New Mixer

Just a quick update on my new Bosch Mixer. From all the paperwork that came with the machine I stand corrected with the name. Apparently, it is a Bosch Universal Kitchen Machine. And let me tell you, it is a machine.

In my last post I told you that I had been dreaming of the Bosch Compact Mixer but could not turn this full size one down because of the price cut and gift certificate. I never expected it to be this big.

I put a standard size ruler in front for perspective. It is a foot wide and almost a foot in depth. I had to rearrange the counters in order to find a home for it. But I am not complaining. I can see me having some fun with this puppy.

At first I was terrified. It sat on my kitchen table for two days before I got the nerve to take it apart and wash all the attachments. Once everything was washed I decided to take it for a spin with something very basic and easy, a boxed cake mix.

Red Velvet was probably not the best choice for an all white machine. I did it anyway.

This is what I learned.

1. It is easy peasy to operate once you figure out how all the pieces fit and lock together.
2. It is quiet.
3. It will be much easier to add ingredients to the bowl than it is with a hand mixer.
4. I am going to love making more than one batch of bread dough at a time.
5. It is not worth the cleanup for one box of cake mix.

I am going to love this machine for big batches of cookies, breads, muffins, and the cool attachments I plan on buying. It is going to save me so much time by allowing me to batch bake. I love to bake but I hate the cleanup. With no dishwasher, I play a lot of dish strainer Jenga on cooking, baking, and canning days. The big bowl and high-powered motor on the mixer means multiple batches and only one set of dirty bowls and utensils. That makes it all worthwhile.

Did I really have the money right now to buy this machine? No, I did not. Do I regret buying it? No, absolutely not. As I get older it takes more energy to get things done. If it means investing a little money into tools that help make life go smoother and gives me the chance to make homemade vs. store bought, then I am going to allow myself that gift. Over the hill homesteading is possible with the right tools.

This sale at PHG ends March 31, 2023. Don’t forget to use the code “Bosch White” to receive the discounted price.


Investing in Kitchen Tools

I recently wrote about finances being a huge hurdle to overcome for senior homesteaders. I told you about my experience with not buying a household tool that would have been a game changer (a freeze dryer). I did not want to invest the money at the time and now the cost has at the very least doubled.

I am here today, March of 2023, to tell you about a sale happening at Pleasant Hill Grain. It is a Bosch Universal Mixer. I am not an affiliate of PHG and make no money from referrals

I have been researching stand mixers for some time. The sound of my mother’s Sunbeam humming on the counter is imbedded in my mind with happy memories. Bosch, a German company, has many positive reviews. I have had my eye on the compact mixer on Amazon for a few months and was waiting for my tax return so that I could go ahead and buy it.

However, I received an email from Pleasant Hill Grain highlighting the sale of the Universal machine. It didn’t look much different to me than the compact version but then I came across all the additional attachments. WOW! Blender, Juicer, Spiralizer, and Ice Cream Maker to name a few. My blender, like my hand mixer should be donated to the Smithsonian, it is so old. My husband and I have talked numerous times about buying a juicer and who can say no to homemade ice cream? I thought about it for a day or so, reread the email over and over, and did the math.

For the mixer alone, the code BOSCH WHITE will bring the cost down to $379. If that is not great enough, the following business day you will receive an email from PHG with a $30 gift certificate toward future purchases. The final cost for this top rated stand mixer comes in at $349.00.

Unlike the freeze dryer that I let slip through my hands, I grabbed this mixer up. If you have been wanting or waiting to buy a brand new mixer that will help your tired painful hands knead all that bread dough, this is it.

Mine has already shipped and yes, the $30 gift certificate did arrive in my inbox. Now should I use it to buy the blender attachment or the ice cream maker?

Excuses: Finances

Lack of funds is probably the biggest excuse holding people back. This is true across the board for most things in life. Unless you have unlimited spending freedom, you are paying close attention to where your money goes. That is very much the case now, where the cost of everything has risen so dramatically.

I am no different. I hate spending money. I always feel that an emergency is right around the corner, and I should save for that. Also, as I get older it seems more difficult to make extra money. I can’t work as many hours as I used to and again, the cost of everything has gone up so drastically in the last couple of years that an extra fifty dollars in the paycheck doesn’t make a difference. So how do you take the little money that you have and put it to the best use?

