Recipe & Reality

We ate so many strawberries this past week from our Mother’s Day outing that my son ended up at the doctor’s office covered in an “I ate too many red berries rash.” Uh-oh.
So, we used the rest and made Strawberry Freezer Jam. Have you ever tried this? It is terribly yummy and super easy.
I wrote about creating a frugal home and one of my goals was to learn to can. This is my first attempt.  (I’ve decided that going frugal is hard work. I’m much better at being thrifty. Is that too honest? I’m not giving up, just being realistic!)
And since I’m being so honest, remember this post about my urban homestead thriving? Well. My plants all have yellow leaves from too much rain. My rabbit’s furry white coat is stained with poop (too much lettuce), the compost pile stinks to high heaven, I’ve gained 3.5 pounds from all the bread I’ve been baking and I’m tired of the muddy boot prints all over the floor.
I feel better now.
Back to the Freezer Jam. Here’s the recipe (it’s included in the Sure Gel or Fruit Pectin jello package). 
To make around 3 pint sized jars, you need two cups of crushed strawberries, 4 cups of sugar, a little water and a box of Sure-Gel (canning section of the grocery store). That’s it!
Freezer jam is kept in the freezer and is delicious on warm toast and biscuits.
But apparently, over consumption of freezer jam causes a rash too.
{scratch, scratch}
Oh, and really honest blog posts.

Shades of Green

I thought we were on to something new when we decided to become more self-sufficient. It turns out I didn’t come up with the idea of an urban farm. There is a website, a book, an entire movement of Urban Homesteaders.
There’s even an article about it in USA Today.
(I also did not come up with idea of Mom blogging. It turns out there are 10,000,000 other Mom blogs out there. One day, I will have an original idea. You heard it here first!)
I bought this used book off Amazon (The Urban Homestead)and decided immediately that we weren’t real Urban Homesteaders. 
Because seriously? These people do not mess around.
Plus, I need a Chick Fil A nearby. 
So, there’s that.
But I learned some cool tips for making garlic sprout, so I can plant it. I’m learning how to set up a compost pile. I learned that people pay good money for rabbit poop for their compost pile and a whole slew of other disgusting facts that you wouldn’t believe
I also discovered that I don’t have what it takes to become a real Urban Homesteader. Because there are extremes, people. (Did you know that some die-hard Urban Homesteaders conserve the water from their roof and reuse it?)
But, I can say that: 
Our garden is thriving.

Our bunny is flourishing.

(I had to brag on my hubby’s hutch-building ability! Look what he made from mostly scrap wood. It even has shingles!)
Our boots are muddy.

Our urban homestead is growing.
We reuse, repurpose and recycle in small ways. But I’m learning there are many shades of green. 
On the one end, you have someone like me, who proudly saves (and resuses) plastic bags from the WalMarts. And then you have the other end of the spectrum…Did you know there are people who have composting toilets? (I’ll let you use your imagination).
What shade of green are you?

I Made Bread

I told y’all I wanted to create a more frugal home. And I’m starting with the basics. 
I googled “easy homemade bread” with emphasis on the word easy.
I found a great recipe.
I think it would have been perfect if I’d followed the recipe exactly. 
But I forgot to add salt. Turns out that is a very important ingredient. Who knew?
The loaf was also very hard (like a brick, according to my son) from over kneading, I learned.

We dipped the loaf in salted olive oil with cracked pepper. We ate every bite (even though it tasted like Communion). We’re not picky.
My hubby likes to tackle challenges. He found this recipe for a no-knead crusty bread. It is very easy, but requires some advanced planning because it involves 12-18 hours of rising.
But it is delicious:

We made a rye and a beer bread version. 

We have become bread making machines.
Our latest attempt?
My hubby wanted to perfect the shape and so he used a large saucepan for baking.
This is what he got:

Oh, and this:
P.S. My hubby burned his hand last weekend. I waited to post this to make sure his burns healed. Oh, and his ego.
Disclaimer: Someone was harmed in the making of this post. But did you really expect less?
I don’t think so.

Are you a bread-maker too? Tell me how you make it!

Green Acres Edition

I’m a city girl. I always have been.
I like the convenience and the accessibility.
In other words, I need a Target within 15 minutes with a Chick Fil A nearby. Preferably
But I am married to a country boy who dons a suit every day to support our family. Horses and farming are in his blood. The blood he passed down to my children.  And it must be contagious because a few years ago, I started dreaming of life in the country, well, within reason.
I have needs.
I see a big porch, a small barn, a little land, a couple of animals, and dirty boots, lots of dirty boots….
We’ve been on the lookout for such a place on the outskirts of our town for some time now. But with the condition of our economy, we’ve put those dreams on hold and are trying to create a more frugal life. I talked about it here.
A couple of weeks ago, my hubby and I decided not to wait for that bit of country. Even though we live in the middle of suburbia on a very small slot of land, we decided to plant a small garden. It’s a similar to a square foot garden. Next time it will be a square foot garden, now that I have the book (Square Foot Gardening: A New Way to Garden.)
The place we hope food will grow:

We opted for a plastic fence around our garden in an effort to keep the squirrels (and our toddler) from destroying the small plants. I asked y’all a few weeks ago about squirrel deterrents and let me just say, “Wow.” We opted not to urinate in the garden, but the red pepper and plastic owl options really got my attention.

