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Sunday, January 10, 2016


Hello dear friends!  Hope you had a wonderful first week of the new year!   Today we are having lake-effects snow, fine hard stinging snow that blows at a slant across the miles and miles of lake.  When we retired, people always asked us if we were going to move to someplace warmer, but I wouldn't want to live anyplace that doesn't have a winter.  In our little village our population shrinks from around seven-hundred to just two-hundred hearty souls from November through April.  There's a certain comradeship that comes with those that remain,  we look out for each other. There's no better way to build a sense of community than to "suffer" together.   As we go for our daily walks, we have the sense that we are alone in the world, the only sign of life being the church bells ringing out the hour.  There is so much loveliness in winter, my eyes can hardly behold it all; the rosy tips of the maples silhouetted against the dove gray sky, the rosehips frosted with snow, the way the snow sparkles like diamond dust  in the sunlight.  To me, no exotic landscape can hold a candle to winter's quiet beauty.

Of course, one of the things that makes winter tolerable is that we have a nice wood stove to keep us toasty.  This week we had to buy a two more cords of wood.
We burn wood for heat from mid-October until mid-May, so you can imagine we go through several cords, even with our very efficient stove.  We do use our furnace at night to keep the pipes from freezing; the other day we awoke to 4 degrees Fahrenheit.  It's also nice to have a back-up on days we are away from home.  Plus once every four or five days we must clean the ashes out.  But a furnace just doesn't compare to the coziness of a wood fire.  We buy our wood from the village at $45 a cord.  They deliver it right to the door.  A few years back ash borers killed all the ash trees in the area, so the village was left with quite a bit of trees to cut down.   The proceeds from the sales goes toward village beautification and fireworks.  Each July 4th we have a dandy fireworks display, people come from miles around to watch.   So for about $135 a year for wood and and an additional $8 in natural gas a month, we heat our home.  Plus we supplement some of the wood with free pallet wood. Not bad for living up here close to the half-way point between the north pole and the equator!  As they say, wood heat warms you twice; once in the burning  and once in the cutting. 
But Ran likes to add a third time, once in the splitting  and stacking!


After the excitement of the holidays wanes, we enjoy eating more exotic foods just to keep us from being too bored.  An added plus that most middle-eastern and eastern food use very little or no meat and are easy on the food budget so we can keep our resolution to spend less.  Here's a soup we made today:
Thai Spicy Peanut Soup

1 large onion, diced
2 carrots diced (about 2 cups)
1/2 red pepper diced
1 clove garlic, minced fine
half a head of broccoli, minced fine
1 can vegetable broth
1 can diced tomatoes (fire-roasted would be nice)
2 tbsp. sweet chili sauce
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder (optional, I don't think it added much to the flavor)
1 C. peanut butter
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onions, peppers, and garlic in oil until onions are tender.  Add broth, seasonings and vegetables.  Cook until vegetables are tender.  Stir in the peanut butter and heat through.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For me, this was a meal from the pantry because we had our own dehydrated peppers and broccoli on the shelves, the carrots  and onions came from our root cellar and the broth is home-canned as were the tomatoes.  Even the chili powder is our own; having dried and ground our own peppers.  The only thing we needed to purchase was peanut butter, which is a pantry staple in our house and the sweet chili sauce.  We keep this on hand for dipping homemade egg rolls, so we had this on hand too.  I bought the Chinese five-spice powder at Big Lots a while ago for making egg rolls, but I don't care for the flavor that much so I use it sparingly  and often just leave it out.   I also had some home canned salsa leftover in the fridge so I added that, about 1/4 cup.

All my recipes are just guidelines, basically, except for the baking ones.  Don't be afraid to experiment.  If you don't like an ingredient leave it out, if you think of something to add, add it.  If you have something sitting in the fridge that needs to be used up, use it.  Cooking should be a source of creativity,  especially something like a soup.  There's no right way or wrong way to make a soup.  Just keep tasting and adding ingredients until you come up with something that satisfies your taste buds.  We had some of the soup leftover, so one of the days this week, I'm going to make up some Thai noodles and serve it over them with some toasted coconut. 


