Done With Homesteading!

Working at night to install plumbing from our new well to our tiny house.

I’m done.  I’ve had it.  This is not working, and I quit!  If something doesn’t give I’m going to blow up or lose my mind or do something crazy!  Just let me live a normal life again (what’s normal???).

Last week I was really tempted to voice some of those thoughts…and actually I did voice them quite emphatically to the Lord one day.  I felt discouraged and like everything was going wrong.  I KNEW differently, but that is how I FELT.  Graciously, through His Word, He reminded me that He sees the big picture and I am very special and loved by Him.  He reminded me that Eternity is really what I am living for, and that what happens here on this earth is small in comparison.

“I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” Isa. 43:19b

Of all my worries, the worst was that we would all die, which means going to heaven to be with Jesus!  Whatever difficulties we face here, they are very temporary.  And my Heavenly Father promised to make a way through them.

As I prayed and asked the Lord about my feelings, He helped me to get a more eternal perspective.  I’ve been worried about Silver Oak because he is under extreme pressure trying to juggle his landscaping business with homesteading.  It is not good.  On top of everything else the past month or so he is often awake for hours at night with tingling and burning hands from overdoing himself.  Our bodies can withstand pressure for a time, but there must be relief or things will fall apart.

Evensong’s young Nigerian Dwarf goats. One was tragically killed last week.

One day last week the children and I went to town to help my mom who has helped us so much.  When we returned home a devastating sight met us.  The goats had found the end of the field fencing and crawled through the barbed wire, coming into our living area and eating every living plant we had, except three they don’t like.  Blossom’s newly purchased herbs were destroyed.  Evensong’s rabbitry supplies were knocked down and the feed eaten.

Our new dog Zoe has proven to be a disaster.  She has now killed four of our animals (two chickens, one guinea, and Evensong’s new little Nigerian Dwarf buckling) and injured one (a big rooster in critical condition).  It has been too sad to even mention.  We are finding another family for her.  The day of the goat devastation, Zoe also had a half-eaten chicken lying beside her.

Last week several of Evensong’s baby rabbits were injured by freak accidents.

An injured bunny’s leg bandaged with aloe vera (one of the three remaining plants)

The small diaphram pump that gives us water pressure in our tiny house went out.

It’s raining more and our makeshift deck roof is manifesting its “makeshiftedness.”

The tiny air conditioner in our tiny house quit working, and it is HOT.

The list goes on.  Things like this take time and energy.  In spite of giving nearly all of the daily chores to others in the family, it is just too much for Silver Oak to live with one foot on the homestead and the other in town doing landscaping.  The rest of us are feeling it as well.  I was so overwhelmed one day I took the two and a half gallons of Buttercup’s milk waiting to be processed and poured it all into the chickens’ trough.  What a relief I felt!  If you would have been here I would have given it to you…

So we are praying for a way out.  Silver Oak’s heart is here on the homestead.  He doesn’t want to go to town and plant or trim shrubs for other people.  He wants to be here.

A change must happen and we are asking the Lord for answers.  He knows our limitations and where He wants us.  We simply need to be ready when He opens doors.

On the brighter side, we just received our new solar panels and they are waiting for installation (hmmm, wonder when that can happen??).  Silver Oak has completely installed the plumbing for the new well, pump, and small pressure tank, and no longer has to haul water!  What a huge blessing!  A temporary a/c window unit keeps it around 84° inside when it is in the upper 90’s outside.  We also just restocked our rotating supply of food which had dwindled way down since moving here last fall.  The tax money we recently received made some of these things possible.  God is taking care of us.

Plumbing the “new” well pump (and sediment filter) which we bought used for $50 through Craigslist, saving around $200. It’s working great!

Brown rice, oats, popcorn, and other bulk foods fill our storage buckets

I had to ask myself, “Did God lead us here and provide this homestead for us?  If so, will He give me the grace to face difficulties that may arise?”

