Thursday, December 29, 2016

Simple Beard Balm (with recipe)

Yep, this one is for the fellas~
or the gals who have a fella with a beard.
This is beard balm.
Mr. LB decided to let his beard grow for elk season this year
for the extra warmth.
Elk season has come and gone,
but the beard remains.
It was beginning to look a little "untamed" shall we say?
I asked him if he would be interested in some beard balm,
and he asked what that was. :)

I generally like to keep things simple so wanted something 
with only a few ingredients that would do the job.
I searched out recipes, but most had a list of ingredients
that was either too long or contained things I didn't have.
Also, many of them were scented which was not something 
we were interested in.
Since getting the block of beeswax,
I am a little less stingy with it, so this has a beeswax base.

Here's what I came up with:
3 parts beeswax
2 parts coconut oil (regular not fractionated)
1 part apricot kernel oil

I weighed out ounces for my "parts."
It takes very little, and this batch should last quite a while.
First, weigh the beeswax and place in clean veggie can.
I set this on the wood stove stirring occasionally until wax is melted.
Option #2 is to place veggie can in a pan with about an inch of water in it 
on med/med-low heat.
While the wax is melting, measure out the two oils.
Once wax is melted, add the oils and continue over heat stirring occasionally until all is melted and consistent.
Poor into heat resistant container to let it set-up.
I used a little old teacup I had.
(A 1/2 pint canning jar would work well too.)
I know that it's not very masculine, but it's what I had.
Such things don't even phase Mr. LB anymore.
He has been using the balm for several weeks now and likes it.
And, his beard looks so much better and healthier!
To use, just get very small amount on finger-tips then work through beard.
You could use 3 parts beeswax and 3 parts coconut oil, but
the apricot kernel oil is so good for skin and hair.
I didn't figure out a price per batch since it is such a small amount,
but compared to how expensive it can be, it's one more way to save.

***Important Notes***
Beeswax is not like "regular" candle wax.  Whatever pans, tins, utensils you use with it will never be the same.  This is why I use a veggie can for melting and a wooden skewer for stirring.  If I were to use one of my regular kitchen pots for the water method, I would first cover it with tinfoil just incase I dripped a bit of wax.  Please be careful for safety's sake as well as for the long term care of your equipment. 


Friday, December 23, 2016

Friday Quick Tip ~ Fire-starter

These are the easiest fire-starters ever.
I thought I was so clever when I figured this out 
only to find out that it is a really old trick.
Oh well ~ they work!
Also, they are keeping just that much more out of your garbage can.
Simply stuff your dryer lint in your empty toilet paper tubes.
It's easy to have a little container or basket of some sort near the dryer.
As the rolls are emptied, that's where they go.
Each time you clean your lint screen it gets stuffed in a roll.
Save these for winter and you're set.


May your hearts and homes be warm.
Wishing you each a blessed and merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Spending Now so We Can Save Money

It kinda sounds like one of those scammer commercials doesn't it?
I'm well aware most of the nation is focused on the upcoming holiday.
I too am looking forward to it.
However, this elf has been busy not making toys
but planning for a new challenge in the upcoming year.
It might sound a bit silly or hair-brained,
but it's what I will be trying.
First, we don't actually shop how most folks shop.
We typically think on an annual basis rather than monthly or weekly.
We purchase a whole grass-fed beef each year.
When canning, we know about how many quarts and pints 
of various veggies we will need to tide us over until the following year's harvest.
That's what "got me to thinkin'."
Why on earth am I going to the store so often?
We do purchase fresh veggies and dairy throughout the year,
but there's sure more than that in the cart.
My solution was to try to think of all the things we need/use in a year's time.

Over the course of the past couple weeks, 
I've been stocking up.
Not just stocking up on food ~ we're pretty good about that.
I've been trying to think of everything including:
dish soap, coffee, vinegar (for cleaning,) TP, ketchup, lye (for soap making.)
These are things we don't make at home.

So why on earth would I torment myself by trying to figure all this out now?
My goal is to save money by staying out of the stores.
I'm already one who tends to put it off.
I don't browse the isles.
And I don't shop for fun (no way!)
What I am apt to do is think,
"Since I'm here, I should pick up X."
What happens is 3-4 days later, I am back in the store to get something else
and do that same thing again.
My plan is to (hopefully) go to the store twice per month.
I figure that should work from a veggie and dairy stand point.
I do use a list, but having set grocery days planned
should eliminate many trips all together.