Oh my!   While I was busy doing other things, Ran made a batch of these peanut butter cinnamon rolls  from this recipe.   There goes the diet!
I'd say about one adds up to my total calorie intake for the day!


Speaking of exotic spices, as many of you have read, I highly recommend taking turmeric as a supplement.   You should take it with black pepper for it to do the most good.  Recently I read that ginger is becoming the newest miracle spice.  Well anyway, with all three of us plus the dog taking turmeric, it can become expensive, so we made our own "tablets".   At the bulk food store we can buy turmeric for around five dollars a pound.  (You really need to check into bulk food stores, if you haven't already)  Also foreign food markets have great prices on it.  To make the tablets, we combined about 1/2cup of turmeric with a tablespoon of ginger and  1 tsp pepper  with just enough honey to make a consistency of  play dough or clay.  Then using about 1/4 tsp at a time, we rolled them into little balls and set them out on waxed paper to dry.  They are a rather bitter pill to swallow, so once they were dry, we dusted them with some confectioners' sugar, but that isn't necessary if you
don't mind the bitterness,  Georgie does.

He's one spoiled pup!

Oh yes!  Another great spice is cinnamon.  It helps regulate your blood sugar.  Every day I have a nice bowl of oatmeal with chia seeds, topped with a teaspoon of brown sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon for breakfast.   Plus it keeps you filled up until lunch!


Last year due to all the misfortunes of all things mechanical, I wasn't able to give as much to charity as I would have liked, so this year I'm remedying the situation be doing some knitting for our local Girl Scout's mitten tree.  My goal is to knit at least one pair of mittens each month, hopefully more.  It's a win-win situation as the charity gets some nice warm mittens and I get to use up some of my yarn stash.  I do hate wasting things, especially nice wool yarn.  Here's my first pair:

The wool is Jiffy by Lion Brand Yarns and the colourway is Denim Spray.  I'm trying to knit mainly for boys because I've found that when it comes to charity, they always get the short end of the stick.  Guess it's more fun to buy and make for little girls.  Besides, being the mother of all sons, I have a soft spot for little boys. I'm hoping that by posting a picture of each month's mittens, I'll keep myself accountable!  So you all nag me if you haven't see any each month. Ha!


Ran and I have been debating whether or not to sell our home and move to a more rural locale and went so far as to start searching for land.  We worry about how inflation will affect our already high water bill.  By the way, the last two months we conserved one-thousand gallons of water, but because most of the bill is fixed, we only saved ten dollars!  We always thought it would be fun to be completely self-sufficient and raise our own meat as well as vegetables, and have a nice wood lot and a sugar bush, but then we started to really take stock.   While it would be nice to have our own meat, at the moment we are doing well bartering labor for it.  Plus animals aren't free, they have to be housed and fed, whether they are producing or not.  Hopefully one day our village will allow us to keep a few chickens, it would be fun, but in all considerations we only use about a half dozen  eggs a month, so it wouldn't be very cost effective anyway. 

None of us like the taste of goat milk or cheese, so it would just be another expense to keep them.  I know that I would never be able to eat any sheep that I raised, and to raise enough for wool, would make for some very expensive yarn.  Probably why hand spun yarn cost so much. 

The cost of drilling a well, would probably be more expensive than a lifetime of even our high-priced water.  As I watched Ran split wood the other day, I was reminded that while it is nice exercise for him at sixty, I seriously cannot see him lumbering, hauling, splitting and stacking wood when he's eighty.  As Ran points out that all I have to do to fulfill my dream of living off the grid is to flip the master switch on the electrical box.  As it is now, we only use about thirty dollars of electricity a month, but I have to admit I do like my computer and it is nice to come  home to a warm house that doesn't have to have the fire stoked.  Not to mention, indoor plumbing is a luxury I'm not willing to live without! Ha!

All in all, we love where we live; our orchard is finally producing lots of fruit (we even had some hazelnuts this year - 4!), we raise enough vegetables and fruits to see us through the year, our neighbors are friendly and then there's the intangibles such as like-minded citizens and a county sheriff that believes in the Constitution (he recently took the Federal government to task for flying drones over our county seat).

