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feb collage

 

So many of us are working our way toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. With that in mind we here at NDiN wanted to share some general guidelines of what to plan for on a monthly basis. Whether you’re a gardener, a beekeeper, a forager, or you keep animals, hopefully our monthly guides will help you plan ahead for the month. Depending on your exact climate you may find you need to adjust your schedule depending on your region.

February can be one of the last chances to get indoor projects completed before the spring thaw arrives. Gardeners are getting excited and it won’t be long before the first of this year’s farm babies are here! Spring is really just around the corner, so start wrapping things up inside and get ready to head back outdoors.

Indoors:

  • Check basement or crawl space for leakage during thaws.
  • Check bathroom caulking for re-sealing needs. While you’re in there, check your pipes for leaks.
  • Freshen your kitchen sinks by pouring a mixture of 3 cups hot water and 1/4 cup vinegar (or the juice of one lemon) down each drain.
  • Keep an eye out for cracks in your drywall caused by settling during thaws and freezes. There are expandable putties and spackles available for problem areas. While you’re at it, you may want to mark outdoor masonry to be repaired. Plan to complete this project after the last hard freeze and once your biggest worries of the house settling are past.
  • If you don’t have a cold frame or greenhouse, set up an area to start seeds for your garden. Few seeds need light to germinate (be sure to read the directions) so you may be able to get by without any lights other than a window for the first few weeks. (Check out chiotsrun seedstarting 101 guide).
  • Research and prepare for any animal purchases for the year.
  • Keep a tray of water and spray bottle near indoor plants to adjust humidity levels, especially if you have central air. Running the heater can dry them out quickly and cover leaves with dust.

Outdoors/Garden/Wildlife:

  • Keep fresh water available and free of ice for birds and wildlife.
  • It’s National Bird Feeding Month. Keep feeding those birdies! Seed, dried berries, and suet are great meals for our feathered pals.
  • If you live in a climate with mild winters, this month may be a good time to dig new beds. You may also want to repair or build new composting bins to be prepared for this year’s cleanup.
  • Southerners could get away with planting bare root trees on warm days.
  • Keep driveways and walks free of snow and ice. Have shovels, plows, and salt/brine accessible and stocked.
  • Watch gutters and roofs for ice dams.
  • If you didn’t get to it during fall, now would be a great time to oil and sharpen garden tools.

Animal Husbandry

  • Be prepared for early birthing. Have any equipment you’ll need ready and accessible.
  • Nights are still very cold in most parts of the country. Keep your critters warm with fresh hay, heat lamps, or blankets, but be sure to avoid fire hazards. 
  • If you’ve been leaving a light on for your chickens you can begin weaning them off of it. The sun is setting noticeably later and your gals should begin laying more regularly soon.

You can also find Jennifer at Unearthing This Life where she blargs a bit about good food, home schooling, raising chickens, and being a suburban Yankee transplant in a rural southern town.

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January collage

So many of us are working our way toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. With that in mind we here at NDiN wanted to share some general guidelines of what to plan for on a monthly basis. Whether you’re a gardener, a beekeeper, a forager, or you keep animals, hopefully our monthly guides will help you plan ahead for the month. Depending on your exact climate you may find you need to adjust your schedule depending on your region.

Now that Winter is officially here most of us will be spending a lot more time indoors. For those in the more Southern regions, outdoor work is manageable on warmer days. It’s a good time to focus on the indoors, keeping warm, and getting a jump on this year’s activities.

Indoors:

  • Take down and store holiday ornaments and decorations.
  • Update your address book from holiday cards and gift envelopes if you’ve saved them.
  • Clean out your files in preparation for tax time. Rid yourself of out-of-date warranty cards (update if necessary) and manuals. Schedule service appointments for extended warranties.
  • Clean out dryer vents with a wire hanger and vacuum cleaner. Wash mesh filters with soap and a scrub brush to allow for better air flow.
  • When finding new homes for holiday gifts, clean out unused items and donate those in great shape to your favorite charity.
  • It’s also a great time to photograph your belongings, room by room, for insurance purposes.
  • Start planning your spring garden. Look at gardening catalogs, websites, and blogs (like us!) to get ideas for what to do this year and when. Purchase seeds by March to guarantee delivery and stock.
  • Research and prepare for any animal purchases for the year.
  • Keep a tray of water and spray bottle near indoor plants to adjust humidity levels, especially if you have central air. Running the heater can dry them out quickly and cover leaves with dust.