1. Learn about the best ways to preserve food. I put this first because you need to know safe ways to preserve and store what you buy, grow, or raise. There are many forms of preservation, water bath canning, pressure canning, dehydrating, fermenting, and freezing are common. Putting in the work or money to have your food without the knowledge of how to safely preserve and store it, will be wasteful and potentially harmful to your health. Safe canning of fruits, vegetables, and meals gives you options that require no refrigerator or freezer. Should the electricity go out, you have healthy food on the shelf.

Please learn the safety methods of canning. There are two respected sources for canning recipes. Ball is a very well-known name. Bernadin is the sister company to Ball. If you see either of those, you will know the recipes and proper procedures are followed. Another is the USDA. I have found that follows Ball tested recipes and the USDA recipes can be found at Both sites have great recipes, but the books contain many more and are nice to have on hand.

2. Watch the store sales flyers for things that you use often and buy extras of the staples that you need when they go on sale. I’m not talking about hoarding like the great toilet paper fiasco of 2020. I mean buy an extra baking soda, or pepper, or any shelf stable item next time you go shopping so that you have one on hand. Once you have made the investment into a pressure canner, you can also take advantage of sales on meats, beans, soup ingredients, and other healthy meals. Buy the ingredients when they are on sale and can them up to have on the shelves.

3. Buy in bulk. Many grocery stores now offer a bulk aisle or family size packages of common items. This can be a tricky area to navigate if you don’t know what to look for. Always check to make sure the whole bulk package cost less than the same amount if bought individually. Some stores are sneaky this way. For example, a five pack of Kraft Mac and cheese is on sale for $4.99 this week at our local store. That is a really good deal because they are normally $1.25 a box. But I have seen four packs on sale for $5.00 and people grabbed them up. That is not a sale, that is regular price disguised as a sale. The big box warehouses like Costco and Bjs are good for this. Know your prices. Shop smart not scared.

4. Will the cost of goods and services continue to climb? The general consensus is yes. Decide whether it is smarter to invest money now on things that you will NEED or keep that money in the savings account. Sometimes it’s better to spend then save. A few years ago, I looked into a freeze dryer. A small one would have run me about $600. I decided it was not worth the money and did not purchase it. I regret that decision. They are now over double that cost. That $600 did nothing in my savings account. It would have served me better in the form of a freeze dryer.

5. Trim all the excess spending. This is spending that is almost invisible but adds up over time. Do you stop regularly at a coffee shop and spend $4 or $5 dollars on one coffee? That could add up to $25 or more a week, $100 a month. Take that saved money and pay down some of your other bills. Are you guilty of stopping at the grocery store almost daily as you drive by? One trip into the store means $20 usually, even if you only needed 1 item. Plan your purchases and resist those impulse buys. How many online subscriptions do you have for sites that have become unnecessary? Go through your online and streaming subscriptions. If you don’t need/use them regularly, then cancel for now. You can always resubscribe at a later date.

If saving for a big purchase or keeping your hard earned dollars in your pocket has become a priority, it’s time to sit down and make a list of where your money goes. You might be surprised at all the money you are throwing away.

I’m going to leave you with these five ways to begin kicking the financial excuse to the curb. It’s time to prioritize and cut back on the frills that we have all come to see as necessities. We can and have lived without them in the past. We can do it again in the future if necessary.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. Clicking on them will bring you to a product that earns me a small commission if you purchase. It does not cost you any additional money but helps me earn a little from writing. Thank you.

What are Your Excuses?

We all make excuses for failing to get things done in life. This post is a prime example. My goal is to get one published every week by Friday. It is now Tuesday morning, and I still haven’t gotten it finished. I could give you a long list of excuses but quite simply, I did other things instead of sitting down to write. I did not make this a high priority. Now I feel rushed and stressed out.

Is this you? Are you hoping that life will go back to being plentiful and affordable? Are you choosing busy work over learning a new skill? Have you put off starting a journey that is unfamiliar and a tad bit uncomfortable? Has self-resiliency been pushed low on your priority list? Let’s take a realistic look at this.

What are your excuses?

I can’t grow my own food because… I live in an apartment, I have no time, I have no money, I kill everything.

I’m too old.

I can’t get down on the ground or have other health problems.

I don’t want to look like a crazy conspiracy person.