There are certain things I know we will need like
pet food (not sure how long it keeps) and peanut butter (keeps about 6 mo.)
If we run out of something in October, we will put it on the list and 
pick it up on grocery day.
We aren't punishing ourselves.
We are simply trying to figure out how much and of what we use
so we can budget knowledgeably rather than blindly.
We just seem to work better with figures on an annual scale.

The other thing that has occurred since beginning to work on this is 
I now have a relatively thorough master list.
I am hoping to print it out so I can keep better track 
if adjustments need to be made.
Our electric isn't always reliable 
so I prefer the old-school method of pen and paper.
This could also be done on a computer or phone of course.
We don't make new year's resolutions,
but finances are worked annually so the new year is a reasonable time 
to implement new goals and changes.
As far as results, I will have to let you know.
If nothing else, less time spent in stores will give me just that much more time at home which I relish.
So far, I've spent about twice what our "normal" monthly grocery budget is
and have about a year's worth of supply.
That in itself amazes me and tells me 
there's extra spending that happens weekly/monthly.

I do foresee part of the challenge as being "retraining ourselves."
Once we get used to the new schedule,
it should work more smoothly.
As with any change, the beginning is usually the most difficult.

This does pose a question for you folks though.
Does anyone else plan annually?
If not, how do you plan?
I ask because it often seems like we are "oddballs" for doing so.
Of course, we could just be "oddballs" :).


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Bartering vs. Paying it Forward

Just curious as to how many of you have been asked
if you barter for goods or services.
It's not a common question for me,
but I have been asked.
I'm never really quite sure how to respond.
Recently, we've had a couple occurrences that got me to thinking.
I was/am so completely thankful,
I wasn't entirely sure what to think.

In one incident, Mr. LB and I did something for a neighbor 
expecting nothing in return and were "repaid" kindly.
The other is actually the story I would like to share with you.
Mr. LB has a friend who raises bees - lots of bees.
We asked if we could purchase some beeswax from him when it was harvested.
(See about dipping beeswax candles on this link.)

We (Mr. LB) told him about how much $ worth we would like.
It was some time before he said he had some for us.
This is what he had for us when
Mr. LB stopped by after work.
When asked how much we owed him,
his response was, "Awe, don't worry about it.  
I'll be needing some metal work."
He indeed needed some metal work a few weeks later.
Mr. LB was only too glad to deliver.

Maybe some folks would call that bartering,
but I kinda think of it as paying it forward.
We could have easily said that we would prefer to pay him,
but there is a friendship and sense of community when
trading for the unknown.
Maybe it's about trust.
We don't go into things with the mentality of 
I'll offer 18 eggs for a 2"X4", or
I'll work 3 hours for the use of XYZ item.
It seems so much easier to just offer help when needed -
of either goods or labor.
Isn't there an old saying - something to the effect of
it's better to be owed than to owe?
I don't think that means only money.
The other great part of it is the not keeping track.
If you happen to help someone out and don't expect anything in return,
it's very freeing not to have to remember.
The friend above is one who might have gone a year or two before needing
anything done.  Then when it was done would ask how much he owed.
We could then have responded, "Awe, don't worry about it.  
We'll need some beeswax sometime."
See how easy forgetting is:)

This block of beeswax should last me some time.
I am still in complete awe.
Thank you Jeff.
And thank you Love (Mr. LB:).


Monday, November 28, 2016

Bi-Annual Refrigerator Cleaning

I almost missed it!
I was finally home for a day so I could perform my odd little ritual.
Twice per year, I clean the refrigerator.
And I mean clean the refrigerator!
April and November are my fridge cleaning months.
I know it's not 6 months apart, but I have done this for so many years,
it just seems to be what works for me.
There are homes that always seem to look absolutely pristine.
Mine will probably never be one of those.
At any given time, we have this project or that here and there.
I do however try to keep it manageable and
 keep it from becoming a health hazard.
I should have done this before Thanksgiving - oh well.