Outdoors/Garden/Wildlife:

  • Keep fresh water available and free of ice for birds and wildlife.
  • If you’ve already begun to put out birdseed continue to do so. They’re now relying on you as a food source.
  • If you live in a climate with mild winters, this month may be a good time to dig new beds. You may also want to repair or build new composting bins to be prepared for this year’s cleanup.
  • Keep driveways and walks free of snow and ice. Have shovels, plows, and salt/brine accessible and stocked.

Animal Husbandry:

  • Early birthing will begin late next month for some of you. Make any preparations necessary to help mammas and babies along.
  • Keep barns and other animal shelters clean to help prevent illness and discourage wild critters from nesting. Change hay often, keep tools cleaned up, and be sure to keep water free of ice.
  • Put a light out for an extra two hours in the evening for your chickens. It will help keep their coop warm on colder evenings and promote more egg laying.

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november collage

So many of us are working our way toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. With that in mind we here at NDiN wanted to share some general guidelines of what to plan for on a monthly basis. Whether you’re a gardener, a beekeeper, a forager, or you keep animals, hopefully our monthly guides will help you plan ahead for the month. Depending on your exact climate you may find you need to adjust your schedule plus or minus two weeks or more.

  

Although many of the outdoor chores are completed for the year, it’s not time to slow down. Gardeners are beginning to dream up next year’s spring and summer crops and for most of us there’s always leaves to take care of. For some of us there’s even a bit of snow. As we get closer to the holiday season it’s easy to become consumed with gatherings and preparations, but it’s important to remember those seasonal aspects of every day life. Keeping ahead of the weather, taking care of outdoor animals, cooking with seasonal foods, and staying warm are key this month.

Indoors:

  • If you store foods like squash, potatoes, and carrots for winter use be sure that you rotate for freshness. Also be sure to occasionally check for any spoiling or critter damage.
  • If  you haven’t already done so, be sure to check the batteries in your fire detectors.
  • Check garage door for air leaks if  you have an insulated unit. Also check household windows for any drafts. Catching these now can save you lots of money over the winter.
  • If possible, set up a “craft/wrapping area” out of immediate view for holiday activities, possibly in a separate room. This should help keep clutter down in main areas of the house helping to keep it tidy and help reduce holiday stress.

 Outdoors:

  •  Trim any trees now that most of the energy has gone to the root systems of most plants. It’s also not too late to plant some trees so long as your ground is not frozen. Fruit canes can also be cut back depending on the variety.
  • When outdoor gardening chores finally slow down, clean, sharpen, oil, and put up all tools for the winter.
  • Clean gutters and downspouts.
  • Make sure all hoses and water barrels have been drained and put up until spring.

 Garden:

  • Clean up rotting plant materials to help keep your gardens healthy. Decomposition is great, rotting is not.
  • Till chopped leaves directly into garden beds where they’ll stay warmer and decompose faster over the winter.
  • Garlic and other bulbs like tulips can still be planted in zones with milder winters.

 Animal Husbandry:

  • Keep barns and other animal shelters clean to help prevent illness and discourage wild critters from nesting. Change hay often, keep tools cleaned up, and be sure to keep water free of ice.
  • If you keep an area warm for animals occasionally check for fire hazards. Examine wiring on extension cords, heat lamps, and portable heaters. Keep bedding away from heat units and keep a fire extinguisher inside larger buildings.
  • It may not be too late to have sheep and goats mated in your area.
  • Cold weather days are best for slaughter and processing. Keep an eye on weather and plan accordingly.
  • Put a light out for an extra two hours in the evening for your chickens. It will help keep their coop warm on colder evenings and promote more egg laying.

 Wildlife:

  • Most animals are starting their winter cycles, including hibernation and building up of nests. You can assist your neighborhood critters with a few little tricks. Continue to feed birds; make your own suet cakes for freezing weather to help fuel up birds; offer some peanuts and corn to squirrels; leave a few piles of leaves or stones or a piece of corrugated metal for frogs and lizards to burrow in; set out water for all animals and keep it free of ice.

