Wednesday, March 25, 2015

recycled , reused, and repurposed; projects on the homestead

Having fun making some improvements inside and out this  past week :) Our new hoop house is done! My folks were here to visit last week and helped put the plastic on.
 If you are interested in how to make your own hoop house be sure to check my next blog post! I will have a basic how to on how you can build your own!

Most everything in our home is second hand or recycled. Not only because we cant really afford new but because I find a total thrill in buying something used for a fraction of the cost(who doesn't love that rush! haha), and knowing that I am treading lighter on the earth buy reusing something is important to us.

Our hoop house is made with almost all recycled materials. The base and the plastic are the only two things we bought new.

RECYCLED items include:
wood for framing on walls, rustic wood on the outside, those super duper cool camper windows, the pvc conduit piping, the door... oh and those gorgeous gold ceramic pots ;)

I was also able to spruce things up inside the house ! I went shopping with my mom, and ya know when you go shopping with your mom, you naturally go to the thrift store and buy a light pistachio green retro couch ;) Got it for a steal and its in amazing condition!
My living room is quite dark ( I love earth tones,, browns etc, maybe a little too much,) so brining some color into the room and brightening it up was a great idea.....

The bluebird curtains are made from Old/Recycled sheets I scored at the goodwill. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them, I thought maybe some clothes for my little one. My mom mentioned that curtains would look cute, and she was right ;) I finished them up yesterday and they turned out lovely.
Stay tuned for the "How to build your own recycled hoophouse " blog.. I will need my husband to sit down and blog with me...
Hopefully we can find time in the next couple days to sit down and get that done..


The Cools

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Spring Awakening

I do believe spring is officially here ( and hope I don't kick myself for sayin so)! . Mother earth is waking from a long winters nap. The Maples are finally blooming( about 3 weeks behind last years bloom time) and its a big relief for us as beekeepers, because it's the first real source of pollen for our bees!
daffs are up and ready to bloom, early spring perenniasl are popping through the soil, garlic is taking off and our Hens are laying like crazy..

I am hoping you are seeing signs of bring in your neck of the woods!!

The Cool Family

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

3 More Solar Panels and other homestead projects.

After 3 rounds of snow, sleet and Ice, we finally had a break in the weather yesterday. I have been having My normal "spring is coming and there is so much to do and none of it is done" anxiety,,haha
Usually around this time I am constantly chattering about everything that needs done, and my wonderful husband ( being a mild mannered fella') usually nods and listens,, knowing that this is my normal behavior this time of year.. ;)

Right now the list of things to get done is pretty much endless,( don't get me started)

It felt SO good to be outside yesterday. It was about 60 degrees and partly sunny.. a perfect day to get our Solar stand built! We bought 3 additional panels about 3 or 4 months ago, but time, money and weather prevented us from getting it built, ( if its not one factor its another , sure y'all know how that goes).
So with all variables in our favor, we got it built! This is going to help our  energy situation immensely. Right now we have 1440 watts of solar., This would in fact be plenty if we didn't live in a holler. We are down in, surrounded by some very tall mountain ridges, so sun is not in great abundance here. These 3 additional panels should really help us in winter especially! we are adding 3  more 240 watt panels.

While Robb worked on the Solar stand and my waddle fence ( which is almost done. pictures soon!). I spent the day, planting spinach , getting the pea trellis up , planting peas, made a stepping stone, transplanted some kale, did some more seeding .and finished of the day with baking a homemade apple pie ..

Hoping to get the gardens tilled up next week, weed barrier down and some fruit trees transplanted before they bud! Chicken tractor still needs finished for the meat birds as well..
The Forecast looks pretty nice after the rain clears out in the next couple days, So I feel like we will be right on schedule!

