Archive for January, 2009

Basic Female Survival

Originally published by emphelan

Sorry boys, I need to talk with the girls today. You men have all kinds of reference material to surf if you want to learn the basic. However the woman out there, after a detailed Internet search, have very few except for forums.

When it comes to woman and survival we are not talking about burying guns and merely storing food. Your basic homesteading skills prepare you for all that. And we are not talking TEOTWAWKI survival either. This is basic female readiness.

Self defense is something I can not spout enough of, learning how to use knives and guns are a great step for any woman. By now you should all know the whole “Don’t let them take you to the second location” spiel. That would be the going limp, the screaming FIRE and every dirty trick you can think of to get rid of your attacker.

But guns and knives are also important for other things, hunting is were my mind first wonders. Knives can be so useful in just about any situation. They can be substitutes for scissors, to spread things, used as a screwdriver, marking paths, and all your other basic knife uses, like scraping, skinning, killing, and jabbing.

One subject that doesn’t come up very often is menses. There are many practical items that are non-disposable that you can purchase before hand. However there might be a time that you will not have those items on hand. Of course rags are the basic of it all. Your knife will now become a big help by cutting up something to use. You want to keep yourself very clean in survival mood. If you are lucky enough to find yourself near running water, take advantage of it to clean yourself and your rags. You do not want to call attention to yourself by leaving the smell around for animals to find. I know it seems like common sense, but have you ever been inside a female locker room? Some of you are nasty! That is not a habit you want to hold onto if you find yourself in the wilderness. Hygiene is also important when it comes to being female, it isn’t about looking good as much as it about keeping infection away. Some of these infection, if untreated, could be deadly.

KEEP YOUR LEGS CLOSED! Another common sense suggestion. However you will find yourself in situations were men will be able to give you something in return for your favor. Pregnancy and STD’s are not something you will want to deal with while in survivalist mood. (we will talk about pregnancy on a later post) The wilderness will find a lack of men wanting to barter, towns however you will find plenty. Female wiles can go a long way if you know how to use them and how to get out of sticky situations. The best bet is to just stay out of those situations and carry a knife.

When it comes down to it, all the basic survival needs are covered for both male and female, however my best advice to you, is to learn knife skills. These can be practiced while you prepare dinner. Be aware of your surroundings, be cautious, find a buddy if you can, keep things clean and simple, and you should be just fine.

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Meadowlarkgurl‘s Question: What do you know about bathing with water heated over the stove?  I’m thinking about options for bathrooms that don’t really require much in the way of plumbing.

Monica’s Answer: Interesting question. Off the top of my head I don’t know anyone that has to heat water for their bath on a stove so I can’t direct you to a specific person/place for more info. I have a few thoughts though.  First, are you trying to build on the cheap? Not trying to be negative sounding but some people (myself included) pay with cash most of the
time and so you put in what you need as you can living without until you can afford it. If that is the reason I would try to pre plan the eventuality that you might get really tired of heating and carrying water. By that I mean don’t pour a cement floor that will be quite a bit harder to change and add more plumbing later on. One house we owned was heated entirely by wood stove. A bit of a booger on a super cold snowy morning if it wasn’t banked properly…. over all not bad to deal with but we did get a summer time break. If we had had to do it everyday for years though I could see that we might have eventually wanted to figure out something a bit more convenient. Something to consider with your water situation. If you bath once a week it’s much easier. However if you have to bath everyday or have 8 kids….much more difficult.  Another thought is to install an outdoor shower with a home made or store bought solar collector so that part of the year is warm/hot showers with low or no work. Obviously you could also install the solar panelfor your indoor bathroom and when you have hot water..yippee. ..and when you don’t… you heat and carry. There are plenty of low cost home made styles that sit on the ground or on your roof that you could easily build.  Lastly if I didn’t hit on any reason other than you want to do it….go for it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it at all and you may find a kind of zen quality in your bathing. We absolutely don’t take for granted having an “easier” way of heating our house now since we used the wood stove for those years. Besides being rather proud of ourselves for being so “basic” we are now much more aware of consumption and using heat wisely since we realize how much it took physically and environmentally to do the job.

Robbyn’s Answer: don’t have experience with this, but this family does and might be able to help with advice… they are completely off-grid: Living Off Grid at Eclectic Culture Farm.

Tansy’s Answer: we have had to do this when our water heater broke. we have several large stock pots…we just fill them with water, cover them and put them on a hot stove until they are steamy. then, we lugged them upstairs to the bathroom, ran cold water and added hot to warm it.

Shasha at simplicity first just purchased an Amish home and has been there for 3 weeks now. she has written a little about this i believe. she, however, is lugging ALL her water since she has no running water in the house at this point.