First, open up the fridge and turn it off.
I bring an ice chest into the kitchen and place all the food from the refrigerator into it to keep it cool while I work.
I start with the main shelves.  
Once all the food is out, remove them and wash the 'box' of the fridge.
Then wash the shelves and replace them.
By shelves, I mean the crisper drawers too:)
You thought I would forget didn't you?
Once those are done, move on to the items on the door.
Remove it all in order to thoroughly wash each little shelf.
While doing this of course,
toss the hot mustard that expired 3 years ago,
the shriveled little carrot in the bottom of the crisper, and 
the mystery left-overs in the opaque plastic,
and any other items that might cause DEQ to come knocking on your door.
Before putting the food back in, I like to spritz it and wipe it all down
with vinegar water - just for good measure.
Then put food back in making sure jars aren't sticky and bottoms are clean.
Next, move on over to the freezer.  Do the same thing all over again.
While everything is out, look and wipe around the edges of the doors,
under the shelves, and in the seals. 
Again replace all the food tossing anything in question.
Turn the refrigerator back on and proceed to the outside.
I like to pull it away from the wall.
Vacuum the coils and the floor.
I know it doesn't look like it, but I just did this in April.
We are not complete slobs, it's just what accumulates under there.
I wash the outside of the fridge, the wall behind the fridge, 
and the floor under the fridge.
I then scoot the refrigerator back into place.
Lastly, I do the front and the handles.
Our refrigerator is old and has scratches and stains, but it works fine.
I dread the day it konks out.
By doing my part to keep it in good repair and operating properly,
I hope I can put that day off for as long as possible. 

This is actually a good time to do this since it makes that much more room
for all the holiday goodies yet to come.
Also, this weeks meal plan entails using up the items frozen in the freezer.
This freezer is for ice, chocolate, deserts, and left-overs.
Our meat and frozen veggies are in an upright out in the shop.
It's easy to forget the big tub of chili or stew in the freezer
so this is the perfect opportunity to clean the slate.

It might seem silly, but it makes me feel like the house is cleaner
after tackling projects like this.
Also, this is our food we're talking about.
I certainly want to keep it safe and healthy.

Hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving.

This just might be the most thorough housekeeping book ever.
I've become picky about which books I keep (due to space.)
This is one I keep.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Hunting Elk, Finding Grace, Giving Thanks

Hello All,
The past week and a half - two weeks(ish) have been elk season around here.
Many vertical miles have been covered.
It has been unseasonably warm so the elk haven't bee pushed down by the snow yet.
That translates into us having to go find them in Tim-buk-tu.
I had a spike tag since we are just after the meat.
We did see some but nothing where we could actually get to them.
So once again, we are elkless.
I do feel blessed in that I got a bear and a buck.
Elk are just a little more elusive.
One nice thing was that it was 'away'.
Not away as in far from home.
We just drive up the road a ways, get out, and start climbing.
But away from the 'outside' world, the anger, the bashing, and the filth.
One of the days, I hunted alone since Mr. LB had to work.
It was the best therapy.
As I was hiking along, the song "How Great Thou Art" found its way to my head.
Why is it that when a song gets in my head, I know only the chorus 
and a partial line here and there?  Poor little brain.
Regardless, for the past week or so I've spent a lot of time conversing with God,
and this (partial) song has continued to pop into my head.
I kept thinking of looking up the lyrics but haven't had much of a chance.
Finally, a couple nights ago after supper, Mr. LB and I sat in where it was a little softer and where the fire is.
I finally got to pick up my stitching, and he browsed facebook on his phone.
He was laughing at something a friend posted.
Then he brought up something another friend had posted.  
It was a song.
Can you guess which song?
Oh yes, "How Great Thou Art" by HomeFree.
It's an amazing rendition.
I had never heard of them.  They won a TV contest at one point so I might be the only one who hadn't heard of them.
Here is "Ring of Fire" also - just because, well, Wow!
Needless to say, I'm thinking God is working on me.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of year.
I love that families get together and give thanks, no gifts or gimmicks, 
just thanks.
Honestly, I was struggling a little with the tension of society this year.
We will be traveling to see family we haven't seen in many years
including my 93 year old grandmother.
(My last surviving grand-parent.)
I am so anxious and excited to see them but had some sort of reserve or trepidation about traveling.
When that song played on Mr. LB's phone, it all began to dissipate.
I know we will be fine on our travels,
and it's okay to enjoy the season and appreciate all the gifts we're given
with each dawning light.
He does work in mysterious ways.

I'd like to wish each of you a very happy and safe Thanksgiving.

PS: The next day, I did something I haven't done in at least a year or two.
I went and splurged on the CD.
I have listened to that song numerous times in the last couple days.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Long Term Food Storage

Just in case some folks have not heard of it
or have been hesitant to try,
I would like to share a method we use to store food for long periods of time.
It is hot oven canning.
It really is a simple process.
I have oven-canned many things: 
beans, rice, flour, dehydrated veggies such as corn, green beans, celery, peas, carrots, onions, mushrooms, (the list could go on.)
From the information I have gathered, this method preserves dry foods
for 2 to 12 years.
It depends upon the source.
I have a friend who found a jar of dehydrated green beans that had evidently missed rotation and happened to be 7-8 years old.
She thought "Well, the worst that will happen is they will end up in compost."
She said they were fine.
As with any food storage, we use and rotate our stock.
If you've followed here for some time,
you are probably aware that we don't eat a lot of grains.
We do eat some though, and when we do, we don't want it to be stale.
So one of the items I oven can is rice.
I can put it in 1 meal size jars so we are not opening 
more than what we will use.