If any of these excuses sound familiar to you, then know that you are not alone. I have heard them from many friends, family, and from my own mouth. Some are very real. Some are what they are; merely excuses.

Finances, where we live, and health restrictions are true obstacles, but they can be worked with. Would you rather learn some basics now, enjoy the successes and get the experimenting out of the way, or wait until things get more expensive in the grocery store and you have little choice?

I will address the easiest excuse on the above list. “I don’t want to look like a crazy conspiracy theorist.”

Gardening has now become linked to conspiracy. That in itself is crazy. Growing up I remember going to my aunt’s house, one of my Italian aunt’s. We played on the pavement because the city backyard was a fenced in garden. I never thought she was crazy. She wanted fresh tomatoes to cook down into gravy. When we moved out of the city my father made a garden. It was his refuge. We were not allowed in there, but we sure loved to eat what he grew. There was no conspiracy. It was about the taste of a fresh tomato.

Through the years I’m sure you have noticed that houses have gotten bigger but the area around them has gotten smaller. People spend more time in climate controlled homes and less time outside in the fresh air. Manicured lawns replaced vegetable gardens. People lost a connection to where their food comes from.

In the last few years, the disconnect has grown even bigger with the arrival of online ordering and direct to your door delivery. Imagine vegetables and meat appear with the push of few buttons on the phone. This is the false reality that society lives in now. This makes us look like crazy people because we want to grow and raise some of our own food.

So how will you respond to the sighs and eye rolls when you announce that you are going to grow something this year? Will you let them dissuade you? Will you give up before beginning? I say no! Don’t give in. Don’t give up!

Suggest making it a family project and enlist their help. Make it about the time together. Start small with something like an indoor herb garden.

Whole kits can be purchased on Amazon. They have many varieties. They are tasty and many have medicinal benefits as well.

If you have a balcony, porch, or area that gets full sun try some potted cherry tomato plants. They don’t take up much space and there is no need to dig up the landscaping. They make great snacking tomatoes or a bright topping for salads. Pick up some organic potting mix, we like Espoma products, when you purchase plant starts from a local nursery. Don’t forget some containers that are big enough to allow for growth. Five-gallon buckets can often be found free at grocery store bakeries. Used cat litter containers also work well. Drill multiple holes in the bottom to allow for good drainage. When purchasing the soil, make sure you buy soil made for pots. Regular garden soil will compact making it difficult for the roots to grow.

We all start somewhere. The key is to start. Imagine the flavor of fresh picked cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and chunks of mozzarella drizzled with olive oil. There isn’t any conspiracy there, just fresh food grown with your own two hands. You can do this.

I will leave you with this for today and I’ll tackle another excuse in my next post. It is now Tuesday afternoon and even though I didn’t reach my goal for last Friday, I will also not give up. I want to bring as many “over the hillers” along with me as possible.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. Clicking on them will bring you to a product that earns me a small commission if you purchase. It does not cost you any additional money but helps me earn a little from writing. Thank you.

Return to Sourdough

Two weeks back I wrote about the complicated sourdough starter methods that are out there in print and cyberspace. When I decided to learn to make my own sourdough bread that was the path that I traveled down. I took out my kitchen scale and weighed my flour. I tested and measured my water so that it was not too hot and not too cold. I wasted so much flour by throwing out half of my starter each day. YES HALF! Sometimes instructions are overrated.

This is what I learned to do.

1. Measure out 1/4 cup of unbleached white all-purpose flour into a clean container. I have used a mason jar and I have used a medium glass bowl to start. I found the bowl easier to work with when the starter is just beginning.

2. Measure out 1/4 cup lukewarm non chlorinated water and add to your container. Mix until all the dry flour is incorporated.

3. Cover the container with a damp cloth to keep the baby starter from drying out. I learned this trick from Carolyn at Homesteading Family,

4. Repeat twice a day. If you get busy and forget, don’t panic. Feed the starter by following the above steps once you remember.

Once you have done this for a few days the amount in your bowl or jar will have increased enough to remove some, especially if you are using a mason jar. Instead of dumping half of that valuable flour gold into the trash, pour it into a separate jar. Cover the jar of discard and store in the refrigerator.

Take the remaining starter and give it a clean new home. Feed it with 1/4 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of warm non chlorinated water as usual. As the starter gets more mature and stronger you can cover the container with a dry breathable cover like a coffee filter or a piece of clean muslin.