Nita’s Answer: I’m going to echo Monica.  Just make sure this is how you really want to be bathing in ten years.  Packing water gets old, because water is heavy.  Our water is heated in our wood furnace before going into an electric hot water heater.  Our house is old and the plumbing is very simple.  We like the system and haven’t wanted to make any improvements to it.  Just maintenance.  In the off season, when it is too hot to have a fire just for hot water purposes, the water is heated with electricity.  Wood cutting is hard work too, and we see no sense in burning wood during the summer.  Our system is called a thermal siphon.  Our water is gravity flow, requiring no electricity for pumping.  A solar panel could also be plumbed into our type of system, bypassing the need for electricity.  All that being said, if your family is on the same page as you with packing and heating water, it is a great idea!

Have a question for our panel?  Email it to mtkatiecakes@yahoo.com and we’ll do our best to answer it!

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better than brawny

around here, we don’t have too many paper products. in fact, the only paper product you’ll find is toilet paper and even then, part of the household uses cloth wipes for that as well.

i make two sizes of wipes for our general use (in addition to chinese prefolds which rock the world for absorbing spills like there’s no tomorrow). i make 11 x11 for general wipes…runny noses, dirty hands, to clean eggs off with, wipe up watercolor paint spills, etc. and, i make 5 x 5 for the controversial toilet paper replacement.

to make both, i use old flannel sheets. these can be picked up cheaply at thrift stores and garage sales for very reasonable prices and they come in a large variety of colors and designs. i prefer white or light colors, not sure why but that’s what i have so that’s what i use.dscn3458

to make them, first cut your sheet into strips…the strips should be about 1/2″ larger than you want the finished size to be so for the large wipes, i cut 11 1/2″ and for the small wipes i cut 5 1/2″.  there really is no hard and fast on this, just make sure you give yourself a seam allowance for each edge. 1/4″ usually does it for me because i only fold them over once. if you want to completely hide your edges, you’ll want to allow at least 1/2″ for each side. i find this to be a tedious and unnecessary step to completely hide the edges so i don’t.dscn3466

next, cut those strips into squares.dscn3476

now, you’re ready to begin sewing. i set the machine to zig zag stitch since i don’t own a serger. i first fold over the edge of the last side i’ll be sewing and then fold over the edge of the first side i’ll be sewing to create the corner. this part i place under the sewing machine foot. dscn3482

then, i sew down the side, folding over the edge before i get to the end to turn the fabric and sew the next side. dscn3483

once i’ve gone all the way around, i finish off the stitches by reversing it for a few and then, viola! one wipe is finished.dscn34841

i used to be fun and sew different colors on the edges but now, i use whatever is in the machine. this time it happened to be a mix of green and brown. dscn3485

i stash all of these in a rectangular basket i found at the thrift shop. it keeps them all neatly in place and hides them from unsuspecting guests who would freak at the thought of using a reusable wipe. i keep a thunder mug beside one toilet to stash the used ones in and a trash can style basket with a plastic liner next to the other toilet, discretely out of site from guests.dscn3489

dscn3490i generally wash these in with the diapers. now that my last one is mostly potty trained, the diapers are used to wipe up messes. i wash them in hot water and use vinegar instead of fabric softener. i also have one of those ‘wonder clean pressure washers‘ that can be purchased from lehman’s. if i need to just wash the wipes, i can do so in there. once we stop using diapers all together, i’ll be washing them all the toilet wipes like that (the general purpose wipes can usually be thrown in with the napkins).

to dry them, i simply shake each one out and stack them all up into a huge stack. in the summer or warmer days, i hang them one the line using a single clothespin to hold up about 7 at a time. in the winter, i lay those stacks on a drying rack behind the wood stove to dry. dscn3457once a season or so, i will soak these in a sink with oxyclean to brighten them up a bit and remove any funk that might have settled in to them. otherwise, no special treatment is needed.

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Back in my college days, when I was married (to my first husband), we had a big wedding, and a series of wonderful wedding showers.  It seems like the most popular gift items that popped up were numerous casserole dishes and…crockpots.  I don’t remember just how many crockpots we were given to us, but I do remember the number of items we chose to take to the Returns counter at Wal-Mart was sizeable.  I couldn’t conceive of using more than one CrockPot, or multiples of any other plug-in kitchen appliance, at that point.

I also could not conceive of actually using  sherbet glasses, and  a six-piece set of them was there in our cart amidst the duplicate crockpots, as we stood in the very slow line at the Returns counter, waiting our turn.  I felt sort of bad about the sherbet glasses…they had been given to us by one of my best guy friends, who had gone to some trouble to pick them out, and I remembered the look on his face when we opened the gift…like we had just been given a rare treasure. 