Mainly the downside is that we feel that we are not homesteaders because we do not live on  acres of land and have animals.  I read lots of homesteading blogs and watch many homesteading YouTube videos, and that seems to be the factor that determines if you are a homesteader or not.  However, most of those people are working jobs outside of their homes to support their lifestyle.  Tractors, barns, horse feed, and the taxes on a large chunk of land is expensive. Even then, most do not raise their own grains, or live completely off the land.  Truly I believe that total self-sufficiency cannot be attained  these days. Land is just too valuable.  Machinery is too expensive.   Plus now days we have so many regulations and zoning laws,  the dream of living completely independently is just that, a dream.  Long gone are the days when you could  buy yourself a piece of land, lumber and mill the wood, erect a house, hunt when you need meat, and be completely self-sufficient without breaking or at least skirting  some laws.  But there are steps to living as cheaply and  as economically as possible:

1) Grow a garden
2) Learn to can and preserve
3) Learn to bake your own bread
4) Use elecetricity, water, and natural gas as miserly as you can.
5) Keep a small footprint.  How big of a house do you really need?
6) Live within your means and don't borrow money
7) Learn pioneer crafts, such as sewing, knitting, making soap etc.
8) Learn to barter
9) Keep records of how much you spend and why
11) Take care of your health
12) And most importantly,  ignore what society is telling you that you "should" be doing.  If we had a dollar for all the jokes and snide comments that we have received over the years about our thrifty ways, we would have enough money to buy a large tract of land and pay the taxes on it.  We've  been "urban homesteading" for almost forty years, long before the term became trendy.


There!  I'm glad I talked that out.  Hope I didn't bore you too much.  Sometimes I find it helps to write out all the nice sensible reasons why a plan isn't feasible so that I'm not led by my heart.

Anyway, on to the thrifty things:

Made our own turmeric tablets
Sold 10 more things on Ebay.
Started to make a small patchwork quilt from  the scrapbag.
Knitted mittens from the yarn stash for charity.
Made candles from the bits left in those jar candles and old teacups.
Bought a couple of shirts for Jamie from the 50% of sale at the thrift store.
Bought, split and stacked wood for heating.
Got our utilities bills, we were down 66% from last year's natural gas, 25% for electricity and saved 1000 gallons of water from last month.
Ate from the pantry.
Heated with wood.
Saved 50% of our paycheck.
Got paid for doing a couple of odd jobs.
Continued to use the old wringer washing machine and hang our laundry on racks to dry.
Watched old movies on YouTube.
Learned how to use a rocket stove to heat a water tank.
Walked and walked and walked.
Used some of our many candles for lighting in the evening.

So that's it for this week.  Hope you all have a nice cozy week ahead of you!



  1. Hi Jane! Your snowy pictures might be my area in the next month. I think our weather is just a month late this year. I am not going to fool myself that snow will miss us, as it always comes. But yes, you are right! It is beautiful! Nothing can remind us so much of God and how we are His creation dependent on Him than walking in a winter wonderland!

    Now I am terribly hungry for some peanut butter on a slice of bread. I will have to plan on that tomorrow on one of my meals!

    You do so well saving money and living so sensibly. You can be a low-grid household! Your husband is so right about farming being expensive. Even back in the 60's when my dad was working at a natural gas company one of his fellow workers had a farm...working at this job by day. Simple living is the key. If God sends us hardships, so be it. Suffering is part of life. Plus I read books that if things get bad, anyone who has will be targeted so we might as well live where we are in society.

    Meanwhile we are going to look to moving in late spring...we will go by what we feel. Mostly, we need to get closer to a church as that is important to us and driving constantly as we get older is not good.
    Plus if we can move to an area where we don't feel we will get robbed going to the mall or grocery store, (like here) it will feel heavenly!
    Keep warm as you are! Andrea

    1. Hi Andrea! Sorry about the peanut butter! ANd congratulations on maintain the 4 pound weight loss. That's great, especially during the holidays.