My 9 year old created a grid to keep track of what we planted.  She put it on a clipboard and hung it in the kitchen. It’s very official.
Have I mentioned I’m a city girl?
Check out some other Spring gardens at Rhoda’s!

In an Effort to Recapture My Childhood

In an uncharacteristic move, we have made a pivotal decision.

Clearly, it is life-changing.
We got a bunny, a rabbit, a hare.

And, it was all my idea.
When Spring blooms, I remember my childhood, in the city. One filled with laughter and snapshot memories of Easter chicks dyed pink and bunny-filled hutches in our backyard. Back in the 80’s, you could pick up a peep in the grocery story this time of year. And we did. 
Just for fun.
My kids, especially my oldest, yearn for some land to stretch out on and fulfill 4H dreams of rabbit-raising and horse-petting. 
With our broken economy and commitment to cut-back, this may be our dream farm, all 1/8 of an acre. And so, we decided not to wait for land or common sense, it seems.
Meet Marshmallow:
Nicknamed: Marsha, if she turns out to be a girl and Mallow if she, is really a he.  (We’re working on the identification).
Let me chronicle the first 24 hours, because I know you care. 
While my hubby set up the cage we borrowed from my Mom, my 2 year old decided she was thirsty and not prejudice against bunny germs:

It also seems that my 9 year old requires much less sleep than her parents. Because she woke us up at 5:30 a.m. to talk about her plans for showing the bunny at the Livestock show next year and again at 6:00 a.m. to ask if she could play with Marsha.  Oh, and again at 6:30 a.m. to let us know (through tears and snot) that Marsha peed on her bed and she was lost upstairs somewhere. 
That’s when my hubby leaned over and declared, “I don’t think I’m going to participate in the bunny raising.” And that’s when I leaned right back and “let him have it.”
6:30 a.m. missing bunny and pee pee will do that to a girl.
But Mallow was found by the nonparticipating Dad in the family.
And it turns out I actually recaptured my childhood for the moment.
I should also note that Marshmallow is of the California blood-line. These rabbits are bred for meat and grow to be an average of 22 pounds. And we just thought she (or he) was on sale.
I find those facts completely hysterical, just so you know.  Also, we have no idea what we’re doing, but my new book (Country Wisdom & Know-How) has a chapter on rabbits, with recipes.
P.S. I am open to rabbit advice. And if you get a wild hare, tell me about your childhood bunny or peeps. Unless you were deprived like my hubby. 
Happy Easter, y’all!

Creating a Frugal Home

[This is a continuation of yesterday’s post The Difference Between Thrifty & Frugal]
Frugal living is a big learning curve for this convenience-loving girl who is addicted to clearance shopping (whether I need it or not!)
(But don’t panic, if it’s more than 75% off and I can get my thrifty hands on it, I will be stockpiling my bargain finds. It’s hard to teach an old shopper new tricks. I’m also planning a new DIYP series called Dollar Store Decor, coming soon to a blog near you.)
But in these unstable days, I want something greater than the best bargain out there:
I want to gather my family around me and protect them from the world I cannot trust. I want to cocoon, to become more self-sufficient.
I don’t know how to make bread. I don’t know how to grow a garden. I don’t know how to can food or store it away for lean times. I don’t know how to sew. But I want to (especially after reading this amazing post). 
Every time I visit my in laws farm, I’m surprised at how self sufficient they are. They don’t rely heavily upon modern conveniences. They rely upon the land. I feel useless without the Internet or a Target. But in a way, I envy their simple life. 
While I don’t see myself packing up and turning this blog into We are THAT Family: The Green Acres Edition, I desire to simplify.
Will times get harder? Will I need to know how to survive on less because I must? Will the unstable job market knock on my door?  I don’t know.
But I want to turn my thrifty home into a little more of a frugal one.
Either way.
Because I think it will feel really good to work together as a family and create and provide for each other. 
Want to join me?
Here are a few of my goals to become a little more frugal and a lot more self-sufficient:
  • Cut back expenses and get out of debt-we owe on one car and our house, but have six months of living expenses tucked back. We are saving as much money as we can and trying to pay off our car by Christmas. My advice: get out of debt, don’t add more. Dave Ramsey has a workable plan.
  • Eat at home
  • Learn to bake bread
  • Learn to grow food
  • Learn to can food and create a stockpile
  • Buy second hand (more than just kid’s clothes). I’m challenging myself to look for used instead of new (This one scares me!)
  • Balance- I’m looking forward to learning new things with my family, but I want to remember balance is important.  I don’t think being an extremist will benefit my family. I want to be honest with myself and with you. For example, I will plan to drink Chick Fil A sweet tea regularly and go to Family Camp this summer (mainly because we finished paying for it in December!) and continue my life, but thru frugal-colored glasses.

[I’m hoping to add these books to my library soon Frugal Living for Dummies ,Chick Living: Frugal And Fabulous and The Self Sufficient-ish Bible: An Eco-living Guide for the 21st Century] 

I’m going to chronicle my journey and share what I learn along the way, pitfalls and all.]
I’m hoping what I share will be helpful, but I’m completely prepared for hilarity. 

You know, because it’s me.