He’s the sort of best friend you could go to the symphony with, go hiking with and knew all the types of trees by their leaves and bark, who knew all the composers and numbers of movements, who could speak and write in several different languages, who knew the names of wines and the capitols of all the countries of the world.  Who liked fine art, too.  And obviously iced desserts.  Who knew how to pronounce Sherbet without an R, unlike my childhood when we thought it was Sherbert, wherein our Great Uncle Herbert forever got the nickname Uncle Sherbert. 

But I digress…

It was at the point of ruminating about my friend, his selection of these tasteful sherbet glasses, and how to never EVER divulge to him that I was trading them in for something more useful, that I happened to mention to my husband how awful it would be if we ran into anyone who had actually given us any of these Return items.  Especially Sherbet Glass Friend.   We were hoping to essentially trade some things we knew we did not need for a couple sets of nice sheets and other items we could get with store credit.  We both chuckled at how awkward it would be if such a scenario unfolded, especially if You-Know-Who happened to see us standing in this line just now.    Wal-Mart, after all, was one of  his favorite haunts.

No sooner had those words left my mouth, than I heard my name being called…only feet behind me…from the store entrance.

Oh Yes.  It WAS.    It was Sherbet Glass Guy.   And his fiancee.

In the seconds it took me to grasp the situation, I tried to position myself to bar our return items from easy view.  Of course, the sherbet glass set was right on top.  I tried a friendly innocuous “heya!” greeting, but Sherbet Glass Guy, being the close friend that he was, and pathologically curious about all things Newlywed, came over to peer into our basket.

Yep.  I remember it to this day.  Every time I walk into a Wal-Mart, which thankfully is not that much any more.

My sherbet glasses!!”  (said with a completely abject look of betrayal)

And my hopelessly lame attempt to explain, something along the lines of “They are so nice, but I’m not so sure we’ll really use them, so we…”

Interrupted by a withering “WELL.  I can tell you you don’t need to try exchanging them HERE.  I did NOT get them at Wal-Mart!”

Very awkward moment.  Totally busted in the  Customer Service line.  Yep.  And he wasn’t making it any easier.  He was acting like the sherbet glasses were crystal and had our names engraved on them.  For a moment I panicked, wondering if Martha Washington had once used them, if they were some Sotheby’s vintage find, if the Vanderbilts had once had an entire service of just this type of sherbet glass. 


But I did feel about two inches tall, and knowing me well enough, he knew that and was slightly enjoying it. 

(And has rubbed it in by reminding me of it ever since.  At which point I remind him of the time he left his goldfish bowl on top of his dorm radiator and forgot that they were turning the radiators on that day…but we won’t go there)

He drew himself up with wounded dignity, obviously upset and not a little insulted, and with his fiancee in tow angled toward another part of the store, and my husband and I breathed a huge sigh of…something.  We could not believe the irony.

And that’s how we continued to feel as we unexpectedly happened upon Sherbet Glass Friend and his fiancee multiple times ALL THROUGHOUT the store for the next hour.  There was just no hiding.

Thankfully, we returned all those Crockpots unscathed.

I’ve not yet had the need for those sherbet glasses in the past twenty-something years, but I have wished for some of those Crockpots back. 

No, I don’t do paid endorsements, blah blah blah.  Slow crockery cookers by any name are something I’ve found a new appreciation for as we are trying to simplify. 

They’re cheaper than using our oven.

Easy to clean.

They don’t need a lot of counter space.

And they make some great slow-cook foods, such as beans, chili, dips, soups, etc.

The actual crocks themselves can be used for recipes calling for ceramic or glass crocks, such as sauerkraut or other fermented things.

And so on and so on…I hardly need to list the obvious.  Crockpots are sort of an American standby, but mine had fallen out of use for many years.

Now that we’re doing more Slow Foods, I’ve discovered it’s actually time-consuming…it’s definately slow!  But slow can be good, if it’s mix and forget, and that’s where the ol’ crockpot has been dusted off and put back into service.

My favorites are the slow-cooked beans, roasting chicken, soups, cooking mixed veggies for fillings (think pot pie, etc), and sauces.  They perk along till they’re needed, and the leftover quantity can be frozen, etc, for other meals.  Paired with a quick-cook items such as rice, noodles, steamed veggies, etc, you can quickly assemble  a delicious slow-cooked meal…fast.

So slow-cooking has become our “fast food.”

My former cooking days used to incorporate processed foods a lot more…like Velveeta, cream-of-whatever soups, packets of dry onion soup mix.  It’s not so hard adapting to real foods instead of those with a lot of preservatives and chemicals when slow cooking, though.  It’s just a matter of adjusting in small ways and making it more familiar over time.

I’ve linked below to a recipe we tried recently that we enjoy, and that we’ll keep tweaking till it’s fully “ours.”  It’s from a great website I found recently called A Year of Crockpotting, and wish I had found sooner, from a blogger who cooked for one full year using only her crockpot.  There are so many resources online for ideas! 