Everyone enjoyed the sun and weather,  kids n critters included ;) ( and the bees, oh yes they were out BIG time , just didn't get a pic but trust me they are happy to be out as well :)

The Cool Family

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Snow, Ice, and the aftermath of Backwoods living

So, we did get some snow on Monday! It was not near the foot of snow they were calling for but we did end up with about 5" of the white stuff followed by icepellets falling from the sky for about 4 hours....
We spent Monday  hiking, baking, eating, and staying warm.... It was a lovely day!

Now.. we deal with the aftermath

I realize to some 5" of snow and ice doesn't qualify as snow storm ( we know we know that you northerners get like 10 feet haha)
But with where we live, 5" of snow, covering a thick layer of ice can be crippling here.

the first 12 miles, in and direction of our commute is narrow( sometimes single lane) windy , rugged( depending on which you way go, some are worse than others) dirt/gravel road...

Could I leave in this weather? maybe, but its an awful idea, especially with a kid in the car.....

No guardrails , just big ol drop off into the forest or the creek should your car decide to slide, and there is no turning around which can pose a problem, not to mention not a single person around( especially when its like this), trees in the road,, and yeah..... you get stuck, you are pretty much screwed..
There is NO cell service here for about 40 minutes, ( we dont own one)so you cant call anyone either,,...

This is JUST to get to a paved road. this is 2 days after getting 5" of snow......

My commute , to get Norah to school, or to go to town is : 12 miles of gravel to get out of the national forest, then 4 miles to get to a crossroads, this crossroads is our "town" it has a gas station, post office and a small mountain  school of 300 k-8th grade
Then to get to a small town with a grocery I drive another 10 miles
Total travel time : about 40-45 minutes to get her to school and about and  hour to town.

so now we deal with the aftermath, which will go as follows
frozen ice roads , slush, and then the worst part.........MUD .......

Not sure we are leaving this week at all,, the temps are going below 0 again tonight so the road is going to stay a sheet of snow covered ice.. and they don't plow here,, unless the forest service contracts someone out and that takes about a week before anyone shows up.

Hope everyone is staying warm,, after this arctic blast, I best see some daffs popping out of the ground :) Ive got peas to get in the ground too , along with apple trees to move as soon as we thaw out!
for Now Im thinking like a Chicken,, I'm staying in ;)


The Cools

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Garden Fence Update


My husband has been working so hard in allll his spare time >insert sarcasm here< to get my fence done for me In my Back Gardens..
Its getting there! He spent most the day Sunday working on it... I am making the stepping stones and have so many more to make.. I am using a mold and can only make one at a time,, so its slow going..  but hope to have a majority of them done in the next month. Then we will had mulch in the walkways..
I have quite a few different garden spots, but this one is going to take the cake. I cant wait to see it bursting at the seams with veggies ,flowers and pollinators ..

Ill be sure and post a picture this Spring!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Very Sweet Saturday ( and Sunday)

Better late than never.... a look back at last weekend, took me a bit to get this post done.. ;)


Spent a wonderful  day with my little. The morning was occupied with baking homemade cinnamon rolls. The afternoon brought a hike to the creek behind our home., Exploring, Climbing and playing...
a sweet Saturday indeed..................
and( since last typing this post) another Hike On Sunday in our big back yard..

 Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
 2 Packages Active Dry yeast
 1 Tbsp Sugar
 1/2 cup Butter
 1 tbsp. salt
7 Cups Flour
1 cup warm water
1 cup scalded Milk
 1/2 cup sugar
 4 eggs well beaten

 Dissolve Yeast in water and 1 tbsp. of Sugar. Scald Milk and then Add 1/2 cup of sugar, salt an butter. Cool  to Lukewarm. Add 2 cups Flour and mix well. Then add the Yeas mixture and eggs, stir well. Add enough flour to knead and make a stiff dough ( I ended up adding about 8 cups, not 7 before it wasn't sticky, so just add flour slowly) Knead on floured surface until no longer sticky. Place in well greased bowl. turn to grease top, cover and let rise until double.

divide dough into 2 and roll out into oblong pieces ( like you would for a jelly roll),, brush with melted butter, and "sprinkle "( or pile on haha) brown sugar and cinnamon.. Roll up and cut into 1" slices. place on well greased cookie sheet and let rise until double.. Bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes..
Drizzle with powered sugar frosting............
This recipe made 25 Rolls, which I thought was maybe too many.. I was wrong! Hubby and Norah gobbled them up!