      I like that term low-grid household! Will have to use that term from now on.

      What shallow people we'd be if we didn't suffer from time to time! You know that old saying about the strongest steel being forged from the hottest fires. I look at it as God preparing us, so we won't be in such a state when hard times do hit.

      I'm so excited for you on moving. That's some very valid points for moving. Mine were strictly shallow; I thought it would be a fun adventure. You know we have a lovely Catholic church right around the corner and they have a very active congregation. Hint! Too bad our children don't live in areas like this, it would make life so much easier! Always must think of living near the grandchildren. They are our reward for making it this far!


    2. Your town sounds great! oh I guess we also want to stay close to half of our kids so that is a bit far. But I will keep it in mind! Andrea

    3. Yeah there's always that pesky thing called distance. I'm waiting for them to finally invent that tele-porting device like on Star Trek!

  2. Hi Jane!
    What sensible ideas you always have for us. I'm starting to mentally refer to you as the queen of thrift and practicality. Ha, I don't think acreage defines most homesteading folks. We don't live in the days of land grants so we do what we can where we are. I think you're way ahead of most homesteaders with all the ways you are doing for yourself and saving money, too. And of course, your reasoning on staying where you are since you are happy there is nothing but sensible. On the other hand, I'm afraid there are lots of folks who think they can just pick up and move to the country and immediately become self-sufficient, but that is such a fallacy. It takes a long time and, as you say, money, too, to get anywhere close to that sought after lifestyle. We're in our 23rd year of country life, and though we do what we can we're still dependent on buying lots of things we need and want, just like everyone else. We don't own acres and acres, either. When we bought our place we found out just how much work our four acres can be and are quite relieved that we didn't go in debt for more. A lot can be done on a few acres or even the average yard. We've raised our own beef (at times, not always), dairy goats and (put up with) our daughter's horse on less than five acres, and sometimes I wish we only had one acre. Actually, when we bought our little farm we were told that most farmers/homesteaders live on around five acres,and we have been content and loved being here, but guess what... the big farm to one side and back of us was recently sold to a developer. Argh. If we get to move when Goodman retires we will be downsizing like nobody's business. Oh..I especially like #12 of your steps to live economically. Good advice.

    Love the mittens, and I'm sure they will be appreciated. I have never made peanut soup, but your recipe sounds good. I'm going to try it as soon as I locate some sweet chili sauce. I've never used it before so I don't have any in the cupboard. Thank you for sharing the recipe. :) Oh my, I'm droolin' over those rolls!

    I have been stuffing my own turmeric capsules, but I like your idea of making pills even better as that will eliminate the cost of capsules. Thanks for all the brilliant tips you share with us. :)

    Have a great week!

    1. Hi Toni! I remember there was a book way back when called "5 acres and Independence" I wonder if that holds true for today?

      Ah horses! My grandfather loved them and farmed with them into the late 1950s. There even was a nice write-up about him in the paper about being the last farmer to do so. But now I'm afraid a horse is just a big house pet. They are beautiful animals though.

      Sorry to read about the developer moving in to your area. I hate to see nice farms come to that end. One of the reasons I want to move is because there are a few "big shots" that run the village and are in cahoots with the bank to buy up land. No one knows where they got their money from.. I suggest they study the local water treatment plant.

      The chili sauce can be found in the foreign foods aisle if you live near a store big enough for that sort of thing. We have to wait until we make our big monthly trip to the big city to buy those sort of things. Ha! Really people have no idea how remote this area is! The "big city" that's 17 miles away has about 3000 residents. Deer walk right down main street here it's so uninhabited. We love it! Especially after living a decade in that over populated corridor between Chicago and Milwaukee. It's a lot calmer!

      Well this is getting long! I get such a kick out of conversing with like-minded people, such as you Toni! I'm glad we "met"!


  3. I think you are living pretty much the modern homesteader/pioneer life. I believe you are right that it would be costly to go back to true homesteading but you are taking it as far as you can in this age. Sounds like a great job to me.

    1. It is a great job Barbara! I would highly recommend it. Maybe this is how the new homestead is supposed to be. Thanks for the encouragement!