Using our slow cooker has saved us a good deal of electricity that otherwise we’d be using heating an entire oven.  If for no other reason than that one alone, it was worth trying my hand again at utilizing this little kitchen tool…seeing as how I probably won’t have a wood stove to set a cast iron dutch oven on to simmer some fabulous country cooking on any time soon 😉

Here’s the link to the recipe we tried recently, Indian Butter Chicken (Chicken Mahkani)…we like Indian food a lot!  I substituted a pinch of cardamom for the pods, upped the quantity just a tad for most of the spices, and added a pinch of cumin and liberally garnished each serving with fresh chopped cilantro.  The recipe doesn’t call for salt, so be sure to add it to taste at the end…makes a difference.  We enjoyed ours with hot basmati rice…yum!

Of course you’ll want to finish things off with some sherbet. 

 In some very special sherbet glasses.  That of COURSE you can never exchange at Wal-Mart  (without years of guilt, at least)  😉

But nevermind…back to the cookin’ talk….

What’s your standby slow-cooker meal?  I’d like to further expand our crockpot recipe repertoire!

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Wild Kids

Originally published by Gina

The first “wild food” I remember foraging was Puffball mushroom. I found it while adventuring in the big woods by my parents’ lake home. I brought it home because I was amazed to find a mushroom the size of a soccer ball. One of our neighbors told us how to bread it, deep fry it, and my siblings and I ate it until we were sick.


Nowadays, I take my eldest son with me into the woods and I point out the edibles/medicinals. He knows not to just try anything he finds, but will proudly bring me dandelions and say, “Mommy, lets make dandelion jelly!” He’s had nettle tea, lamb’s quarter, chickweed, and wild plums he’s helped me gather.


He helps me find and collect wild raspberries and mulberries and shares in my excitement of discovering new plants in the woods or field. I teach him the cultural importance of both the natives and the exotic newcomers. He actually appreciates a lawn full of dandelions and will point them out to me as we are driving somewhere.


As part of this training I read him books aimed at young people on the topics of wild foraging, identification, survivalism, outdoor adventures, herbalism and gardening. However, it seems to me that there is a huge gap in books or written material aimed at children below Little House on the Prairie reading stage (he won’t sit still for that series yet). My son is a just-turned-six and reading is still slow and awkward. We look at pictures in my guidebooks (while I read the descriptions) and I plan on getting him some age-appropriate guide books eventually (we have a few already, but not one on edible or medicinal plants).


For me, I did not receive this training as a child even though my father surely must have known the importance of the edible and medicinal plants growing around him in the mountains. He never mentioned it, but I cannot imagine his mother or grandmother’s lives without imagining them foraging for wild flora. With eight children wandering about, someone must have shown them the difference between wild carrot and water hemlock. Like I said, my late father never mentioned it.


I want my sons to remember our time spent in nature, to be able to take their children into the woods and tell them how I showed them the difference between burdock and mayapple. I have hope they will automatically plant roses for medicinal or culinary reasons. I want them to know there is an intimacy between the herbaceous world and the human one. So much of what I know about foraging or the culture of plant use has been self-taught, squatting next to an unknown species and squinting through my guidebooks to find its identification. I am always mindful I could poison my family (or self) by a misidentification that I am sure I have missed some great wild foods. It certainly would have been so helpful to have been exposed to this as a child!


For now, my eldest and I stick to identifying and the uses of only the “easy” species: dandelion, nettles, mulberries, cattails, violets. We plant different species around the homestead and I tell them their major or minor uses. My main goal is to get him interested in learning more. Teach him to teach himself. Currently, with anticipation of warmer days, I am showing him through books and we are learning together.


Here are a few we are reading this winter:


  1. This is a new ‘zine geared towards children. I was the lucky guinea pig of a trial issue and both my son and I loved it! We read through it (and it is written with a slant towards children) fairly quickly. The games and stories are centered round a specific herb and have us eagerly waiting for spring to begin wild flora hunting. The first official issue just became available (Marshmallow!). (It also happens to be written by one of our writers here!)


  1. Golden Field Guide Series


  1. Peterson First Field Guides

The important thing, to me, is that children are sponges when it comes to learning. Exposing them now to the great outdoors will instill a connection that will not be severed into adulthood. Start your little naturalist out young and he or she will surely learn to love the time spent among the plants. They may even see dandelions as jelly instead of a weed that needs to be removed.

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Corn soup..and a sauce.

I don’t usually do recipes for my postings because I find that most people have differing tastes that just don’t seem to always match up with mine. However I am going to give you a recipe for a corn soup that is fabulous and very easy to make. At least in my opinion…. and a number of other people that have tried it and gone on to beg the recipe from me afterwards.