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august collage

So many of us are working our way toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. With that in mind we wanted to share some general guidelines of what to plan for on a monthly basis. Whether you’re a gardener, a beekeeper, a forager, or you keep animals, hopefully our monthly guides will help you plan ahead for the month. Depending on your exact climate you may find you need to adjust your schedule plus or minus two weeks or more.

August brings on the Dog Days for many of us:  Harvesting and preserving is at full-speed; Some of us are still foraging (elderberries anyone?); And many of us are wishing for cooler weather. Are you on track with what you should be doing?

Home:

  • Since you’re busy filling up your freezer with all those goodies to get you through the winter, be sure to pull your units out and vacuum the condenser coils and airways. Doing so will give your freezer/fridge a longer life and reduce your energy bills because of energy efficiency and therefore be better for the environment.
  • Clean up ceiling fans. If you’re like me you have your fans on as often as possible to help keep air flowing throughout the house. Be sure to clean off those blades and get rid of those bunnies forming. I’d hate to see one of them get flung in someone’s drink.
  • If you preserve and can any of your food you need to pay special attention to your drip pans, heating elements, back splash and exhaust. Remove electrical elements and/or drip pans. Soak the drip pans in hot, soapy water and scrub well. While you’re at it, pull out the fridge and give the sides a good cleaning, sweep underneath, and remove any grunge from the exhaust hood.
  • When’s the last time you checked your smoke alarms?

Outdoors:

  • Check window and doors for drafts while it’s warm. You don’t want to be adding insulation or sealant while it’s cold outside.
  • Does your compost pile need to be aerated and/or watered?

Garden:

  • Remove budding and flowering weeds and any sick plants.
  • Start planning for a late season garden with cabbages, broccoli, and kales. If you’re a northerner consider your onions and garlic for next year’s harvests.
  • Remove thatch and heavy clippings, but allow your perennials to go to seed. Collect any seeds you’ll want to start indoors next year.
  • During these hot days make sure to keep birdbaths and water dishes filled up.
  • Do you need to think about softwood cuttings of shrubs?
  • Think about a coldframe design. First frosts will be upon a majority of us within about two months!

Animals:

  • Spring chicks are becoming mature. Consider your nesting designs and build one now if you’re not prepared. You may want to put out some fake eggs in your nests to fool hens into laying in nest boxes.
  • Allow natives to seed without deadheading. They’re a good source of food for critters.
  • Do you need to consider cold weather housing for any of your animals? Cool nights will be here sooner than you think.
  • It’s honey time for many beekeepers. It’s time to put in your orders for honey. If you’re a beekeeper do you need to start feeding to get hives built up for winter? Many of you are busy slinging honey, be sure to have enough supplies on hand.

 

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It is not my personality to makes lists…even when I do I lose them so I figure what is the point?

But for this for an undertaking this big I made a list of rooms that needed de-cluttering, what I hoped to accomplish in each area, and what supplies I needed.

Then I had the task of decided which room to start…

I though about starting in the hardest most messy room in the house…my craft room.  But figured I would be so exhausted by the time I was done that I would not have enough gumption to tackle anything else for months.

So instead I chose a room that is rather public, that the kids seldom mess up in, and something that would please my organized-neat-orderly-hubby.  Our office/sunroom/exercise room is mostly being taken over by paperwork…something that seems to be a universal problem in most homes.

It is a room that once cleaned and organized would most likely would stay that way for the foreseeable future because I only use it to run on the treadmill and the kids only use it to jump on the trampoline.  Well except in the late winter/early spring when the big table under the window is covered with seedlings…but for now it is just collecting more clutter.

I am being very honest here and posting what it looked like just this morning…

I’m giving myself till next week to do this because chances are that if the weather is nice I’ll be out there..

Next week I’ll share the after photos and the strategies I came up with for organizing the paperwork monster.

If you guys have any great tips for keeping paperwork under control I would love to hear them!