  4. I really think you should add Kept strangers inspired to your thrifty list. :)
    I won't even look at the PB roll recipe, since last week you let me rant and then subconsciously kept me in check with my calories last week. I finally put a dent in my weight loss!
    I haven't learned to knit yet, but have gotten the single stitch crochet down. This past week I spied the Tunisian crochet stitch on Purlsoho and am determined to get that down by the end of the month. I agree with you though, there are so many free patterns out there for the making.
    Thank you again for your weekly post.Stay warm!

  5. Congratulations on the weight loss Jen! That's a great start to the new year. I only ate half of one roll, it wasn't worth it because that and the soup were the only things I ate that day. Well, at least I didn't gain weight. Small victory, but I'll take it.

    I never could get the hang of crocheting. I sure admire those that can. That's good to set a goal for learning. January is a good time to learn a new skill. It seems to go so much slower than other months!


  6. Always love Mondays because I get to touch base with you Jane :) One of the only reasons we live in the country on 5 acres is because we bought it in 1987, all 5 acres and a livable house, for $15,000.00. So much was a God thing. Now having a husband who can fix anything doesn't hurt either. We certainly are not what one would call a homesteader though. We rely on electricity a lot. We have and all electric house but I am glad to say that I have reduced our bill from $336.00 a month down to $182.00 this year. We pay the same each month for a year. If we spend to much overall in a year they raise our bill at the end of the year. I switched from using warm water laundry washing to cool, and keep the heat down to about 73*. Hubby likes it warmer but he can add some clothes and a blanket. It's an old farmhouse, built in 1883 so it can be a little drafty even with all the work Hubby has done on it. I keep lights off if not needed etc. I was shocked at how much we saved with just those changes. Anyway, you all sound like you do a lot of homesteading in town. Small towns are lovely places to live too, I think and having a community around in hard times is a good thing. Nannie

    1. Hi Nannie! Your place sounds like heaven to me! But I'd probably faint dead away if I got an electric bill like that! Ha! But I guess the high cost of heating is made up for with how small your mortgage payments must have been. $15,000! Wow! What a bargain! Vacant land around here cost that much per acre. My hat's off to you, Nannie! You are the queen of bargains!

      Oh yes! It's really incredible how much all those little things add up! As Benjamin Franklin said, "Watch your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.".

      It's always good to hear from you. See you next Monday, the Lord willing!


  7. The only good thing about the electric bill is that it is our only utility. No sewer, no water, no gas or propane. And without a mortgage anymore it is so doable. Nannie

    1. That's true! Actually it's very good. One of the things I'd really love is to have our own well. The village doesn't allow them, not even a shallow one for the garden. Do you raise any animals, Nannie?


  8. Just chickens. I have layers for the eggs and in the fall each year I raise 25 broilers for butchering. Nannie

    1. That's good. We barter our labor for chicken. Works out nicely for both us and our farmer.

  9. Love the pictures! I'm sure the lake effects snow is beautiful. Have you had a lot of snow this winter? We haven't had any snow yet. Your soup and rolls look delicious. Thanks for the recipes.
    I think you have done a wonderful job homesteading. What great savings on your electric bill, and that is awesome that you are able to heat your house for so little money. Sounds like you are happy where you live, and that is the most important thing.
    We own 5 acres of wooded, gently sloping land. We aren't very self-sufficient though...our chickens and bees died after a few years. My raised garden beds produce enough for us to enjoy in the summer, but not enough to can. Deer ate my apple trees. So I fail at homesteading.
    Hope you have a great week.

    1. Hi Kathy! Haven't gotten much snow yet, but it's good to get enough to cover the plants.

      I highly doubt that you fail at homesteading! It takes quiet a bit of time to establish a good garden. Remember to keep amending the soil with compost. Bees can be tricky, our son is friends with an entomologist from UofM that gave him a hive and even under her instructions he still couldn't keep them alive. Deer do get into things. We make an invisible fence with fishing line around our garden and trees when they were smaller. They can't see it and when the bump into it, it scares them. Not fool-proof but works fairly well.


