Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Major Detour, Not Effected As Much As If I Wasn't Self Sufficient

Now with all the changes and big companies making folks buy what they want you to, and giving you food that is modified beyond what it once was. I understand like things in the test of time, man made items will fall to the earth if not dealt with.
A bridge which leads straight into the hub of the city center will be closed over the next 4 months. Depending on which part of town I need to get to, it will be a longer trip and several miles out of the way.
I suspect that my little country lane will become a hub and raceway to get to those back roads. On a busy day we might get 6 cars outside of the small handful of folks that live back here in the valley.
I have been hearing all kinds of folks angry that it is going to take so long and how much they will be effected by it. I myself like always, will continue to plan my trips into town as I always have. I also know of a old logging road that I could follow in my Hummer through the woods to get to the other side if I ever needed to. So for now my trips into town will be a few miles longer, as it is spring I will enjoy the view more than if it were winter. I do love springtime as the earth comes back to life!!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cold Frame Veggies Are Coming Up!!!

So as you can see just in 9 days with night temps in the mid 20's to mid 30's and day time temps in the mid 40 to lower 50's we have food growing!!! My total cost for this project was about 32 dollars, I expect this will keep growing my veggies for a few more years without repairs, and may need to do some repairs then. I am excited!!!!!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Fish Farming For Self Sufficiency In My Pond?

Considering I have a pond, deepest is 18 feet, about 140 feet long, on average 30 feet wide. I have large mouth bass that I sport fish for and release back into the pond. So why not put and feed some fish that I can harvest later on? I am considering crappie, yellow perch and catfish. I am also looking into some lake trout as well. Its just a new way I never considered in quest to being self sufficient.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Food Revolution What Are We Feeding Our Children? What's That?

My wife and I have been watching Food Revolution, and I am not only shocked by the "lunch ladies" ( as if I wasn't scared enough as a child ) but when they asked the first graders what the veggies were that Jamie was holding up they didn't know... I wonder how that could be, I mean kids didn't know what a tomato was, but they knew what a chicken nugget was.
When he made the "homemade" chicken nuggets, and the kids watched him as he ground up cartilage, fat, and scraps of meat, they agreed to eat it.
The second point being made was the children didn't know how to use knives and forks properly. Now my wife had a hay day with that as the lunch lady needed to proof the children in Europe learn to eat with knives and forks while they are very young. What parent doesn't teach their children how to use these items to eat with?

I love seeing the color of the grass coming back, some of the trees are start to come out now as well. I have started some of my veggies indoors this week. My tractor broke down yesterday, I doubt its serous and I think it is the starter as I added alfalfa meal to the soil for some early added nitrogen.  I will need to use some funds from my SS to pay for the repairs.

I also have decided that planning my garden this year is the most serous than ever before. I often wonder about the real pioneers and as well as what made my mom be like she was. I remember she had so much knowledge about animals and plants. She could spot leeks, wild mushrooms and other good eats while driving along the side of the road.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Self Sufficient Living Get To Know Me, Making Ends Meet. Part 2

Tickled that I now own these stakes, along with the different types of hammers I have, I should be able to make all different things I have drawn in my sketch book. I am sure that there is going to be a learning curve, and things will start out a little rusty, but to me that is like taking on an adventure.

I have been really think of my next piece of work, a set of table candle sticks, the solid copper set I designed first, I also designed a set of oak and copper. Simplistic in style with lots of traditional Craftsman bells and whistles. I am thinking maybe using tray/bottom of the candle to be a Aspen leaf, hop to have time in the next few weeks to get those done!