Once this jar of discard starts adding up in volume in the refrigerator, you will need to figure out something to do with it. I tried to make bread. Even after adding yeast, it only rose to about four inches and after baking, resembled a brick. I made a lot of flat breads. I topped them with garlic, onion, butter, cinnamon and sugar. They were ok, but honestly not like the flatbread I was craving.

Then it happened. The waffles.

Wait until you have the needed amount for the recipe, 2 cups of starter or discard, then make up a batch of the best waffles ever. If it makes more than your family can eat at one sitting, flash freeze and save for later. There is only two of us so one batch makes one fresh made breakfast and one breakfast ready in the freezer.

Here is a pdf directly from Melissa K Norris. I will never go back to store bought frozen waffles or that store bought premade mix. These are just as easy and one hundred times better tasting. Top them with local maple syrup, local honey, or for a surprisingly great dessert, ice cream or fresh fruit and cream.

Now you wonder what to do with that sourdough starter that is living on your counter? That takes some time to become fully active and strong enough to make bread. At least one without additional yeast.

Differing factors contribute to the time. The temperature in your kitchen, the regularity of your feeding schedule, the kind of flour, and I personally think the age of your flour. Continue feeding twice daily and watch those bubbles appear. The key is to not give up.

There are many resources for sourdough recipes on the internet. I am still a fledgling bread baker myself, so I have stuck to a few basic ones. Sandwich bread, sandwich buns, and english muffins for now.

*Important note – If you have forgotten about your starter for a few feedings, you may notice a brownish layer of liquid on the top. That is hooch.

It is fine. It just means that your sourdough is hungry. You can pour it off and feed your starter or you can mix it in and feed your starter. The choice is yours. However, if you notice any kind of fuzzy growth on the starter or the sides of the jar, toss it and start over in a clean container. Fuzzy means mold. Not something that you want to feed your family.

I hope this has taken some of the scariness out of sourdough. I am no expert but believe that you can do this. It is much smarter to make the mistakes now while you still have an opportunity to grab for the yeast and fall back on your tried-and-true recipes. As the last three years have shown us, take nothing for granted and expect the unexpected.

What Are We Preparing For?

My post this week was going to be about sourdough. I appologize but felt the need to get this out there.

We have been very lucky weather-wise. We have not had the disastrous snowstorms like in Colorado and Upstate New York. We do not get hurricanes the strength of those down south, and we very rarely have tornadoes or earthquakes. We were in drought conditions last summer, but I believe the fall rains alleviated that. So why do we prepare? What exactly are we preparing for?

A few weeks ago, I touched upon our journey and why we strive to be as self-reliant as possible. One of the reasons is quite simply for weeks like this.

Thursday night we got snow. It was nothing like the major feet of snow that other places got, just a few inches. None the less school was cancelled which meant I lost a day’s pay. Then Sunday night through Monday night we got more. School was cancelled again. Now we are all glued to the weather forecast because they say today into Thursday, we will have another 4-7 inches.

These are not major storms. “In the good old days” life would not have come screeching to a halt for this much snow. Even when my own kids were little, they would have attempted to have school. Now according to some young parents on Facebook, the roads are unsafe, and the hills are too dangerous for the buses. These are the same roads and hills that existed 25 years ago, but now they are unsafe. Everyone should stay at home. There should be no one driving in a few inches of snow.

Ok I admit I hate going out in the snow now, but I am old. When I was in my 30s, 40s, even early 50’s I would say “ok, challenge accepted” and out the door I would go. The adrenaline would get pumping and getting the kids to and from school safely was MY JOB! A job that every school bus driver I know takes very seriously. I was more than capable because I paid attention and knew how to drive in the snow. A few inches of snow was nothing for central Massachusetts.

This is a great article that lists our biggest snowstorms.

I’m sorry I went off on a little tangent there.
What does this all have to do with us being prepared?

Well, this snow was wet and heavy because it has been so warm. It caused trees to snap bringing down power lines. The outdated electrical system in a city twenty miles from here blew a couple of transformers, which caused a domino grid down situation in surrounding towns. Many of these same folks that are worried about going out in the snow have no electricity now and are totally unprepared for these situations. In many cases they have no heat source because everything in their home is powered by electricity. They cannot cook because their stoves and instapots are inoperable without a power source. They are examples of a generation that will be totally lost and unprepared should this country go completely off the rails. They laugh at people like me because we are old fashioned in the way we think. Tsk Tsk Tsk.