    2. Thanks for the tip about the fishing line. We'll try it if we plant more fruit trees. I was so sad about the apple trees.
      Sorry that your son's bees didn't survive either. I think a lot of beekeepers are losing their bees.

    3. You're welcome,Kathy! Hope it helps!

  10. Thank you for all the great advice over the last 3 posts. I'm trying to catch up since I've been off-line a bit. Your penny rug looks great! I'm repairing my homemade wool braided rug. What work!

    So ironic that you are making peanut soup. I made the same thing last night to take to a potluck (a little less spice, though).

    My husband and I chose to homestead 16 years ago. We practice everything on your list, except we have goats and chickens. The chickens have really paid off! And the goat milk really helped my 11 yr. old with his sinuses.
    Looking forward to seeing your new cupboards.

  11. Good evening Leslie. Mending those old braided rugs sure is hard on the fingers! Hope it wasn't too big of a job!

    That is funny that we both made peanut soup the other day. Of all the things in the world to make! We make on a fairly regular basis a peanut noodle slaw: Break up some spaghetti noodles and boil them until tender, drain. Stir fry some coleslaw mix, add a sauce from peanut butter, soy sauce, some ginger and enough vegetable broth to make it thin enough. Combine it all and serve cold or warm. Jamie likes to add more peanut butter and toasted coconut. We have to make do with homemade because there are no Chinese restaurants in the area. Chinese food is one of our favorites.

    One of my nieces was allergic to milk and my sister and brother-in-law gave her goat's milk. Worked a miracle on her.

    You were wise to start out homesteading. I wish that I would have known about it when we were starting out. Now we just have to make-do with what we have. But isn't that one of the maxims of homesteading? Ha! Still holding out that the village will allow chickens one day.

    Have a lovely week!

    1. Thank you, I will try the recipe. We don't have a Chinese restaurant either. Mexican is my favorite since I'm a former Californian.

  12. Dear Jane,

    Your snow pictures are lovely! We only had a little, but the children sure got their money's worth out of it. :) You are such wise woman, and Ran is blessed to have you. I've heard that fennel or milk is good to take with turmeric, too, so it's not so drying. There is so much to learn about natural healing!

    Many blessings to you, dear friend.



    1. Ah, that's a sweet thing to say, Marqueta, but truth be told, I'm the one that's blessed to have such a wonderful husband!

      We've been enjoying watching our new neighbor's grandchildren play in the snow. They really look like they are having fun.

      Thanks for the heads-up on fennel! I'll have to look into that. I just learned that eating water cress three times a week is great for warding off cancer. Have you heard of that? Of course, it depends on where you get it from. I think any growing in the streams around here, would probably be contaminated with the run-off from the farmer's fields. We're going to experiment with growing it in a tub the spring.

      Hope the year is off to a wonderful start for you, my dear girl!


  13. Jane,
    I think that you have hit the nail on the head----we have always sacrificed a lot to have a little property, but we have never, ever been able to provide everything for ourselves. There is not enough time or money to keep all the animals, gardening, canning, cooking, sewing, etc. up to where it would have to be.

    This property in the country where we live now is expensive. The power bill rarely falls under $200/month, and was over $500 this past month because we turned on the furnace. We are thinking that we are going to downsize in the spring. We are researching to see if it would be possible that we have enough equity to sell this place and buy something outright. We hope that there would be a place with a little land, and understand that the house would not be as big or nice as this one. mortgage? That would be worth a lot.

    1. Hi Becky! I pray that the economy holds out for you so you can make it possible. We were fortunate to sell two of our homes at the peak of the real estate boom. We used the profit to put a huge down payment on this little house. We probably undersold our last house, but we wanted to get it sold before the real estate collapse, which we did just a few months before housing prices took a nosedive in our area.

      Living debt-free is such a blessing. Personally, I'd rather live with a little discomfort and inconvenience before I'd go into debt. We don't travel much because our car is becoming unreliable, but we won't buy another until we have the money saved up. If it means we eat a lot of beans and cornbread to put the money aside, so be it!