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Spring cleaning not only applies to the house, but also to the pantry! This is the time of year when I start to make a concerted effort to eat up goods the goods I preserved last summer. Soon enough I’ll be pulling out the canning pots and filing jars with this summer’s bounty and packing the freezer with fresh berries. This means I must start preparing now. The last thing I want is to end up with jar and jars of stuff from years past and have to throw some of it away. I’m not one to waste food, especially food that I spent time and energy growing and preserving.

This is the perfect time of year to start using up pantry goods. With the coming of warmer weather comes the feeling of optimism. I no longer feel the need to conserve my food resources to make sure they last through the long winter. Those feelings give way to the hope of summer bounty and I finally feel safe eating up the last few jars of tomatoes. I know that in a few months, my tiny tomato seedlings will be producing pounds of fresh summer fruit that will be eaten fresh and canned for next winter.

I find myself often in the pantry looking over jars of goods deciding what I want to make for dinner. If I spot a few jars of tomatoes, pepper relish, fire roasted red & jalapeno pepper, and a few jars of chutney, I’ll make a big pot of chili. From the freezer I’ll add some ground venison, beef stock and some frozen beet greens or spinach. If I’m lucky I’ll have a bottle of beer as well to add for good measure. A few heirloom beans will also get added to the pot if there are any left in the pantry. If we have some frozen milk left from our winter stores, I’ll make some fresh mozzarella, and who doesn’t love a sprinkling of fresh spring chives on top of any dish this time of year?

If I find myself with a lot of extra tomatoes, I’ll make up a big batch of marinara. This will top fresh homemade pasta, or even a pan of lasagna if I have the time and energy to make cheese and noodles.

Not only do all these dishes help clean out the pantry of last year’s bounty and make way for the new, they help save me time during this busy season in the garden. A big batch of of chili can be eaten on for many days as can a big pan of lasagna (and they get better with age). If I make an extra big batch I’ll freeze it in meal sized portions for quick meals during the busy days of spring and early summer. My goal is to have most of the jars in the pantry empty by tomato canning season and to have most of the berries eaten from the freezer before the strawberries come on.

Do you make a concerted effort to eat up items in your pantry to make way for the new season’s bounty?

I can also be found at Chiot’s Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff.

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first blooms collage

So many of us are working our way toward a more self-sufficient lifestyle. With that in mind we wanted to share some general guidelines of what to plan for on a monthly basis. Whether you’re a gardener, a beekeeper, a forager, or you keep animals, hopefully our monthly guides will help you plan ahead for the month. Depending on your exact climate you may find you need to adjust your schedule plus or minus two weeks or more.

For us here at Unearthing this Life April can be the busiest month. We border on a USDA zone 6-7 so that means lots of planting, tidying up, and building. Here’s what we’ll be thinking about doing this month:

Gardening:

  • Tilling garden beds where necessary to work in compost and get rid of weed seedlings
  • Edging beds or digging the last of the new beds
  • Add supports to garden beds for plants like tomatoes, peas, gourds, roses, peonies, and beans.
  • Sowing outdoor hardy annuals
  • Sow last of the peas, potatoes, and onions. Continue starting beets, lettuces, cabbages, radishes, and carrots.
  • Planting rooted raspberry canes and strawberries
  • Hardening off and planting of vegetable seedlings
  • Plant any remaining saplings and transplants
  • Rake around fruit trees to help with invasive bugs and/or treat for them. Use treatments only after flowers are gone.
  • Questions about what to plant when? Go to Mother Earth News!

Outdoor house and yard Chores:

  • Clean up fallen branches and sticks, nuts, and leaves.
  • Hang bird/butterfly/bat-houses. If you’re not a beekeeper consider hanging a mason bee box. Set up bird baths and drinking holes for beneficial critters like bees.
  • Tidy up gutters and look for winter damage.
  • Bring out water hoses and setting up water barrels.
  • Repair screens check caulking/insulation around windows and repair if necessary.
  • MORELS!

Animals:

  • Purchase/raise chicks
  • Consider any expansions and rotations for this seasons’ critters.
  • Repair fencing.
  • Add supers to beehives. Check brood.

Indoors:

  • Wash windows and curtains.
  • Organize and collect glass canning jars.
  • Clean out freezers and storage for this year’s crops.
  • Plan simple, yet filling meals for lots of energy.

What will you be working on this month?