Last night my husband and I sat here watching the snow and the wind. We knew that if we lost power, we would be out in the shed with a flashlight firing up the generator and running extension cords, but we would not be without heat. We knew we would be able to pull jars out of the closet and have a hot meal without opening the freezer. If the power went out for days or weeks we could refill the gas tanks, provided the gas station has a generator to run the pumps. We learned from past experience to keep some cash on hand. No electricity means no ATMs and no debit or credit card transactions. It is important to remember that we could lose that convenience at any time.

This is what we are always preparing for. We are not preparing for the zombie apocalypse. We are not preparing for the end of the world. We are preparing for a breakdown of the systems that everyone takes for granted. My husband and I are capable of doing without a lot of convenience, but we must be prepared for it. At our age it takes a lot longer to get things done. We get tired and we get sore. We can’t lift heavy loads like we used to, but we can make adjustments as long as we have a plan.

I worry about my family and friends who think we are nuts. I worry about my children and grandchildren that have come to rely so heavily on all the gadgets and technology. Will they remember from their childhood the times when we blocked off rooms with heavy blankets and all lived in a few rooms to conserve heat? Will they remember how to save frozen food in the middle of winter by using nature’s freezer? I can only hope and pray that they will. They were prepared through life experience by us, the crazy old folk that have weathered many storms.

Flour and Water Pride

Is it weird to be proud of flour and water? It isn’t when that flour and water makes an active sourdough starter.

Recently I read a post in a Facebook group from someone who was having a hard time getting her sourdough starter to become active. She said it was not doubling like it should when it was at its peak. She explained her steps, when she had started the process, and her disappointment. She was ready to throw in the towel and abandon this healthier way of bread making.

The responses from other members of the group were well meaning but very technical. For anyone who is new to working with sourdough and floundering this is not what they want or need. Simplicity is the key. I know this because.

I was in her shoes a few years ago. Yes, I jumped on the sourdough bandwagon during c*vid. After all there was no place to go, the store shelves were bare, and I was going a bit stir crazy. I realized I needed another skill in my new “independence from the norm” treasure chest. I took out every sourdough book in the CW Mars library, both print and digital. I read, I studied, I watched professional bread makers create artisan loaves so beautiful they were like works of edible art. Then I broke out the flour and filtered water and began.

I weighed everything out precisely, mixed it in a mason jar and watched all day. Patience is not one of my strong character traits. I fed it again in the evening and hoped it would be bubbly in the morning. It was not.

My tastebuds were waiting for sourdough bread like I had tasted on a high school class trip to Spain, but instead I was staring at a jar of the clay mixture that I used to make with the kids. I hit the books and You Tube once again.

Every set of directions was complicated and said to discard half of what was in the jar. I didn’t know any better, so I took out half and threw it away. This went on for days or maybe weeks before I started questioning why I was wasting so much of this precious substance that was now very hard to come by. My starter had also not gotten all big and alive. I was getting discouraged. Then it happened. I found a recipe for waffles using the discard.

No more storebought frozen waffles for this house. No more prepackaged mix that contained a bunch of who knows what. I could whip up a bunch all at once and freeze them for later. It was the accomplishment that I needed to stick with it.

Eventually I was able to move on to English Muffins. Not the prettiest to look at but they were homemade, and they tasted just like the famous brand.

As the starter got stronger, I finally was able to make the most delicious dessert chocolate bread, rolls, and sandwich bread.

Then summer happened.

I put my first starter in the refrigerator and forgot about it. I tried to revive it in the fall but, Yeah, I killed it good. I started all over, but since I was back to work the constant feeding, discarding, and baking when it was at its peak was too much. My poor starter never stood a chance. I killed another one.

When Homesteading Family held a sourdough challenge, I had to participate. I was still craving the taste of real sourdough. Carolyn teaches using a bowl instead of a jar and there is no science degree needed. Simple measurements and simple directions.

I did it! I had accomplished a loaf of sourdough sandwich bread.

There was no turning back. I have returned to using a quart mason jar with a coffee filter on top because the bowl was taking up valuable countertop space. It is the easiest and perhaps the laziest method I can think of. A heaping 1/4 cup organic all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup filtered water. Mix it well with a wooden spoon, cover with the coffee filter, and throw it back in the corner.

