running water when you have been used to having it all your life. It is almost done and then I will post it for your information. If you have any concerns you think I can write about for you please contact me and I will be more than happy to share my knowledge or if it is not something I have experience with I will research it for you.

I am in the process of working on getting things finished up in the house looking forward to starting my seeds soon. Looking forward to fresh air and sunshine! I have been cooped up in here most of the winter due to my knees being really bad. They seem to be getting much worse and some days I can barely walk. I think the warmer weather makes a big difference.

We have received quite a bit of snow and our yard is full of snow drifts and piles. Luckily my son, Jeffrey is living with us again and he has been a big help. Shoveling snow is a very hard job and my husband usually does it all. He laughs at me if I offer to help since I can hardly walk. As I said in the last post, I am in the process of automating our homestead. But I am also trying to make our jobs easier. I know many people contact me and they love the fact that we live off-the-grid and self-sufficient.....but it has not been easy. Maybe if we had started it earlier in life.

Carrying water in is not that hard if you are in good health and have no problems. My husband has a crushed right elbow and his shoulders and knee all give him trouble. As you age those things are bound to happen. I, of course, have knee problems and that is about it for me for now. So then carrying the water in is not so much fun then. Our goal is to get the water brought in the house this summer.

The electric is no big deal. But I am not presently using a refrigerator. That is something I really miss. I want the SunDanzer refrigerator and freezer units. They will make life a little bit easier for us.....especially for me. I think if I was younger it'd be easier. The smart thing is to get these things put in your house before you get older so it never is that hard to live. You can still be self-sufficient and provide your own electric but have enough panels or wind power to run your refrigeration units.

When you plan your garden this year, it is well and good to put in new plants that you have never had or didn't eat much and want to try.....but don't devote much space to them until you are sure your family and you want to eat them. I like to keep one small bed for new plants to test and then if we like them next year we will invest more space on them. I plan to add a flower bed and borders this year in my front yard if my knees will cooperate. I shall see on that.

Have a nice March day....spring is on the way!