Archive for April, 2013

Lessons In Laundry

Friday, April 26, 2013

ひろしま青空美術館 Hiroshima Aozora Bijutsukan

Colorful quilt’s, faded blue jeans and bright whites hanging on an outdoor line is the quintessential picture of homestead life. But, don’t think fresh, natural smelling, line dried clothing is reserved only for those who live in the country – because it’s not. Every suburban house, whether it be home or homestead can garner the benefits and the pleasures of hanging laundry on a clothes line.

It may not seem that hard to stick a clothespin on a piece of clothing and put it on a line, but as many have found, the results can be scratchy, stiff and wrinkled clothing.

So – what are the tricks that will give you soft, fresh smelling clothes? They’re simple.

But, before you’re ready to hang clothes on a line you’ll need the right equipment for the job. That means a sturdy clothes line, clothes pins and a clothes pin bag or apron. There are several different styles of clothes lines to choose from, but I like the 5-line retractable dryer because it extends 34-feet, which gives you 170-feet of hanging space. I also like the umbrella style because it rotates and allows you to bring the clothes to you.

Clothes pins and bags are easily found at Wal-Mart and are very reasonably priced. But, you can tap into your inner farm girl and make your own by using a spare apron and sewing a 10-inch long pocket onto it, or for an adorable solution take a toddler size button-front shirt and stitch the bottom closed, then put it on a hanger, fill with clothes pins and hang on the line.

  • To ready clothes for the line, put them in the dryer on an air or fluff setting for 5 – 10 minutes. This uses almost no electricity and will make your clothes just as soft as if you ran them through a full dryer cycle. If you don’t have a dryer hang, clothes on a windy day. The buffeting wind will create the same result as a fluff cycle.
  • As you hang each piece of clothing give it a firm, sharp SNAP. This only takes seconds and will help shape the garment and shake out some of the wrinkles.
  • When washing clothes, use a fabric softener or white vinegar to help soften them. This will help keep clothes dryer soft.
  • If you live in areas of the country that have bright sunny days, fading may become a problem, but it’s great for brightening up whites. If fading is a concern, just turn colored clothes inside out before hanging them on the line. Fading can also be kept to a minimum if clothes are brought in as soon as they are dry. But, whites can be left out longer and will become brighter.

Now is it time to hang your clothes on the line? Not just yet. Read the rest of the story »

Checking Off Homesteading Skills

Monday, April 8, 2013

I saw this list of 101 homesteading skills and thought it would be fun to see how many of them I already knew how to do. After reading it over and checking them off I was surprised at how many I already use or knew how to do. It also gave me a good list of new skills to learn. Not all of them will pertain to a suburban homestead, but the list would be a good stating point for anyone trying to improve their knowledge of homesteading. And, I’m sure if we put our minds to it we could come up with 1001 things a homesteader should know.

Just for fun see how many you already know then make plans to learn a few new ones in 2013!

1. to use a chainsaw safely
to grow a vegetables & herbs
  to sharpen an edged tool – knife, axe, hoe, chisel etc.
to use and store firearms safety
  to tan rabbit skins
6. to read the weather
7. to spin wool, cotton or angora into thread or yarn using a spinning wheel or drop spindle
to use long handles tools without hurting your back
to light a fire indoors or outdoors
to buy at an auction without paying too much

to mend clothes
to butcher rabbits or chickens
to hang clothes on a clothesline
to operate & maintain a tiller
15. the unique traits of different trees & their types of wood
to cook from scratch
17. to pasteurize milk
to conserve & save water
to recognize healthy plants & animals versus unhealthy

basic sewing skills
to ear tag or tattoo an animal
to tell an animal’s age by its teeth
23. to replace a broken window
to drive a stick shift

25. Learn how to thaw out frozen pipes without busting them

to graft a fruit tree
27. to hand thresh & winnow wheat or oats & other small grains
28. to train a working cattle or sheep dog
29. to read the moon and stars
to make cheese
to live within your means
to catch, clean & fillet a fish

33. to use a wash tub, hand-wringer and washboard
to make soap or detergent

to build a bunk planter
to can canning & preserve food
to save seeds
to de-horn livestock
basic leather work or repair
to plan for the future – orchard, livestock program, or energy sources
to repair with duct tape, baling twine or whatever is on hand
to read an almanac
to put down an animal
to cook on an open fire
entertain yourself without electronic media
to shear a sheep, electric & hand
to maintain shears
to swap, barter and network with like-minded people
to make candles
50. to dig & use a shallow well
to refinish furniture
52. to drive a draft animal
  to realistically deal with life, death and failure
to use & maintain an oil lamp
to treat livestock injuries
to restrain large livestock
  to use a sewing machine
to give an IM or Sub-Q injection
to properly use hand tools
to recognize your own physical and mental limits
how and when to prune grapes and fruit trees
to hatch out eggs
63. to use a scythe
64. to skin a furred animal & stretch the skin
65. to tell the time of day by the sun
to milk a goat, sheep or cow
to stomach tube a newborn animal
  to butcher large livestock
to use a wood stove & to bank a fire
to make butter
71. to knit or crochet
to make & use a hot bed or cold frame
to deliver a piglet, calf, lamb or goat
74. to know when winter is over
to plant a tree
to brood day-old chicks
77. to dye yarn or cloth from plants
to haggle like a horse trader
to bake bread from scratch
80. to use a pressure tank garden sprayer
to halter break a horse, cow, sheep or goat
to graft baby animals onto a foster-mother
83. to weave cloth
to grow kitchen herbs
to make sausage
to set and bait traps for unwanted vermin and predators
to grind wheat into flour
88. to make paper and ink
89. to learn when it is more economical to buy ready-made or make it yourself
to castrate large livestock
to choose a location for a vegetable garden or orchard
92. to weave a basket
93. to use electric netting or fencing
to make fire starters

95. to use a pressure cooker
96. to correctly attach 3 point hitch implements to a tractor
to trim hooves of goats or sheep
to sew a quilt
99. to make wine or beer
basic plumbing & electrical
to shoot a rifle & handgun

73 down

28 to go!

Not bad. Not bad at all!!

True Food Security

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Today’s grocery store chickens are hybridized to be exactly the same as all the other grocery store chickens. They are bred to grow the same, finish out the same and be similar in weight. This fast-growing breed is called a Cornish Rock Cross. Typically, they range in age from 4-weeks, for a Cornish Game Hen, to 8 to 10 weeks for a full grown roaster. The chickens are the same; only their name has been changed, taking labels given to chickens from days gone by.

So, if you’re thinking that a Cornish Game hen is not a Cornish Game hen at all, but rather a baby Cornish Rock Cross, you’d be right. Cornish Game hens are not raised commercially any longer because they take too long to grow to a marketable weight.

Modern grocery store chickens also have white feathers and were developed in the 1980’s to gain weight fast on a limited amount of feed. It is true that some birds grow so fast that they sometimes have heart attacks or break down in their legs before ever reaching a butcherable weight. But, I think that is a factor in commercially raised birds more than homestead or small farm raised birds. Some growers even limit the feeding schedule to slow down the birds’ growth.

And, what about those white feathers? Well—the average consumer wants a pretty carcass to make a pretty roasted chicken to put on her family’s dinner table. Non-white feathered chickens can have black spots in the skin where the pin feathers broke off during plucking. This happens to white chickens too; only the consumer can’t see them because they are white. Read the rest of the story »