True North is:

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Michigan, United States

Friday, August 21, 2009

100% Homestead!

This photo depicts an entire meal from food we grew and raised ourselves!!! YEAH!!
Herb seasoned pork steak, fresh corn on the cob, herb seasoned red skin potatoes, and fresh veggie salsa! The meal was one of the best I’ve ever had and I’m sure it something to do with that fact that we did it all ourselves. It was so satisfying knowing we can provide for ourselves and actually eat VERY well!

“Hunger is the best pickle.” Benjamin Franklin

Cucumbers were True North's first veggies to grow out of control. I swear they grew by the minute. Each day I am getting at least 4-5 cukes from the garden. After eating as many as we could in salads, with dip, soaked in vinegar with onion, we finally decided it was time that we canned some of them. And what else do you do with cucumbers? You make pickles. MIL got a recipe from our Aunt Vivian that is said to be easy and tasty. Well so far is rings true for the easy part. We will see in 2-3 weeks of the tasty part does as well. Below is the recipe. I used my fresh dill from my herb wheel as well. We ended up with 6 jars of pickles.

Aunt Vivian’s Dil
l Pickles
Recipe for 1 quart

-1 head of fresh dill in bottom of jar
-Add whole cukes or cut into spears to fill jars (clean cukes)
-1 garlic clove added
-1 more head of dill on top

The following combined and brought to boil

-¼ t of Alum
-1 cup of white vinegar
-1 cup of water
-2 T of Kosher salt

Pour over cukes in quart jar. Cukes will be ready in 2-3 weeks!

The Herb Wheel

This past winter I read many books about gardening and in one of them they had diagrams of cool herb wheels. Basically an herb garden in the shape of a wheel instead of the standard square garden. Pat and I decided to make our own this summer. We had some odds and ends laying around from years past of landscaping d├ęcor so we lumped it all together to see if we had enough to make one. Low and behold we did! We started with black edging and made it into a circle then nudged the circle here and there to get it the right circumference. We dug a line around the circle and inserted the edging into it to keep it stable. We used more of the edging to make spokes and then filled all the sections with nice fertile dirt from the pig pen. We then outlined the outer wheel with brick to reinforce the circle walls. We used bricks in the center and I hand painted the herb name that would grown the in corresponding section to add a little personal touch to it. The center piece are parts of our pine stumps that were used earlier to make the pine stump fence and a few deer antlers from deer pat killed from years past. We planted Rosemary, Parsley, Cilantro, Dill and Basil. With lots of weeding, watering and sun....all came up very well, except for the Rosemary. Not sure what I did wrong there but no growth! I love using fresh herbs when cooking and I will dry the rest to use for the year.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Home Grown!

Garden Update:

The Garden is doing really well, at least we think it is. Since this is our first time growing anything I guess even a little success goes a long way! Melissa is keeping an actual tally of what we have harvested so when it's all said and done will post up what our overall haul was.

Corn:Right now the corn is looking good even though deer ate most of it early on. The few stalks they didn't eat have multiple ears on them, and the ones they did eat still managed to survive and are producing. Not ready to harvest yet, but I think it will be soon!

Cucumbers: I planted six hills of cucumbers; 3 normal ones and then 3 that are a 'pickling' variety. Two hills of the normal ones and one hill of the other type are pumping out a vast quantity of cucumbers. We've already been eating them and soon we'll try our hand at making pickles.

Watermelon: Like the cucumbers I planted 6 hills. Although all came up, only three are really producing. We have a couple of tennis ball sized melons and quite a few more smaller ones. The ones that aren't growing well, I believe, has more to do with getting behind on weeding than anything else.

Peppers: All the pepper plants are doing good and producing. No complaints here...we've been eating them on a regular basis!

Egg Plant: My mom had bought a few of these plants so we planted them and lo and behold we have a bunch of them producing. We just harvested one Egg Plant yesterday and fried it up. Never had it before and it was pretty darn good as a side dish.

Squash: This stuff has grown great right from the start. They all came up and we have a ton of squash growing...I'm a little worried. Next year I'll probably only plant half of what I did.

Onions: The first round of Onions we planted as seed and nothing grew. We then planted bulbs and they have been doing nicely. We hopefully will get some large onions out of them, that is if Melissa can keep her hands out of them, lol.

Head Lettuce: At first we didn't think they where going to grow, but we did have a handful come up. They look ok, but I think they are a long way till harvest. We'll see what happens.

Green Beans: They took a beating from the deer, but what we do have left are producing. I just took a handful of beans inside today. I'm not sure if we'll ever get enough to can or freeze but at least will have some for a couple of meals.

