In the last year, there have been some major life changes for me. I moved from my family home to the really big city to pursue some higher education and lived in the middle of suburbia for a year (and survived!). I was then offered my dream job in a much smaller city about an hour away from my hometown, and moved again.

While I love my new apartment, it isn’t quite a homestead. In fact, it’s a tiny basement bachelor without a real kitchen or oven. But it’s mine, close to work and in my price range. I’ve had to refine my homesteading goals for this new stage in life, but I have always believed that this is a lifestyle choice that I am making, a shift away from consumerism, dependence on conventional economic models, and a true independence of spirit, faith and values. I don’t need a farm to start any of those things; I can work on cultivating the attitude of success that I need where ever I am.

The homesteading goals I can work on in this place, and at this time are:

  • developing economic stability to invest in a future farm (also known as working really really hard, saving money and investing wisely!)
  • improving my knowledge base about skills I will need
  • having time to think deeply and wisely about the types of philosophies I want to embody on my farm (more on this to follow)
  • cultivating an independent spirit
  • meeting and genuinely connecting with people who share the same values

I’ll keep you updated on my goals!

FarmGirl

 

Still Hoping for Spring!

I’m still eagerly waiting for a “real” spring when I can get outside and work…but of course, we were hit with another snowstorm yesterday!

Luckily, before this latest bout of bad weather, I managed to pick up the new issue of Mother Earth News, my all-time favorite magazine. Getting it is no small feat, since the closest store I can find that carries it is just over 30 miles away! So if I happen to be going in that direction, which I was, I always try to stop in at the bookstore and pick up the new issue.

There are definitely some cool articles in this issue that I will be trying out as soon as I can:

Growing Potatoes: I have never grown potatoes before, but I have my heart set on it for the spring. I have a sweet potato that I am growing to cut up and transplant into the ground, but I haven’t started a potato yet. Any feedback on where a good place to buy seed potatoes is? I can never seem to find them!

A Reminder about Nursery Plants: Many nursery plants are sprayed with neonicotinoid insecticides, which are killing our precious bees! So always ask when you go to buy plants if this is the case, and if it is, don’t buy them! We need lots of people to consistently ask this at major retailers so they will change!

Growing Fruit Trees: I started to expand my selection of fruit trees last year, but I am always looking for new varieties to try!

What do you think of Mother Earth News? Is there another similar magazine you like better?

Cheers, and keep hoping for spring!

FarmGirl

Garden Planning: Goals for 2014

I love planning out my garden! And while I’m well aware that there are several feet of snow on the ground, it’s time for me to start planning again. This year, I’m hoping to do things a little differently.

Here’s how my garden planning usually works: I have a general idea of the kinds of things I want to plant, and then I haphazardly more-or-less follow the plan. I usually end up scrapping the whole thing half way through the season and adding a bunch more seeds. And while my yields are good, and I do enjoy myself, it’s not the most organized or efficient way to plant a garden, and I don’t plan on storing anything. I just plant things to eat in the spring and summer.

This year, I’m vowing to be more organized and to stick with my plan. I’m basing my plan around three goals I have for my garden this year:

1. Double production of the garden as a whole.

2. Plan for crops in spring, summer and fall.

3. Store more food from the garden for the rest of the year.

These seem pretty straightforward, but there are some definite challenges. First, living at home, I don’t have autonomy over how I plant the garden or use the space in my yard. If I could opt to double the size of my garden, I could easily double production, but that’s not an option this year. Time for creative container gardening!

Next, food storage. When I want to can things, like tomatoes, I go to a local organic farm and buy them by the bushel. I can’t grow enough of one food to do big batches of canning, so my goal is to use different methods of preservation, like dehydration or freezing, and with my new pressure canner, to can smaller batches of mixed things, like vegetable soup with garden leftovers.

I think I’m up to the challenge…we’ll have to see as time goes on. I’m hoping to get an order in for seeds in the next week, and I’ll update with what I’ve ordered.

Let me know if you have any garden planning tips!

Bread Baking Continued! The Experiments….

Over the last 10 days or so I’ve been experimenting with my bread recipes, and getting used of baking bread in the Dutch Oven with and without the slow rise technique. For the most part, I’ve made delicious wholesome bread for my family. I had one loaf that burnt quite a bit and as a result the crust was way to hard. Like, I-had-to-cut-it-with-an-electric-knife hard. The remains of that loaf are currently baked into some delicious veal meatballs to be cooked with homemade egg noodles for dinner tonight. So, even with my disaster loaf, I haven’t really wasted any food.

Here is what I’ve discovered:

The key to an amazing crust is indeed the Dutch Oven. Nothing else can give bread that amazing crispy crust….just be careful not to burn your loaf!

Slow rising is what gives the bread an amazing flavor. Don’t get me wrong- any fresh bread is delicious in my books! But letting the yeast ferment and really develop the flour over 8, 12 or 18 hours gives amazing results. 

When I make 1 hour rising bread, I coat my dough in a bit of oil before setting it aside to rise. I wouldn’t recommend this for the Dutch Oven. I think this is why my bread burnt. As soon as the oil coating hits the super-heated Dutch Oven, it sizzles, cracks and burns, making a much tougher crust. 

Let me know what you think! Does anyone have any other great tips for that perfect loaf of bread? 

 

Bread Baking: To slow rise, or not to slow rise?

A while ago, I read an article in Mother Earth News about making no-knead bread in a Dutch Oven, and ever since, I’ve been wanting to try this new way of bread making. With the help of a new Dutch Oven for Christmas, I’ve made some of the best bread I’ve ever tasted in my life, but I certainly have a few concerns about the wet dough/slow method to making bread. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? I think later this week I will try baking a regular rising, kneaded bread in my Dutch Oven to see if I can still get that wonderful flavor and crust, or whether the key to success is the wet dough and the slow rise.

The biggest advantage I’m seeing with the slow risen bread is that it works incredibly well with whole grain flours. I try not to buy flour; I buy organic, local whole grains in bulk and grind them myself (more on this adventure to come!). They are very healthy, but I’ve found I get the best results when I can let the whole grains soak and soften up for a while. That way, it tastes more like brown bread and less like…ummmm… well, the heavy, saw-dusty whole grain bread many people associate with “heath food”.

Here is my pros and cons list for this latest bread adventure; hopefully I will be able to experiment a little bit more this week:

Pros of the wet dough/slow rise/Dutch Oven bread:

  • Incredible flavor and fantastic crust
  • Whole grains work very well, and don’t taste “heavy”
  • Little work
  • Low yeast recipe and only 4 ingredients

Cons:

  • 18 hours of rising…not a good recipe if I wanted to whip up a loaf of bread to go with supper
  • Heat: I kept my bread in front of the fireplace, and was still worried about it getting to cold and the yeast dying. Perhaps not the bread for the Ontario winter

Let me know what you think…what is the best way to make bread?

The link to the recipe from Mother Earth News is below.

http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/easy-no-knead-dutch-oven-crusty-bread.aspx#axzz2pBFtS0JH,

 

Welcome to The Farm Fund!

Welcome everyone to my new blog, The Farm Fund! This will be an online summary/open forum of learning/record of successes and messes as I try to learn the skills, acquire the resources and gain the mental strength to buy and run a farm to live a wholesome, back-to-the-land, self-reliant lifestyle.