The Cools

Friday, January 23, 2015

Pressure Canning On your Wood Cookstove

So Ive been Pressure canning ( and water bath canning) our garden harvest for near 7 years now, about the same amount of time I have been cooking and baking with our wood cookstove. So you think I would be totally comfortable Pressure canning on my wood cookstove, right?? wrong.

Any body who has or is learning about pressure canning knows that it can be extremely dangerous. I mean you are essentially building up steam in a large pot, letting little bits come out at a time.. to much pressure and *BOOM ( not sure that's the sound it what make, haha but you get my drift) you could have an exploding canner.

In the winter I do all of my baking ( its actually our only way to bake) and stove top cooking on the woodcookstove. But if I have something to pressure can I use my propane top stove.
Well awhile back our propane stove top ran out of propane and we just haven't gotten around to filling it back up. which why the hurry, we don't use it much anyway..
Until yesterday, when I realized I had boiled down some bones from a chicken and had stock to can.

I have often thought about what if.. what if something happened and their was a gas shortage? would I be able to preserve our  food without propane or gas?

That question was answered today and the answer is YES! Successful pressure canning session on the wood cookstove... and I am going to share with ya'll just how I did it

PLEASE NOTE: if you are not familiar with pressure canning or wood stove cooking, I suggest you try these things separately for awhile before attempting this. This IS or atleast CAN BE dangerous and you should have some experience under your belt first.....


so Basically, when you get your stove or if you already have one and know your stove, you know that there are Hot spots and cool spots on your stove top. Obviously the hot spot would be right above where the fire is blazing.
My stove has a fire box on one side and then an oven on the other,, anything I have ever needed to boil goes over the fire and then if I need it to simmer just slide it over as needed, the further you push it over/away from the fire the cooler it usually is.

If I am trying to bring something to a boil ( in this case the water in the canner) I usually open up the firebox door and take a quick look to see where the fire is biggest.. then move the canner accordingly, placing it directly over the first.

                canner before I added the weight, you can see its almost directly over the eye and firebox


So basically, I placed the water directly over the fire.. I had a good fire roaring ... one mistake I did make,, or one thing I could have done differently, was take the eye ( the metal circle you see on the stove top is removable so you can set your pot directly on the fire) off, my water probably would have boiled a lot faster.
I let the canner exhaust steam for 10 minutes
I then ( this is where it gets tricky) Placed the weight on the canner .( I have a weighted gauge canner)
Once the weight started rocking,, I moved it over about half way,between the firebox and the was still rocking pretty fast,,(you want a slow and steady rocking motion) so I moved it so I was about 3/4 of the way over ( near the oven)...

So here you see I have it about in the middle,, I ended up moving it over to the right about another 2 inches and that seemed to be the perfect spot for a gentle rocking motion.. if I felt it was slowing down , I would slowwwly move it back over an inch,, etc..

REMEMBER if the weight stops rocking,, that's ok, you just have to start you "time" over, but you DO NOT want it rocking like crazy,, that makes me nervous and should make you nervous too,,lol
once I had a steady rocking motion I only had to move the canner a couple times, and only like 2" to the left or 2" to the right depending....
I choked the fire off to keep a steady burn..

and that's it,, that's how I did it !
again, I am not sure this helps,, but for anyone that is familiar with cooking with wood, I can tell you  if you are confident in your woodstove cooking abilities this will be a BREEZE!

For those of you who haven't cooked on wood,, and want to can with it,, start with less explosive things like soups etc,, haha
LEARN your stove ( as they are all different) , then maybe pressure can on a regular stove for awhile
Then once you feel comfortable with both, maybe you are ready to give it a try!

Any questions?? you can ask them here and I will be glad to help!!