When the jar gets too full, I pour half into another clean mason jar which lives in the fridge until I can make something that does not need fully active starter. When I pour out half, I transfer the countertop starter into a clean jar and work the feedings and baking around my schedule. Easy peasy.

So, if you think that you cannot balance sourdough and real life stay tuned. I will write a separate post giving you tips to get you on your way. If I can do it with my crazy schedule, so can you. Soon you will have Flour and Water Pride too.

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Our Journey Begins

Ten years ago, if asked how I envisioned this time in our lives I would say. WE are going to travel. WE are going to go on long drives and if we get tired, we will find a place to stay for the night. WE are going to be free spirits with a home base to return to when we needed stability.

I never envisioned the chaos and uncertainty of the last couple of years. I could never have imagined being stopped while crossing state lines that we have crossed our whole lives. I never anticipated a life where grocery stores were not freely entered, and shelves were bare. It was a rude awakening to see just how dependent we had become on convenience and how lax we had let ourselves get on preparedness. These were some of the events that grounded our free spirit dreams and changed the course of our lives forever.

The state of fear that panicked some, frightened us for a few months but did not paralyze us. We watched as people fought over food and household supplies. Warehouses were running on short staff or shut down and trucks had nothing to deliver. The news said this was short term, just long enough to “flatten the curve.” This did not look short term.

Long term shortages began to look real. Reality had given us a wakeup call. Nowhere in our life’s handbook was there a chapter on nearing retirement age and having to learn how to live without modern convenience. I would have remembered that chapter. It was time to take that call seriously.

We decided to use the extra money that was being handed out to move our lives in a completely different direction from the masses. We increased the main vegetable garden area. We experimented growing different vegetables in pots. I began studying herbs and planted a medicinal herb garden so that we will not have to rely on over the counter or pharmaceutical drugs.

With shelves remaining bare and prices rising I began sourcing milk and meat locally. I still bought from the store when I ran across a sale, so that we could build up reserves, but I vowed to never become dependent on the commercial food system again.

We traveled the internet instead of the countryside. I became a regular visitor to Carolyn and Josh Thomas, Melissa K Norris, and Jill Winger’s websites. I studied up on cooking from scratch, food preservation methods and we learned as much as possible about increasing our food production.

With all the free time at home I ventured into bread making. It was not always pretty or edible as bread but with the help of my dehydrator, I was able to stock up on breadcrumbs from the disasters.

When yeast became impossible to find I jumped onto the sourdough bandwagon. Over the last couple of years, I have managed to kill a couple of starters, but I think I am getting the hang of it now.

As life appeared to begin to return to semi normal, we did not revert back to our convenient life. We continued to expand our growing area and our knowledge.

It is hard to believe that our journey into self-reliance, self-sufficiency, or food independence, which ever term you choose to use, began just three years ago. WE have made huge advances and show no sign of waning. WE cannot do all that we would like, but as economic stability continues its downward spiral, WE are taking a proactive stance when it comes to the control over our own lives. It is never too late, and you are never too old to take responsibility for your own welfare. Start small if you have to but start. The peace of mind it brings is worth a lot more than the conveniences you may have to give up.

What and Why, Not How

When I came up with the idea for this blog, I thought I could help other people who are around my age see that they are not too old to live a homesteading lifestyle. In my mind I was going to “teach” them.

I thought it would be easy to write.

I was very wrong.

I have struggled from day one to find topics where I felt proficient in what I was writing about. Even when I had ideas for topics, I would either sit here staring at the computer screen or find anything else to do, rather than write. When I did manage to get a few posts written and published, they did not feel authentic. They felt then, and feel now, forced.

The last post that I was working on was about making from scratch pancake mix in a jar and having it stored on the shelf. It should have been such an easy thing to write about, but it wasn’t. It still sits unfinished and unpublished because…

I couldn’t find the original recipe for the dry ingredients. The recipe card that I had taped to one of the jars made no sense. The amount of ingredients added up to more than what would fit in one jar. What had I done to make these jars? I had lost the “how” to make a simple pancake mix in a jar. Not a very good teaching example.