I am excited about my recent burst of creativity, I don't know what copper forms/things are going to come from it, but I feel like there will be some of my best work to date.!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Self Sufficient Living Get To Know Me, Making Ends Meet. Part 1

So if your just joining me and if your interested, I want to tell you a little more about me. If you didn't know, I am self employed and I am a Coppersmith/Master Craftsman. I have never been sure how those titles should fit together, so they are just there on their own. Some of you might be scratching your heads wondering what a Coppersmith is and whats that all about. I am a tradesman/crafter who works the metal copper, making many different things. If you want to visit my site you will see all the wonderful items I have made through the years.
In the beginning, times were pretty lean/tough, but I just kept coming up with ideas and my work was getting out there. My work is all around the world, and has been in magazines many times.
Currently as I expand into a new level of my work, the artistic side, ideas and designs have begun to flow from me. Some years ago the creative side kinda got left behind when I got caught up with so much going on at once, and it wasn't until I visited Charles Rohlfs traveling exhibit did it come back to me.
I designed a rain chain some years ago, and saw that others were coping my design and ideas. Today if you google the metal peddler, a company is paying to advertise under my name. It did make me mad at first, and my wife reminded me it was a sign of success.
As I continue to read about Rohlfs, I find that we have some common interest as well as ideas and insight. I happened upon a man named Sam some years ago, a metal worker as well, industrial type stuff, who had in his shop what I would say was a gem to a Coppersmith of these days.
Covered in dust/rust in the back corner of his shop was a metal working stand that had all sorts of metal forming stakes on it. I asked if it was for sale, he said 800 dollars and I could have it. I didn't have the money at the time, however would return later over the last couple years to see if I could buy it. My guess is that he found out how much it was worth and decided not to sell it to me.
The wife asked what I wanted for my 40th birthday, I told her that I wanted that stake set. She said that was fine, she has always supported my ideas and works of art and such. So finally, I went down and told Sam I was turning 40 y/o this year and he had my present. I suppose he has fallen on hard times by the looks of his shop, and maybe he just knows I would/could use them.

So I wire brushed them and cleaned them up, these could not have come to me at a better time. My stuff will no longer just be drawings, I got to get it done. I can't express to you the level of joy I have to now own these. I will need to make Sam something at some point in the near future. I also have my wife to thank for letting me have such a present 3 months before my birthday!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pictures Of My Pantry And Root Cellar With Food Stores Left..

Sorry about the sizing of these photos, so its not going to be pretty, just keeping it real. So just short of April, harvesting season still 4-5 months away in the new garden, if I were living as a true pioneer, my veggie supply would be low. Back in those days, I am sure there were no hunting/fishing restrictions, and with that I would have planned accordingly. I also would have prepared better storage if I needed. So just for fun, I decided to let you see into my pantry.

I have read some interesting books about pantry construction and uses. Catherine Pond wrote a book a few years ago. It is informative, and show lots of pretty pictures of some of the most beautiful well used pantry's I have ever seen.
Pantry, The: Its History and Modern Uses 

Presented here is Jams on top back (straw, black, rasp, straw-rhubarb) on top right is the last of my dried mushrooms. Hanging in a plastic basket are the last of my shallots, the dried plant were once filled with red chili peppers, on the second shelf are dried pumpkin seeds, stewed bell peppers, salsa, deer meat, ketchup, and a general sauce.

So my freezers are still half filled with other veggies, and if I didn't have a freezer, I would have canned more veggies. My freezers contain only the food I grew, hunted, caught. However I did purchase some Rainbow trout to add to the mess DS and I caught last spring. We still have 11 pounds of cat fish we caught last fall.

So as for being SS this past year, I think I would give myself a B- because I purchased some tomatoes because mine caught that blight, and I still bought new materials for some projects.

My goal is not to be 100% off grid, my goal of self sufficient is to provide more than 80% of my families needs within my level of living. I believe I have saved close to 5,000 to 6,000 dollars by providing for myself in ways that I can.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dumpster Diving Waste Not Want Not

So guess what? Okay, I broke the law today. If you wanna get me in trouble, go ahead and call the Man.

So there I was minding my own business, driving the back way out of a shopping center, in the distance what do I see? Thats correct, some one throwing something useful away. It didn't take me but a split second to decide if this dive was going to happen. See I know the material quality, and what a awesome find to use for tarps!! These things are 10 times better than tarps, and useful for all kinds of things. So I waited, and when they shut the back door, I was faster than the duke boys flying over a bridge-less ravine. It was an all out snatch and grab, so as karma would have I said ten he!! marys while doing it just in case the big man up stairs didn't like it so much.

But for my troubles, lookie at what I got.... and they are 44 inch wide by 18 feet long, a total of 9 of these banners.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Cold Frame Mistake, Still Almost 80% Free Materials!!