The process is quite easy.
Just gather clean dry jars and lids/rims of appropriate size and add the dry food.
Here I am showing rice.

Preheat the oven to "warm."
For my oven, this is about 175 degrees.
Place the uncovered filled jars on a baking sheet into the oven 
until the contents are an even temperature.
This is where there is some variance.
For these small jars of rice, it took about 40 min. since it is dense.
If I were doing small jars of green beans, it might only take 15-20 min.
The food item needs to reach the same temperature as the jar.
Also, the larger the jar, the longer it will take.
I have quart jars of dried beans.  I think they took just over an hour.

When the food item reaches the desired temperature,
remove only one jar at a time.
Lid each jar as you remove it from the oven - one at a time.
This is not difficult, but is important.
If  the whole tray is taken out of the oven, by the time the last jar is lidded,
the contents may be cool enough that the jar won't seal.
Allow the jars to completely cool before storing them.
As with canning any item, the lids will "ploink" indicating a proper seal.

Using this process, I am able to purchase a larger quantity and not have to purchase that item for a long time.
These small bags of rice were on a very good sale so small bags it was.


Disclaimer: I am sharing something we practice.  I am in no way responsible for the decisions you make.  Please, do your own research and make decisions you are comfortable with based on what you discover.

Monday, October 31, 2016

"Harvesting" the Lambs

You might recall this past spring, we got a couple lambs to raise for butcher.
We wanted them to be grass fed so knew we were in for a chore.
My mom commented how she always enjoyed fattening out critters.
I explained that we weren't graining them so they weren't just kept nice and tidy in one little spot.
We began saving our grass clippings for haylage before we even got the lambs.  Since sugars are what gets stored as fat (marbling in the meat,) we wanted a natural way for them to have those sugars without grains.
Making the haylage was easy enough.
We put grass clippings of moderate moisture content in a black garbage bag and sat on it to get as much air out as possible.
(Sorry, no pix of that:)
Then we wrapped it in 2 more bags making it triple wrapped.
And yes, it is necessary to triple wrap them.
Then let it sit to ferment for 6-8 weeks.
Doing this does require one to plan ahead.
The lambs started out in a 12 X 12 pen that we shuffled around the yard twice per day.
Once they began eating well, the area of the pen was not enough to feed them.  We began tethering them while we were home.
We used a cork-screw anchor so they would be less likely to get hung up on anything.
We just had to make sure we sank it far enough away from anything they weren't supposed to eat.
At night we put them up in their pen which we had expanded.
We tied the dog near them at night for protection - 
or at least as an alarm system since we have bear, mountain lions, wolves, etc. in our neck of the woods.
They got loose only twice:
once during our ice-cream social (they wanted to join the party) and 
once when we were gone and they proceeded to completely destroy our garden.
By the last month, they were eating the haylage heartily and enjoyed our abundance of apples as well (more natural sugars.)
When it was nearing time to butcher, Mr. LB began asking me if I was going to  miss them (nope,) asking if I would be okay when we butchered (yep,) if I would be able to eat them (double yep,) etc.
I finally asked him if he was just trying to make me feel bad.
He said I just didn't scratch them under their chins enough.
I asked him if he would be okay.  He assured me he would be.
(He's a big softy, but don't tell him I told you;)
My folks came up to help butcher.
Mom picked plums for making jelly.  I got hanging bags, vinegar water, and towels, etc. ready.  I also set up the wringer washer out in the yard. 
I kept the fleeces to tan, but first ran each one through a couple of rinses to clean them and to cool them faster.
I then spread them on a tarp, salted and rolled each one.
Those are now in the freezer awaiting further processing.
Dad and Mr. LB got their part done, cleaned, and bagged.
Then, later that week, we began cutting and wrapping.
The great thing about doing our own cutting and wrapping is that we can be picky and package it according to how we will be cooking it rather than how it fits in a box.
The remaining bones and scraps went to the dog and the chickens (chickens are meat-eaters too) so there was very little overall waste.