So as per usual, I beat myself up pretty bad over failing. Just when I think I know what I’m doing, I don’t. I don’t have a clue. I suck. I resigned myself to the fact that this was not for me. I gave up, or so I thought

Write about what you know. Don’t try to copy what others are doing. Just sit and write.” It was a nagging thought that would not go away. So here I sit, fingers moving on the keyboard, typing all kinds of gibberish that I will go back and edit out, but I am writing. I will not give up.

I am changing the focus for Over the Hill Homesteading. It will not be the actual homesteading. It will be the “what” and the “why” that has brought me to this way of living. I will write in more of a story telling form instead of step by step. It is much more natural for me to tell you a pancake mix in a jar story then give you a step-by-step lesson in what to do. Especially because some days I really have no idea what I am doing.

I still hope to inspire and encourage you to explore this way of living. However, I will leave the “how-to” instructions to those who have the experience to guide you, and me, in the right direction.

*By the way, I did find the original recipe while searching for something else. She is much more an expert than I. I encourage you to make some jars and have them on your shelf. They are great and have none of the garbage that the prepackaged mixes do.

The Skill of Cooking

The garden is done for the year and the preserving is done, other than some tomatoes that are in the freezer. I have no chickens or livestock to process or care for over the winter, so lately I have been overcome by the feeling of this is no homestead. This is just old people getting ready for winter in the northeast. Frankly I am having a difficult time thinking of subjects to write about because I’m not doing any homesteady things. What do modern homesteaders do during the winter months? They slow down some, enjoy the accomplishments of the past year, and plan for the next. They take this time to work on inside projects and learn some new skills.

There are a lot of skills that I want and need to learn. Being that I just started getting serious about living this life, I am a floundering newbie. There are so many basic skills to work on, and I am way behind. You all are probably better equipped to teach me some things.

For instance, real meals from raw ingredients were something I made, but not often. I believed that a home cooked supper was a box of Hamburger Helper and a canned or frozen store-bought veggie, or a can of condensed soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. It wasn’t take-out so I thought that was home made. I grew up eating a lot of the prepacked chemical sh@t storm foods that were convenient for my mom to cook. She worked outside the home, and I have come to believe that cooking was not really something she enjoyed. A trait she handed down to me. THERE I ADMITTED IT!

Cooking is not something that I like to do, especially after working outside all day or coming home from my job in the late afternoon. But it is a skill that I am desperately working on so that I am eating as little processed food as possible.

One of the ways I learned how to make that happen is to get the main part of the meal cooking in a crockpot and any veggies peeled and cut so that I can pull them from the refrigerator, and just add them to the crockpot or put them on to boil, bake, roast etc. I am also trying to make enough at once to have leftovers one night and freeze the rest for a later date.

Another strategy is to plan a day off as a cooking day. I prep two meals to make along with regular chores like making bread. One meal is for that day. It’s usually Sunday, so a football game type meal that can be simmered for hours. Chili, spaghetti sauce, or a hearty soup is always good during the winter. Crock Pot Pasta Fagioli, got us through three weekday meals and enough frozen for a future lunch for me. I added a fresh baked breadstick, and it was delicious.

While the Sunday meal is cooking, I will make something like lasagna that can be cut into serving sizes and frozen. When there is only two people in the house a 9X12 lasagna is a lot of meals. To get it all done and still have time to sit with my feet up for a few minutes, I get up close to my regular time and get prepping as soon as I have my first sip of coffee.

Another thing I added to the playbook, and this is a game changer, I have learned to safely can meals. I’m talking open a jar, pour into a pan, heat, and eat. Of course, things like rice, quinoa, or noodles, can be cooked to go with what I have canned, making it a full meal, but sometimes it’s whatever I grab from the closet.

Depending on how many people you need to regularly feed you can make these meals in pint or quart size jars. Plus, these meals are shelf stable, so they are not taking up freezer or refrigerator space. BONUS! I learned how to make some of the tastiest meals from Caroline Thomas at Homesteading Family. They have tons of videos on You Tube, a blog, and a regular podcast that are free. They also have a paid membership that is filled with courses and a very active community.

If you are a person like me that struggles with a dislike of one of the main pillars of homesteading, good healthy meals cooked from scratch, I invite you to challenge yourself. It’s never too late to learn this new skill. You will feel better once you stop eating the chemical laden foods from the grocery store shelves. You will also feel more food secure, knowing you can throw together some basic ingredients to create a healthy meal. Make 2023 the year of real food.