I made a huge mistake when building the cold frame. I took out a sliding glass window, so I framed that in thinking it would be nice to have for a cold frame. I built it on a hard level surface, moved it to the location I decided would work the best. Then I started loading the dirt in, I filled one side pushed it over to be level. So as I went to move the window over, it was stuck, so thinking about it, the frame must have twisted while under all the weight.

I didn't want to loose the glass, after some prying and moving, I was able to remove the glass. So I had to do some back yard engineering and figure out how to hinge it. So I had some hinges I bought at a auction last year, and was able to fit/screw those to the window metal frame than back to the box. It needed some work on it now as well. I had to use my first piece of new lumber that I paid to use on this project.

I took the cost of dirt out of my SS fund and mixed it with some of my own dirt from the tater baskets last year. I have put the word out on some containers that I am going to paint black, fill with salt water to absorb heat during the day.

Somehow I thought this project was pretty straight forward, and through doing it I learned a few things I didn't expect to happen. I was a bit snuffed by how to mount the glass and in the end figure it out after thinking it over a couple days. I will also need to seal the edges a little better. Personally, I don't think I know it all, but I am always willing to learn from my mistakes. The frame tweaking never occurred to me, also the reason I need to put a small seal around the window.

You wouldn't believe how much I am learning on my way to being SS, its not everyday, but more often than if I just lived like most of the population.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Free Seeds Leave A Comment

I have 3 packs of Silver Queen corn to give away, leave me a comment and email me your snail mail address and I will send it to you for free!!!!

92 days to grow/harvest

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Big Melt Is Here!!

Yesterday with all the snow melting, I inspected the pond area where I was concerned about it possibly over flowing towards the house. I cleaned out the drain and placed a small pipe down it as the water was bouncing around the top rather than flowing down. That seemed to work well, as all the water coming down the mountain from both the rain and melting snow. I am pleased at the rate of the melt as I was worried as it might melt the same rate as it did a couple years age and we had big troubles that year and it washed out both of my driveways. This years big melt pics looking down the driveway to the shop.
 Here is a couple from when the big melt happen a few years ago.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Cold Frame Using Old Window Building Part One

After pulling out my old window, replaced it with a much greener one, I wasn't sure what I was going to due with it. Kicked around the idea of a cold frame, I learned a friend on-line was in zone 4 and uses theirs through the winter for winter hardy crops. I explored the idea further and remember one of my old Mother Earth magazine had a article in it some years ago about cold framing.

I would really like some ideas on things to use inside to gather heat during the day and keep it warm during the night? Do you have/use a cold frame? I am in zone 5a, what crops would you use?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I Finished My Signature Tree of Life Today, Self Sufficient Skills

So I finished my siggie piece today, The Tree of Life, its headed down to the Gallery tomorrow. I am still considering price right now, so besides the folks in my shop, your are the first peeps to see it.

As I show pictures, I will explain more to you as there are different reasons for building this.

The four branches represents the ten year blocks of my life and its up/downs/struggles. As an artist my subject matter changes with the way I am feeling or what the purpose the item is. I am not going into great detail of the four branches and why they are shaped the way they are. All the info about this lamp is in a book that goes with the lamp and its new future owner.

The patina is my siggie patina and is completed to a highly desirable earth tone using liver of sulfur mixed with my secret other ingredient which the recipe will die with me as other well know Coppersmiths have done. There is little to no information on some artist patina formula.

One with Mother Earth brought the root system to life in this piece and with this piece, perhaps my last representation of the Art Nouveau transition to the Arts and Crafts style which is heavily represented like no other piece I have done to date.

When I design and make a piece, its a passion or love for what I am doing. So to get the best work possible in my siggie pieces I work on them when I want. I still have one that is laying covered in dirt and dust. When I feel the right time, I will complete it. Each of the four panels was hand filed to completion for detail taken from my sketch template. That template will go into my lifes work folder with my past/current/future works. This piece is signed/dated/numbered/embossed with my personal stamp given/designed by Jim. Its my registered trade mark with the Guilds of Master Craftsmen.
While in the middle of this piece I was inspired to complete yet another piece that I have been designing for 5 years now. The amount of detail and different materials will showcase some of my more skilled level of work. I expect the next piece to take almost a year to build from start to finish. Working for myself, being SS also means I can make a living while at the same time work and design some of my own signature pieces which is used for my personal income gain.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Food Shortage Across The World Discussion 1 Billion Without Food 2009

There are more and more alarming facts/things happening right around us. Let me open this discussion up by sending you to read an article that is as shocking to me as Food Inc. was. Please go to Mother Earth News and read this article, come back and lets discuss it more in depth.