Meanwhile we’ve received several messages from fellow Believers of things that are to happen in our country and world soon.  I have never been keen on studying controversial issues in Bible prophecy, or listening to gloom and doom reports, but when people I respect share information or visions about things in our future, and they come from totally different sources and seem to agree with each other and with Scripture, I am ready to sit up and listen.  How many times in history has the Lord mercifully warned His followers so they could prepare?  How many times were warnings ignored by people who didn’t want their comfortable lives rocked?

Maybe I’ve read too many biographies of people living through the takeover of Communism or Hitler’s regime, or other world-changing events.  Some things happening now are similar to what happened before people completely lost their freedoms or their lives.  Think of all the personal information we naïve Americans are encouraged to share via social media, linking ourselves up with each other in “innocent” ways.  What could become of it in the hands of those who decide Bible-believing, homesteading, home educating, and health consious people are “terrorists?”  Why is the Department of Homeland Security purchasing massive amounts of ammunition, and what is the real reason checkpoints are being planned and built on major US highways?  Many other questions could be asked.

In contemplating the growing stress of the past weeks and our future Silver Oak and I have discussed various things:

1)       We must guard against believing it is solely up to us to prepare for emergencies that may happen no matter what else is neglected.  The Lord provides in His timing for things that are His ideas if we are faithful to walk accordingly.  If He doesn’t provide for something we think we need by a certain time, we can trust Him and His Master Plan.  If He allows us to be in a position where we may be hurt or suffer loss, we can trust Him to carry us through whatever happens.  Being in the center of His will is the only safe place to be.

2)      Whatever the Lord shows us about the future or about what we are to be busy doing will always bring honor and glory to Jesus Christ.

3)      As Believers we are called to be servants.  If we are busy preparing for things coming it must include preparations for being the hands and feet of Jesus to others in time of need who may not be prepared.

4)      The ultimate yearning in the heart of Jesus is for all people to come to Him and find Eternal Life.   When there are seekers of Truth we should always be prepared to share.  World Missionary Press makes small Scripture booklets in many different languages for no charge (they are an organization worth supporting!).  We should have a healthy supply of these booklets on hand for use now and in time of emergency when hope is needed.

5)      We must question ourselves whether we are prepared spiritually for what may be coming.  Are we hiding God’s Word in our hearts?  Are we in fellowship with Jesus so we recognize His voice when He gives us specific direction?   Are we ready to die for Him?  Are we communicating Truth and Love to our children so they have a solid foundation in case we are separated?

6)      We must value relationships more than reaching preparedness goals.

7)      Whatever difficulties we face in homesteading or otherwise will possibly make life that much easier when long-term hardships arise.  A life of convenience and ease can leave us ill-prepared, but if we are already toughened up a bit it may be less stressful in the long run.

Our prayer is that the Body of Christ would lead in preparing, for His honor and glory.


Cooking with a Windshield Shade

PS. Our computer difficulties are being resolved, so hopefully things will be back to normal soon.

Linked w/Barn Hop, Morris Tribe, White Wolf Summit Farmgirl, Growing Home, Frugally Sustainable, Live Renewed, Our Simple Farm, A Rural Journal, Simple Lives Thursday, My Simple Country Living, Ole’ Saturday Homesteading Trading Post, and Seasonal Celebration Sunday.

Cooking with a Windshield Shade

After scooping off the cream the skim milk is used to make soft cheeses

We have been enjoying the great quantity of milk on our little off-grid homestead since the addition of Buttercup, our new Jersey cow.  Now I allow the children to drink fresh whole milk whenever their hearts desire (almost) and we no longer purchase butter, cheese, or any other dairy products.   We’re buying less store-bought food for the dogs and cat because they get milk every day as well.

With the extra milk we’ve been making lots of butter, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, ice cream, kefir, ranch dressing, whipped cream, and buttermilk muffins and pancakes.  When I scoop off the cream I like to make cottage cheese or ricotta with the remaining skim milk.  But making cottage cheese the quick way with vinegar) means using the gas stove for at least 20 minutes on high to bring a large pot of milk to the right temp.

It bothered me that we have loads of free energy around us every day and I’m “wasting” our propane on food we’re making ourselves to save money.  How does that work?  Thanks to the internet I found a really simple idea about harnessing the sun’s energy and tried it.