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most of you know i usually have a zillion tasks and projects going on at once. i no longer have the memory i had pre-children so i find myself keeping quite a few lists around. a few years ago, gina had posted about using a household binder so i tried it. i liked it but the size was too bulky and cumbersome to haul around with me. then, i stumbled upon someone who used a half sized one. eureka! my obsession was born!

i started searching around for templates and found a few at donnayoung.org. that helped a bit but i still found myself making my own. luckily, my printer will handle half-sized sheets so instead of making them full-sized and having to cut them down, i was able to make them half-sized from the beginning and print them as such (donna young’s templates are for full-sized print outs).for the tabs, i cut down full-sized tabs and punched holes for the smaller binder. i decorated all the dividers using pictures from magazines. i’m still doing these as time permits.

kitchen section divider page

kitchen section divider page

two years later, it’s still a work in progress but i’m mostly pleased with the results.

i created 9 main sections (i may add more later) using these tabs:

general planning is divided into the months. each month has a monthly calendar and my own weekly to-do creation based on this full sized one. there is space on the back of the monthly to write my goals for the month which is nice. this is my most often used section. i also have a year at a glance to mark my monthly moon cycles.

daily to do pages

daily to do pages

meal planning consists of:
-my shopping list page that i created
-a page with a list of entrees, sides and starches for reminders on what we like to eat and to provide a variety of choices
-a menu calendar (basically a blank calendar that i can write in meals for each day. i also write in if someone won’t be home for dinner ie. older kids at their dad’s/mom’s, greg at a meeting, etc.) also, the right side has a check list which i write down all the frozen meat in the freezer. as i use one in a meal, i cross it off. that way, i always know what meat’s on hand for planning meals without having to run out to the freezer to check.
-4 sub-sections full of recipes: entrees, breads, sweets, sourdough/cheesemaking/kombucha/other misc. fermented foods
-master pantry list (a list of staples we have on hand at all times)
this year, i believe i’ll add a canning pantry list to this section to keep track of canned items, bulk foods, frozen foods and dried foods. this is the 2nd most used section.

my grocery list pages

my grocery list pages

financial:
-account info
-budget
-savings
-egg and milk sales
this section also has pockets for receipts and bills. i don’t use that much but i do keep track of sales in here.

directory:
-quick find list of important numbers and account numbers if applicable such as boiler repair guy, utilities, doctors, schools, savings accounts, etc.
address book
-directions to seldom traveled to places (homeschool meeting locations, fellow goat people, long distance relatives that get visited once a year, online friends that i visit)

perpetual calendar for b-days and anniversaries

perpetual calendar for b-days and anniversaries

personal:
-perpetual calendar with b-day/anniversary of friends and family
-book/dvd wish list for loans and purchases
-holiday gift idea/purchase/made list this is where i jot down anything anyone mentions over the course of the year plus ideas i come up with for making gifts.

goals/dreams/ideas:
-goals for the year and beyond
-wish list/need list (great for garage sales and thrift shops)
-inspiration

household info:
-8 zone sub-sections: my focus cleaning for each week. i rotate through each zone each week so each zone is hit every 2 months. they are: kitchen/basement entry/closet, dining room/downstairs toilet/front and back porch, playroom, living room, stairs/hall/upstairs bath, our bedroom, kids bedrooms, basement
-seasonal chores, reminders of what to do when
-storage info to remind me where i stash the off season clothing. believe me, i need this
-kids master chorelist, a list of what all they can/should do
this section is highly underused. i’m so far behind in household stuff because of everything else so this sort of cleaning is laughable.

emergency preparedness:
-first aid info
-emergency prep info: 72 hour kits, meal kits, etc.

travel:
-campling check list (we take the same things every year and every year i wish i had one of these)
-housesitter info
-vacation spot ideas/things to do and see
-vacation menus/recipes (we always camp when vacationing)
-food checklist (tried and true snack foods for the trip to/from as well as what to buy to use for cooking the above menus/recipes)
we don’t camp much anymore so this section is quite dusty.

this binder is so used i’ve had to tape it back together with electrical tape. i’ve never gotten around to sewing a cover for it and probably never will.

you can read more about it and see more pictures on my own blog. it has truly been a mind saver for me and i affectionately refer to it as my brain.

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