(both good and bad)

Haylage: This is fabulous though does require planning ahead.  The only change I would make is to do it in large zip-locks then in the 2 extra bags.  Once the large bags were opened, it only took a couple days to begin to mold.  Feeding only 2 lambs, a large part of each bag was wasted (well composted.)

Yard: We did not mow this summer.  The lambs fed.  They do not mow evenly so overall appearance of the place was sub-par.  We have an acre and they ate it all!  So figure about 1/2 acre per lamb.  (They also ate garden, flowers in pots, any landscaping they could get to. . . )

Time: This was time consuming!  We moved them at least twice per day.  We did not take any vacations together.  We made sure one of us was home.  Though they tethered well, they weren't really "leash trained" so moving them could be a challenge.  Each move involved re-sinking the anchor and toting their water bucket. 

Meat: We have 2 grass fed lambs in the freezer (minus one tasty leg o' lamb) for relatively little monetary cost per pound.  I am one of those who likes having the peace of mind that if something happens, we can still eat, so it's a bonus in that department.

Fleeces: We will also have two lamb skin "rugs" whenever I get around to pelting them.  They will be a lot! of work so hope they turn out nicely.

Do it Again?: Probably not next summer.  We have the trailer restored so will be taking a couple trips and wouldn't dream of asking someone else to take on such a chore.  After that, we'll see.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Keeping an Old Skill Alive

Isn't it strange how sometimes when you least expect it,
something strikes you or takes you by surprise?
A week or so ago, I ran across an add in one of our semi-local publications.
It was from a woman who wanted to learn how to sew by hand
with the specification of "without a machine" as if "by hand"
meant in addition to a machine.

I read and re-read the little plea for help.
It struck me for some reason~
weather it was shock that she hadn't been taught such a thing as a child,
or wasn't able to work it out,
or self-reflection that perhaps I should be more grateful
that I know how to hand stitch (and actually enjoy it,)
or actually a bit of sadness that she hadn't been able to find someone near her
to show her such a basic skill.
Perhaps it was a combination of all the above.

I did respond via email but also hoped that mine was one of many
and that perhaps a neighbor a few doors down would walk over
to her house and say plainly, "Here, let me show you. . ."

With that, I would like to show you folks the most basic method
of hand stitching for general purpose.
Please keep in mind, there are many ways to hold a needle
and just as many variances as to preferences for this method or that.
This is just one of those many ways.
This is a regular running stitch.
This stitch is the most basic stitch for holding two pieces of fabric together~
Keep in mind your "fabric" can be anything from a silk scarf to canvas tarps.
I used two different colors so you can see it better, 
and two strands of dark thread to stand out even more.
Also, you would usually have your edges even, 
I staggered them so you could see.
The physics of it is that the needle goes up and back down through the fabric
spanning the length of your seam.

Though you can do this by poking your needle down and pulling your thread through then poking the needle back up and pulling the needle through for each and every stitch, the easier and usually more efficient way to accomplish this is to "stack your needle" or "stack your stitches" (I've heard it said both ways.)
To do this hold the needle kinda at a slant and move it up and down through the fabric maybe 3-4 times then pull the thread through the fabric.
You will figure out what is comfortable for you depending upon the size of your needle and the thickness of your fabric.
I also used a large needle to demonstrate.
I would recommend a thimble or even a piece of duct tape 
on your "pushing finger."
The goal is for your stitches to be as even as possible.  
Also, the smaller your stitches, the stronger your seam will be.
This stitch can be done in a straight line or around curves.
If you get a little "off straight," either pull it out or
make a very small stitch to get it back in line.

Once you reach the end of your seam, to create a knot,
take a very small stitch in the seam allowance, then before pulling the thread tight, pass your needle under the loop,

pull your thread, then go under your next "loop" with the needle,
pull your thread, then do it one more time.

I typically go through the loop at least 3 times but often 4.
Snip close to knot leaving a very small tail to ensure it doesn't unravel.
With that, you have just hand stitched your seam.
At this point, you would open your two pieces of fabric
and iron or press open.
Typically, if using two different colors, you would press toward the darker color.
Sorry I took the picture before I made my knot.
This is indeed slower than using a sewing machine,
but it requires no expensive devise, no electric to operate,
no maintenance, oils, or up-keep, and very little space to store.
The only supplies needed are needle and thread, scissors (or sharp teeth,)
and the item which you are stitching.
This should get you started.  Warning, it's addictive:)

I will also apologize if a few of the pictures are a little less than perfect.
It's a challenge to show stitching while hugging a tripod with a camera
beeping and ready to snap a picture:)