I ask myself some serous questions about the most destructive creature that walks the earth, man. I wonder how we can be so smart yet so stupid? As natural habitats shrink, rain forest disappear how can we continue to survive yet allow the rest of what lives with us die? Why can't/don't we stop killing the earth?

Like air, destruction is all around me, even as I make my stand against it, the big companies, and the government, I ask myself what is it that I am getting that they don't? Perhaps they have known all along and the real truth is its all about the mighty dollar. Perhaps as well the earth is feeding a population the she can't really feed. I am the first person to step up and all for harvesting my own food from lakes/soil/land. But how much is too much?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Raised Beds, Bees Wax And Cheap Materials, Be Informed...

When we think about raised beds, we think about how long will they last?

Time and time again I see raised beds made from wood that was made to last, pressure treated or creosote treated railroad ties. In no way am I a expert and admit the info I am about to share is just keeping any/all chemicals out of my food.

I rub my wood for my raised beds with bees wax, as short lived as it is, it's better than getting cancer from chemicals in the food that I work so hard to raise.

The amount of folks making raised beds from used railroad ties and pressure treated lumber is alarming.

Its better to make your raised beds from wood that you need to replace every couple years, verses inviting cancer to be a pal... The chemicals used in these products also over time leech into the ground, perhaps into your well water.

A small list of items of types of treated materials are old rail road ties, old telephone poles, old pier pylons/boards, marine grade plywood and green/blue colored pressure treated lumber sold at tores across the nation.

I am sure there is even a better solution to my bees wax idea, please share.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Its Time To Get The Stuff Out, Get Comfy, And Start Writing Your Garden Plans

Today I can't tell you how important it is to sit down and plan your garden out. I just finished an article that covers importance of crop rotation in my Country Wisdom self sufficient guide. As I sat down with cup of blueberry acai tea and a couple slices of homemade bread and jam. I had all the things I was gong to need to make my plans.

Using my notes that I have taken over the entire year, I begin to plan what is going to go where and which ones will grow together. I have always planted radishes with my squash plants to warn off pest. I decide that I would plant corn, limas and green beans up to the property that Paul Sr. allowed me to use last year.

With the blight of 1847 hitting last year, I have moved my maters to a different location this year.I plan to still put the crazy bean tree up as well as the cucumber ladder.

I have plans to put the cold frame in the back of the house plant chard/spinach in that and maybe some lettuce as well. I have a strawberry patch that is ready to be pulled out and replanted. With the 300 some plants now over in the big field, I will put a much larger  herb garden in as well as a new garlic patch.

I have some left over wood from the chicken coop build to build the cold frame from. I am going to rebuild the coop this summer as I didn't do a very good job the first time. Oh, its well built, but unpractical as a tractor coop. 

One of the disadvantages of doing something for the first time is the mistakes that are made along the way that are costly. I will not need to buy more materials, but I bought way to much and over killed building the coop.  That money came out of my SS fund and could of been put to use in much better ways. By the time I finished the coop, I was very pleased with the build until I tried to move it. That became a nightmare and so this spring, armed with a new design, I will build something more practical.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

So What Is My Self Sufficient Fund?

Well years ago when I started my to live self sufficient (SS) I decided to start out with a fund of 1500.00 and see where that could get me and I would figure the rest out. Buying the 1954 harvester super C and 48 inch box tiller put a huge hit in that amount, and after purchase of more jars for canning, I have since stayed below the 1K mark but with sales of goods from canning, bartering and trading have kept that going.