This is not only a great quick meal to serve with a salad, an excellent sauce for meat with just a bit of tweaking, but also a perfect soup for those days your sick with a cold, don’t really feel like cooking, but would love a bowl of hot steamy soup to relax with. I know this because I have made it while sick and the mess ratio is low and it comes together quickly.

And as I mentioned above to make this even more versatile you can take this recipe, leaving out most of the broth ( I will use water and add boulin cubes to keep flavor but with less liquid) which will make it up thicker than soup, and use it as a fantastic corn sauce to serve over meat. We make it specifically to serve over pounded out chicken meat (usually breasts) that I roll with cheese inside and wrap in pastry. Bake chicken pastries first then cover with sauce at table. Yum! If you decide to try this recipe as a sauce over the chicken pastries try it with differing cheeses for stuffing the chicken. We use/have used: Monterey Jack with and without jalapeños, cheddar (sharp of course) and Parmesan or Romano sprinkled on or mixed in with some of the others.

Anyway originally the recipe came from a magazine called GUSTO! which was a fabulous Latin American magazine in Spanish and English that just didn’t seem to make it to my sorrow. And though I am giving them recognition for printing it I am not going to post the original recipe because well..that is not how I use it. However I think my version is just as good as theirs so….enjoy! * All measurements can be changed to suit your taste*

Take a bit of butter and saute about a ½ cup chopped onion and one clove minced garlic until tender.

After they are tender place the onion/garlic mix along with 2 cups fresh corn kernels and ½ cup evaporated milk (fat free or not…your choice) and a tablespoon or two of cornstarch into a blender or food processor. Process until mixture is smooth. After mix is at least fairly smooth (sometimes I leave the corn “lumpier” than other times) place this mix into a saucepan along with (2) 15 ounce cans of chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and stir in ¼ cup Neufchatel (that’s the reduce fat version of cream cheese). Add salt and pepper to taste and then…….. spice it up with some chiles! You can use fresh chopped that have had skins burned/steamed and then removed or like me you can cheat and use powdered. For this recipe I usually use Ancho powder but it is equally good with Chipotle chile powder or even just cayenne if that is all you have.

Now to do it for the sauce just make up your own broth with cubes, which is how I usually do it anyway, but do a ratio of about 1/3 to 1/2 cup water with enough cube to make a full cup (or even a bit more cube) so that the flavor won’t get lost under the condensed milk and cream cheese. Starting with less and adding more cube is the way I recommend because I just am not 100% sure on the ratio. I am a cook “by the seat of my pants” person so I taste and adjust, taste and adjust, until I get it right for me.

As always… good luck, have fun and enjoy!

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For many of us, choosing the not “normal” path time is short.  We are busy folks, with long to-do lists and even longer lists of projects we hope to tackle.  Its imperative that we maximize our time while not allowing ourselves time to play and relax too.  Time management, is one of those things, that varies for each person and what works for Sandy might not work for Jill and vice versa.  However, there are few things that most anyone can implement in their own fashion to make life run more smoothly so that more projects can be tackled.

  • Project Notebook/Calendar/Planner/Blackberry – Some sort of time management system is extremely helpful.  This varies for every person, but having one place that keeps track of every appointment, errands, to-do lists, shopping lists, birthdays, holidays, etc. is essential.  Knowing that you have one notebook or calendar to consult at the beginning of each day instead of hunting in three different places as well as the calender on the refrigerator and daughter Karen’s desk calender too, will make life much easier.  Make that planner or notebook your life line.  Take it with you every where you go and keep everything in it.  It make take a little while to make this routine, but in the end it will take less time to figure out your day, week, month, year.  Mark things like first and last frost dates, birthdays, keep a section for to-do lists, grocery lists, and everything else that you need.  You can buy calendar pages or print them out for free.
  • Everything has a place and everything in its place –Just like grandma always said.  Its much easier to keep things put away in their proper place, than it is to hunt for them later.  When you’re done using something put it back in the same place every time.  Make it a habit and you’ll never have to hunt for something for minutes or hours on end again.  Train other family members to do the same, by instituting a fine system when something’s not put back correctly.  The fine can be as little as a nickel or dime for each item misplaced, that money is then used for date night for mom & dad.   Or a massage for mom…
  • Idle hands are the devil’s playground – You should absolutely plan time for rest, but also remember that its okay to watch a movie and do some knitting or embroidery at the same time if you so desire.
  • Keep a meal plan – It’s okay to change your meal plan if you desire or something comes up.  However, having something written down each week will save you time and money, because there’s never any doubt.  The meal plan will also alert you to things that need done, like taking the chicken out of the freezer, or making rice.
  • Make time for fun & rest –Be sure you manage your time to include fun and rest.  Without some time to de-stress and have some fun, little else will get accomplished because you’ll be too burned out.
  • Be realistic –When you’re planning your days, be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day.  If you’ve got two toddlers in diapers, you’re probably unlikely to accomplish as much as the person with no children.  Don’t expect yourself too, either.  Set your days around what is doable without stress and learn to be okay with that.  As your life changes and grows you may find you can fit in more or less, learn to accept yourself and your life as it is.  In the end, this will help you more than most any other time management tip.