Potatoes: Plants look good and we've been doing a lot of research on when to harvest. We're not there yet but we believe its close.

Tomatoes: We've got tomatoes! Big ones, medium ones, and little ones. We've ate a couple, but most are still green. I have a feeling here in the next few days we are going to be neck deep in tomatoes. That's exactly what we want though. We've got a lot of plans for these red veges!

So that's it, but what have we learned to do and not do?

First, protect against deer. Early on, the deer came in and ate most of the corn and green beans. Although those things have survived I think our harvest would have been better had it not happened at all. After the attack, I set up a few fence posts and hung shiny tin plates from strings that I stretched between the posts. I also tied human hair (from our brushes) on the posts, about half way up. I then took some hair clippings and scattered them around the perimeter of the garden. Lastly, I used a mixture of 1/2 bottle of hot sauce to a gallon of water and sprayed that occasionally on the plants. I'm not sure what worked or if all of it did...but no deer since doing this. I haven't sprayed the sauce mixture in quite awhile nor have I refreshed the hair, so maybe the plates were enough. Next year I'll have my anti-deer defense set up early.

Bugs: Hadn't seen any sign of these types of pests until just a few days ago. While tending to the tomatoes I started notices what looked like little black poops littered around some of the plants. After a few minutes of investigation I saw the culprits. Nasty green monster worms! We found 8 of them and promptly squashed them. Now I look every day...haven't found anymore yet!

Weeding: Don't ever get behind! A camping trip and a few days of not feeling well and things got out of control in a hurry. Btw, I love weeding! It;s very peaceful in the evening...kind of like a reflection time: to think of things gone by and things yet to come.
Advise: We are getting it from where ever we can. Family, friends, strangers, books, Internet....there is so much info out there, and a lot to absorb! We've got time though and I feel we've learned so much already

We have been told that our abnormally cool summer has stunted growth this year. I can only agree. Things have been pretty hot lately and I think that"s why we have seen a growth spurt.

All in all though it has been well worth the trouble. Melissa mentioned the other day that it has been so nice eating fresh vegetables daily...and we're broke. Normally, when short on cash the fresh veges would wait. Not the case anymore! Feeling more self sufficient is always good's a big motivator. I have to say...the whole family seems to love the garden (the work included)!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Give me a Brake

Over the course of my life I have worn many hats and done a lot of different things, but when it came to anything mechanical I would always defer to a professional. Especially when it came to our vehicles. It was always my thought that if you needed repairs, minor or major, you went to the shop, pulled out your plastic, and walked away with a fixed car and some type of warranty.

Well, that type of thinking is over for us, and so when the brakes on our Blazer started squealing I knew I was soon going to be delving into realms unknown. To be honest I wasn't too worried about the actual job of changing the brakes, but I was worried about my tool situation. I have always believed that I could do just about anything as long as I have the proper tools, and proper tools were exactly what I did not have. My collection of automotive tools is a mismatched and unorganized mess that is crammed into two large tool boxes. Most of these tools are from stuff my Dad had laying around and the rest are just odds and ends I have acquired over the years.

Just to make sure It was indeed my brakes making all that noise (which I was 99% sure) and to get a price quote so I could see how much money I was going to save, I took the Blazer into Midas and had them look at it. The estimate they gave me was $236.00 for brakes and rotors. Apparently I had let the brakes go too long and now the rotors had to be replaced. My habit of procrastination was costing me. Once again the hard lesson that 'putting things off and being frugal doesn't mix well' was rearing its ugly head.

Anyways, with the information about the parts I needed at hand, I headed over to a local automotive store and purchased what I would need. Brakes, rotors, a small packet of grease and some spray cleaner...the total: $100 and some change. A difference of $136 from the Midas quote. The way me and Melissa looked at it...that was $136 dollars we didn't have to earn, and that is a good thing.

The next thing I did was 'google' anything I could pertaining to changing brakes, which thankfully there was a ton. So, with a couple printouts in hand, my new parts, and a smattering of odd tools, I went to work.

At this point I'd like to tell you how smooth everything went, but if I'm being honest I have to tell you that my lack of tools (and quality tools!) was a problem. Once I figured out what size I needed to take of my caliper bolts (18 mm btw for anyone with a 2002 blazer), and discovered that I had every MM size except 18 I had to go buy a socket. Returning with my new socket I immediately broke my old and shabby ratchet. This prompted another run to the store, but this time I bought a wrench. My savings (or money we don't have to earn) was being depleted. At least my useful tool collection was growing.

As I suspected, once I had the proper tools, the actual job was rather easy. It did take the better part of the afternoon, but when all was said and done...the brakes worked great!

New skills and accomplishments are a great recipe for successful homesteading!