The funds are to improve my garden and level of planting and producing food to consume or sale/barter with. The eggs are still being sold to friends and that money goes back into their food fund as well as my SS fund. I have raised my prices to just below what the super market are selling their organic eggs locally here. Their selling theirs for 3.69 a carton, so I am selling mine for 3.00 a carton.

Each improvement I make to my property/garden comes from my SS fund, and its doing okay, not as much as I expected. I didn't tap any trees as I was going too, I need to design a cooker to cook the sap down.

I Have Started Planning My Garden Here Is A Sample Layout

So I started planning my garden and you might have guessed which book I was going to grab first? If you said my Country Wisdom & Know-How book you are correct.
I could spend all day telling you how wonderful/useful this book is.
I scanned a picture from this book to use on my blog to show you this book is awesome!!! For as little as $6.96 this book retails for $19.99, it can be yours!!

So using this layout has given me a good start on how I am going to plant my garden, at least the bottom end of my garden. I already have a carrot box, so I am going to modify this for my own use. I will triple my spinach crop this year, I love spinach, but not mustard greens. Although I was fond of Gails greens that were made with smoked jowl and onions. I might have to come up with my own recipe.
Wondering about the flavor of Swiss Chard??? What does it taste like??

Also canned beets this year, recipes?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Cold Frame Using Old Window From Remodel

I have never built or used a cold frame before, being in zone 5a I think this is a wonderful idea for cold weather crops. This one I found on a post at and can see that I have most of the materials already to build one like this one.

Mine will be much larger and once I get a better understanding of how they work, I will be off to build my own. I already found a perfect location that gets sun through most of the day. 
Do you or have you ever used/built a cold frame?

I am interested in gathering more information that will assist me in build/using mine to live a more self sufficient life.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Planning Your Garden Out, Spring Is Coming Part Two, Recipe Ideas?

Well, mom might have been right and maybe none of us want to agree. One of the most important tools you can have is knowledge of the food and its nutritional value as part of your diet. This should be the reasons why planning your garden out is so important.

In my personal library I have several key books that I often suggest for many reason, but one main reason is easy/use/application whether your a experienced gardener or your just getting started jumping in both feet first. Grow Vegetables: Gardens - Yards - Balconies - Roof Terraces is a book that everyone can use, I bought this book when I was living in the city and needed to figure out planting spaces and which veggies grow with each other to ward off pest. Now that I live in the country on my farm/homestead this book is one of three I use every year to help me plan my gardens.

I have started this year to look more closely at the types of veggies I will be planting this year for their food value in my diet. Its important that you get your soil worked in really well, but if this is your first year, not to worry. You can still have a pretty decent harvest using some ready made organic fertilizers which can be purchased locally.
The second book I will strongly suggest is Country Wisdom & Know-How. This book, more than any other book has been my self sufficient guide from the start of my journey. As far as Self Sufficient living goes, this book goes into detail about all sorts that folks have to know. This book is filled with more than how to garden, it has recipes, crafts, elixirs, quilting, canning, soap making, lotions, home repairs, bee keeping, animal assistance/health, meat sectioning for small and large game, chicken/duck rearing and under ground storage. Hands down, mine is covered with dirt, torn pages, folded pages, and the cover is worn. I have notes scribbled for things I have tried or ideas.

Because this book was put together by the Editors of Storey books, you can be assured that for the $7.18 your paying for the book, you are getting a awesome bargain.

Be sure to stop back so we can talk about the books if you decide to purchase them. Once I got my head into them, I was learning all kinds of new skills as well as educating myself on living a more self sufficient lifestyle. I also have learned to make my soil better and how to get the best veggies from my garden.

So sitting in front of me is my sprout seeds, Catskill Brussels Sprouts, I know in my heart in life, sometimes you have to be brave.

Do you have a recipe for Brussels Sprouts??? I sure would like to find some ways to eat them!! As my memory reminds me, my Mom use to boil them, a little butter, and rolled them on my plate. Oh the memories are fresh now.....

Also ideas on Swiss Chard which is also new to me this year, I will try to grow this in my cold frame as well. So how do you eat Swiss Chard????

Now that I had my first taste of a Tomatillo sauce over a wonderful organic chicken burrito, I fell in love with them. I am looking for some sauce ideas I can can up for next winter as well as other ways to use them in my foods????