What’s your best time management tip? What advice would you give someone struggling to manage the details of daily life and still have time to enjoy life?

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originally published by emphelan

Birthday parties on the homestead never have to be boring events. With three friendly boys, we are always getting invitations to the town kids parties. The host usually has those ginormous blow up slides or moonwalks, or they have parties in restaurants or stores that cater to such events. I say bah humbug to all that. If you have the money and it is what your child really wants, than it’s all good. But the town kids seem to get a real kick out of a little party on the prairie.

The first step in planing a party is asking your child. I know this seems like common sense, but you would be surprised at how many parents don’t actually do this. Your child will give you a slew of odd sounding themes. Take one and run.

We have decorated the house to look like we were under the sea, in a snow storm, and tracking dinosaurs. Some paper, scissors, crayons and tape can go a long way. Using things you already have on hand to entertain, isn’t just frugal, it is brilliant. For my middle son’s last birthday we had a cowboy theme, horse rides, bb gun shoot out, campfire food and chicken races. The races were a huge hit. I gave each child a hen, some where freaked out at first, but soon got over that, and lined them up. Then I would stand about 10 feet from them and yelled go. The first kid with the hen to go past me would win. This was the best free entertainment that I or any of the other adults have ever witnessed. The kids and their birds were running all over the yard, just trying to get to me.

One year my oldest wanted a Fear Factor style party. ( I would love to show you photos, but as I am no longer a paid member of Flickr, I can’t retrieve them) I had all the boys gagging or throwing up. And yes, that did make me rather proud. Here is what I wrote about that on a personal journal.

I set a plate in front of them, placing their hands in the “food”. I told them that it was worms in dirt. As soon as I yelled go! The boys started shoveling the worms in their mouths. A moment later one of the boys had to go throw up. 2 boys gave up and the 4th had so much in his mouth the he couldn’t chew. We told the 4th that he won because he was the only one not to spit it out. He was relived when I told him that he could spit it out now. {The worms in dirt was really Ramen noodles, chopped walnuts and maple syrup}”

Next we tied their hands behind their backs. I brought out the chicken poop. Using only their faces, they had to dig through the poop and find the worm. One child said no, he wasn’t going to do it. My son had a hard time at it. But one child {the one that threw up first} dug in and found that worm. {he wanted to win}. There was a lot of gagging and almost vomits with that one, and all it was, was cottage cheese, capers and a gummy worm. We kept their hands tied as I brought out the goats brains. One boy informed us that it was scrambled eggs. I said it looks like that, doesn’t it? On your marks, get set, go! The boy that said it was scrambled eggs, took one bite, and threw up. The boy that threw up in the first game, threw up again. Another boy gagged, and my son took little bites. He won that round. {It was scrambled eggs, peanut butter and maple syrup} The last of the food games was warm buffalo urine. {Apple Juice}”

The frog theme is one that we seem to do most often. My middle son adores frogs. We hunt them, we hop like them, we eat flies (candy)
It’s the cakes that tend to give us the most trouble. Luckily I can bake and my husband isn’t a bad drawer.

A Child’s party on a homestead (weather urban or rural) can be frugal but full of fun. Remember;

1 ask the child
2 negotiate with said child if they want something slightly unreasonable
3 check the pantry for ways to gross out the children or just to entertain them
4 use what you have on hand to decorate and create (we have had the party guests help us create and decorate in the past)
5 enjoy your kid and his/her friends

There have been some themes in the past that I had to modify to fit the above. Costume parties, haunted houses, and pizza parties were the results.

And just because your a grown up doesn’t mean you can’t throw yourself one of these theme parties. You should see what we do for my husband’s day.

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Originally published by Howling Hill

Chicken But 2008

Last month WNDiN asked our readers what you’d like to see more posts on. One of the requests was for more information on chickens. I’m going to address this topic from my limited knowledge base.

First off, let me remind everyone that although Howling Hill is in a rural area of New Hampshire, we own but an acre of land. The majority of the acre is on the side of a hill so it’s unbuildable. Thus, we have limited space here. Howling Hill is surrounded by trees, predominately pine, and is heavily wooded so lots of wildlife live amongst us though mostly unseen. What I do see is tracks in the mud and snow. If it’s dry out there usually isn’t any evidence of animal life unless I see with my eyes. Generally mammals steer clear of the open space of my yard no matter how small that open space is. For example, in the four years I’ve lived here I’ve seen exactly one deer, one bear, and one fox. I have never seen a moose in the yard though I did see moose tracks in the driveway about a week after we moved here.