Can you imagine cooking with an accordion windshield shade?  When I first came across this idea last year I had gone to Goodwill and found a shade and small grill rack to make this particular solar oven, but I hadn’t had time to try it.  Now I fastened the shade’s sides together with clothespins to make a cone shape.  The instructions say to sew velcro on the edges to secure it but I wanted to try it first before investing much in it.

My cone-shaped shade held together with clothespins

I stuck the cone-shaped windshield shade on the five gallon bucket and placed a metal grill rack on it (a square cake rack would do).  This secured it to the top of the bucket, making a sturdy place for my pot of milk.  It also allowed the sun’s rays to shine under the pot and reflect all around it.

The metal rack holds the cone on the five-gallon bucket

The cone sits on the bucket with a stick helping to prop it open

The instructions say to use a plastic baking bag around the pot to create a greenhouse effect.  In order to bring the pot to a high heat and keep the heat around the pot, a baking bag or other plastic or glass enclosure would make it a lot more efficient.  But I wanted to monitor the temperature of the milk and didn’t want it to get too hot anyway, so I decided to skip the bag.

I could have placed my gallon jar right on the metal rack, but sunlight kills some vitamins, including B vitamins in the milk.  I usually make cottage cheese in a large stainless steel pot (Lifetime cookware), but in this situation the shiny exterior would deflect the sun’s rays away from the pot.  I could have used a black cozy around the pot or painted my jar black.  But since I didn’t need a really high heat for cottage cheese the simplest thing seemed to be to place my jar inside something black.

We have two granite buckets for milking the goats, and it worked perfectly to place the jar inside one bucket and use the other one in an inverted position as the lid. I made sure the jar lid was loose to allow air to escape while heating.  I didn’t want an explosion!  Once everything was assembled I propped the sides open with a stick and aimed the cone toward the sun.

A gallon jar of milk in the black bucket

An inverted bucket serves as lid

My first try took nearly six hours to bring the milk to the desired temperature because every time I checked on it the wind had blown the windshield shade around and messed things up.  After two hours I got the stiffer and sturdier shade out of our Suburban and tried again.  It was also taller and worked much better.  Now the Suburban has inherited the small flimsy shade.

Once I reassembled everything with the new shade we began to make progress.  A few hours later the milk had reached around 125° F and was ready to make cottage cheese!  I was so tickled that it had actually worked!

I periodically used a candy thermometer to check the temperature

It worked!

I called Silver Oak and told him that I had just made cottage cheese without using any fuel, and he was quite pleased with his wife.  🙂  The next several days I made a batch every day.  It usually took between three and four hours to reach the desired temperature, and I turned it more directly toward the sun about twice during that time.

The cottage cheese is ready for salt and other seasonings. The whey will be used to soak oats overnight for breakfast the next morning, or for cooking, or to feed the chickens.

Now that I’ve successfully used the sun in this simple way for making cottage cheese, I hope to learn more and reach higher temperatures.  This method is valuable in that the materials used would be quite easy to transport or include in a bug-out bag in an emergency.  There is so much to learn, and lots of ideas out there being used around the world.  Here is one place to start.  Next I want to try using an old tv dish to make a parabolic solar cooker.

Last week the weather changed a bit and it was very windy for several days, making it difficult to set up the windshield shade cooker.  So I mostly made ricotta cheese which requires no heat, and was able to save cooking fuel that way.  The adventure continues as we work toward our goal of living sustainably.


The Best Way to Learn Sustainable Living

PS. We are still experiencing computer difficulties which reduces the amount of posts I am able to write.  Most of us are sharing one computer right now, which puts the squeez on things.

Linked w/Barn Hop, Morris Tribe, White Wolf Summit Farmgirl, Growing Home, Frugally Sustainable, Live Renewed, Our Simple Farm, A Rural Journal, Simple Lives Thursday, My Simple Country Living, Ole’ Saturday Homesteading Trading Post, and Seasonal Celebration Sunday.