Despite really, really wanting chickens I was afraid they’d be a ton of work. Chickens are not. What I found is they are largely self-sufficient. I would let them out of their house in the morning and they’d put themselves to bed at dusk so all I had to do was close the coop door. Wolf built a chicken coop for the four chickens we had. We found the coop was bigger than what the four need so easily another four can be housed in the same coop. The wood Wolf used was from his work but I’ll let you read his words regarding the materials.

We got chicken feed and scratch at the feed store in Bristol though it wasn’t a lot of money. I think maybe $50. The feed went into a plastic bucket in the house and the scratch in a metal trash barrel outside. The bear tried the scratch but s/he must not have liked it because it’s still there.

The chickens we got were a cross between New Hampshire Red, Rhode Island Red, and Cinnamon but don’t quote me on that. Basically we got birds which were good meat birds and layers. All laid brown eggs. The reason we chose this breed is because they do well in the cold New Hampshire winter. It doesn’t seem to matter though, we culled them before the fall even set in. But I’ll get to that in a minute. My point is this: choose a bird for your needs. If you’re vegetarian and don’t plan to eat your birds get ones which are better at laying than at providing meat. If you want dual-purpose birds but don’t want to have them over the winter then get a chicken which will fatten quickly and lay good eggs.

Chicken 2008

Chickens need a red comb and waddle before they can produce eggs. Think of it like this: A girl won’t get her period until her pubic hair and underarm hair comes in. Same with the chickens. They won’t lay until their combs and waddles get big and red. Bright, bright red. You’ll know when they’re getting ready to lay because they will stamp their feet then squat which opens up their egg canal (vagina?). This is their way of inviting the rooster to service them. I found the Chicken Ladies doing this all the time, especially when I first let them out of the coop in the morning, so I put my hands on their back end and pushed down a little bit while simultaneously shaking their butts. I was firm but gentle when I did this and I found each of them would come to me looking for a little lovin’. They also looked to Wolf for this and he would service them also.

Our chickens mostly laid in the morning. Wolf picked up a couple fake eggs to put in the box to trigger their instincts and it totally worked. We found one chicken, Buffalo, picked up right away what she should do. The others learned from her I think. They do let out a squawk when they lay but it’s not super loud so you might miss it. I did more often than I heard it. I didn’t let the chickens out of the coop until after the laying was done or 12 noon came, which ever came first. Wolf made a door for me to open which was the back end of their laying boxes so I could see if their were eggs or if they were sitting. I found if I interrupted the Ladies they would go on strike and not lay in the box and lay somewhere else. Most of the time I didn’t find the eggs though sometimes I did.


The biggest problem we had was Ms. Mouthy Foxy-Fox. She ended up getting two of the four so we took the remaining two up to the Gitches who held onto them for a couple weeks then Wolf slaughtered them. We learned there is just no way we can free range chickens in this yard unless we get about 50 chickens, a couple — or at least one — roosters, and a dog or two who won’t eat the fowl but will chase off the fox. Having four was just too enticing for Ms. Mouthy Foxy-Fox. There is just too much woods around Howling Hill so flushing the fox out isn’t going to happen. Wolf’s solution is to shoot the fox but I see that as short term solution to a long term problem. After all, shooting the fox will kill the one in the yard currently but another will move into its territory once it realizes the first one is dead. My solution is to fence in a part of the yard, including the compost bins, burying the six foot fence a foot or two so the fox is prevented from climbing under it. The reality is there isn’t much you can do about the predators. The only answers I’ve come up with is “safety in numbers” and “get a fence.”

The only other problem we had, and it wasn’t a problem so much as it was a confusion, was the Chicken Ladies would take off running down the hill for my neighbors yard. Everything I read about chickens says our feathered friends stick close to home but ours were an anomaly I guess. I did train them to come to the sound of my voice. I called out “Ladies!” in a sing-song way as I banged my hand on the lid to the can of scratch. After a minute or two they would come running to get some of the scratch. I think this is why Ms. Mouthy Foxy-Fox was able to get them so easily. I called them multiple times a day and they always came running. I couldn’t think of a way to keep them closer to their house without locking them into their house. This is another reason I want to fence in part of the yard next year.

Chickens are not loud but roosters are. If you’re in the city or suburbia don’t worry about the noise. They do squawk when they lay and when danger is around but it’s not an overbearing noise like dogs who constantly bark.

Chicken and Francesca 2008

Regarding house pets I was really worried Francesca (above) and Harley — our cats — would stalk and chase the Chicken Ladies but that fear was put to rest almost immediately. Both cats wandered up to the chickens in attempts to sniff and all the chickens raised their wings, squawked, and charged the cats. After that Francesca and Harley gave the chickens a wide birth. Our dog had already died so I don’t know how he would’ve reacted. I think the best advice I can give you is to “claim” the chickens as your own and to desensitize your dog. I know the Dog Whisperer has addressed dogs and chickens on one of his episodes so I can only assume he’s addressed prey drive in his books. Honestly I don’t feel I can answer questions on dogs and chickens so please don’t hold it against me! (I know you won’t =)

The chickens were happiest when there was pile of leaves to tear apart. I had this one pile I kept raking back up and every morning the four rushed out of their house, got serviced by me, then over to the leaf pile and happily ripped it apart looking for bugs. They also ate the mice and chipmunks my cats caught but didn’t eat. If I was in the garden the chickens hovered around the fence because I threw grubs out the them often. 2008 wasn’t a bad year for ticks and I’m not sure if that’s because I had the chickens or if just wasn’t a bad year. I’m hoping the former and not the latter. One thing which surprised Wolf and I was how they didn’t eat the ants. This really bummed us out because we hoped they would be a good form of ant-control. However they were completely uninterested.

That’s about all I can think of to tell you. To sum up let me say this: chickens are easy. Don’t be afraid. Go get some immediately if not sooner. And once you eat fresh eggs there is no way, NO WAY, you can go back to store bought. Ewww.

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the family medicine chest will be an ongoing series on the fourth thursday of each month.

This month, I’m going to write about making herbal cough drops. Next month, I’ll follow up with lozenges and pills.

Making cough drops are as simple as making hard ball candy. In fact, you can think of them as herbal candy because in effect, that is what they are. Anyone who’s ever had horehound candy knows how sweet and delicious it is. If you made a tea of horehound to help relieve a bronchial cough or sore throat, you’d find out very quickly why it was made into candy…it is extremely bitter. So, way back when, to make their medicine more palatable, people came up with making a tea and then adding a lot of sugar to sweeten it up. That resulted in making syrups which gave someone the idea to let it sit up and harden into cough drops which, for the most part today, are a far cry from the original recipe. Ricola is the only commercial mainstream brand that I can think of that uses mostly herbs and sugar.

While I prefer to use honey for most of my herbal preparations, sugar must be used for this particular recipe. Any type of sugar can be used, I prefer to use natural cane raw sugar. It will tint the cough drop a bit brownish, which only affects the aesthetics. Food coloring could probably be added to tint the color. If going that route, I’d highly recommend a natural one is used. Some herbs such as wild cherry bark and elderberry will naturally tint the cough drops. Adding a small amount of elderberry to any recipe will color it a pretty purplish-red and will also lend its healing powers at the same time. (See below for more herbal ideas).

Before you begin, heavily grease a 9 x 13 glass baking pan with butter. You may also line it with waxed paper instead of buttering it but make sure the edges go up the pan so no syrup will go underneath. This will (hopefully) guarantee that the cough drops will pop out after they’ve hardened.

Start off by making an herbal syrup. Use sugar instead of honey.

Stir it and let it boil until it reaches 290 degrees F. You can test it by dropping a a drop from a spoon into a bowl or cup of cold water…when it hits the proper stage, it will form a ball.

Pour the mixture into the pan and let it cool a bit. Cut it into squares before it hardens completely or you’ll have to break it into jagged bits.

To keep your cough drops from sticking to each other, you can dust them with slippery elm root powder (which is also very soothing to sore throats) or powdered sugar. Store them in a glass jar with a lid. Use as needed.

This can be made using any herb that you want to make a cough drop out of. You can mix them as well. Some great herbs to use for sore throats and coughs are:

-wild cherry bark
-echinacea, roots, leaves, flowers and/or seeds (any combination of)
-pine needles or inner bark
-horehound (use sparingly as it is very bitter)
-osha root
-dandelion flowers or roots
-yellow dock root
-mullein leaf
-chicory root
-comfrey leaves
-plantain leaves or roots
-holy basil
-heal all
-peach twig or leaves

That’s just a few of the thousands of herbs available that make an excellent cough drop. Use what grows local to you, what you have on hand and what fits the particular types of coughs and sore throats your family seems to get. When experimenting with herbs and combining them, make a small infusion of the herb and taste the tea. That will give you a general idea what the finished product will taste like. If it’s completely bitter and awful, chances are the finished product will be too. Adjust the proportions of the herbs in the combination you are using and try again.

Try making some today! While making an easy herbal remedy you’re family will love to take, you’ll be giving them a healthier option for treating common illnesses.

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