New Year, new ideas and projects

winter wonderland

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa! Happy Winter!  Whatever your holiday was, we hope that you had a wonderful holiday season surrounded by family and friends! We wish you health, happiness, joy and of course, sustainability!
It is hard to believe that today is New Year’s eve–this year really flew by and what  fun-filled year it was.  A new baby, a beautiful vegetable garden, meat birds, and a new chicken run.  We had fun canning, freezing, drying, crafting, blogging and trying to live off the land.  We are humbled by our experiences and learned a ton!   
We don’t generally make new years resolutions, we tend to set goals.  Here is what we hope to accomplish for 2015
  • Paul: learn how to hunt with his uncle and supply us with elk.
  • Paul: Fish more!!
  • Paul and Lina: get a hoop house up and ready to plant a garden in early spring.
  • Paul: dig one more garden bed and utilize Paul’s mom’s garden for additional gardening real estate.
  • Paul and Lina: plant our own starts–and actually use them.
  • Lina: learn how to sew on a sewing machine.
  • Lina: spend more time with our children, outside–digging in the dirt.
  • Paul and Lina: try to not buy “stuff” and barter as much as we can (it’s fun and amazing what you can get)
  • Paul and Lina: plant an herb garden, utilize more herbs in cooking and vinegar making.
  • Lina: plant a medicinal herb garden.
  • Lina: hatch chicks from eggs and document the whole experience.
  • Paul and Lina: start homeschooling our kiddos.
Happy New Year!  We hope that you enjoyed reading our blog.  Thank you for sharing our journey to becoming self sustainable!!  May 2015 be a great year and treat all of you well!!

happy new year

Shopping for the Holidays

The Holidays are approaching with full speed…Thanksgiving is already behind us and Christmas is  just around the corner and that means the shopping season is officially in full bloom.  Please consider shopping locally and handmade this year. Support small artists. Your gifts will have so much more meaning, not only to you (handmade, custom ordered one of a kind) but also to the local artist who loves his or her craft and takes pride and joy in making it (unlike the Made In China, things) . Here are a few favorites!
Crafty Sisters
This is a tiny craft/hobby business that my sister and I have. Era makes gorgeous jewelry using precious metals and gorgeous gemstones.  Her work is one of a kind (she does not replicate her creations) and make great gifts!  I make greeting cards and other random things. You can find our crafts on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/crafty.sisters.lina.era. Visit our page, we often have drawings or giveaways.  Here is a tiny fraction of what you will find…
. bling2earring3earringsneckbling4earrings

cards1 c2 card4 cards

 

Amy’s Soap Garden

I met Amy (and her fabulous soaps) during an Art and Crafts event last summer and fell in love with her product!  The soap is of outstanding quality and there is a wide selection when it comes to colors and scents.  Soaps make awesome stocking stuffers, hostess gifts and if you are like me, they make excellent linen closet deodorizers.
Visit her shop http://www.amys-soap.com/ or her facebook page https://www.facebook.com/AmysSoapGarden to see her inventory and treat yourself or your loved ones to some awesome soaps. 

Brandy Houllahan logo

Brandy is another amazing jewelry artist.  She makes all of her metals and is truly creative with her pieces.  You can find her beautiful work on her website http://brandyhoullahan.com/ or on facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Brandy-Houllahan/10150136950645201
Here is a sample of her beauties (the picture does not do them any justice, take a look at her website)

brandy brandy2

 

Sweet Caroline’s Jams and Jellies
sweet caroline
I make a lot of jams and this lady is my inspiration!!  I hope that one day, my jams will come close to hers in taste and creativity.  Caroline pares unique flavors together and creates magic.  You can enjoy her jams on a pastry, cheese, integrate them into cooking or like I do by the spoonful.  Along with jams, Caroline make Shrubs–delicious vinegar based syrup infused with fruit that when added to sparkling water (or booze) creates refreshing beverages.  I tasted her blueberry basil shrub and fell in love.  Read more about her and her creations on her website http://www.sweetcarolinesjam.com Sweet Caroline’s jams and jellies are available on her website or at various farmer’s markets.  Check out  her facebook page for her whereabouts  https://www.facebook.com/SweetCarolineJams
 
Helsing Junction Farm
                                                        Certified Organic
                                                          helsing
Helsing Junction is our community supported agriculture (CSA) farm in Rochester, Washington.  Annie and Susan have established an amazing farm that delivers local-organic goods directly to consumers all over South Puget Sound.  A CSA share would be a wonderful gift.  A gift that will keep on giving for 18 weeks.  A gift that will nourish the body and the soul.  I highly recommend everyone to look into this option (as a gift to yourself or others).  Annie and Susan are willing to work out a payment plan if the price seems a bit scary to you (it’s actually more economical for us to get our produce from them, than the grocery store) and they started to accept EBT cards.  If you do not live in the area where this farms delivers, do a google search, surely, there is a farm near you that will provide you with fresh, local and organic goodies.  Read about these inspiring ladies, their farm and the CSA programs on their website http://www.helsingfarmcsa.com Now is a good time to sign up for the next year!  They are currently busy planning for your future meals.
Portage Bay Grange: Feed and Mercantile
If you live or work in Seattle and have not visited Portage Bay Grange, you are missing a true gem. This store is full of practical, high quality goods, perfect for anyone interested in gardening, poultry or self reliance. We buy 95% of our chicken feed here, and they are also a great supply of poultry amendments. They always have interesting animals in the shop, many of which are for sale. PBG also offers free classes on all kinds of different topics, many of which we have attended and enjoyed. Visit them next time you are in town or at http://portagebaygrange.vpweb.com/

With everything there is a season…please welcome “A to Z farm to table”

Since our last update, we went on our last mushroom hunt.  It is incredible how nature changes. It has been cooler and wetter, and new mushrooms, unidentified but recognized to us are popping out which signal that the boletes that we love are coming to an end.  We got enough for a saute (about 1.5 pounds).  We have been going to the same patch for two months and during the last trip,  there was a completely different feel to it, there was even a different smell in the air–no more of that bolete aroma that would get me all excited (as I knew my little gems were near).  This year, we picked enough to pickle five jars of boletes, have about 8 or so bags of dehydrated mushrooms (for soups) and a bag frozen to be used in stuffing for Thanksgiving!  It was somewhat challenging to get out and hunt–we have a lot of young children and they are not always up for the trip.  As they get older, we hope to broaden our hunting areas and knowledge of other mushrooms to forage.   It has been a good year. The growing, harvesting and preserving has officially ended.  Now, we do some crafts for the Holiday season, brew some beer, read new books and enjoy all the yummy preserved foods!

drymush

Our garden has slowly fallen into its winter slumber and we will have a few months for reflecting on our 2014 experiences and planning for Harvest 2015. As we clean up the yard and mulch the garden beds, we are taking notes on what worked, what didn’t and what needs improvement.  As part of that we decided to have a tab in the blog that talks about veggies and fruit that we grow, want to grow and wish we could grow. We hope to provide our readers with information, recipes and our personal reflections of many of the plants and anything else that can be grown in a backyard.

Hopefully, this will be a good educational opportunity for us and a nice, quick reference for you. I will utilize my library and the internet as resources.  I will try to reference as much as I can so people don’t think that I am plagiarizing–I am researching and condensing information for you. The recipes however are all mine, hence the lack of precise measurements. I follow too many protocols at work measuring things out. I refuse to do the same at home. A dash here and a pinch there is my philosophy…if you fail…try again!

With that said, please visit our new blog section “A to Z Farm to Table”. First on the list is Asparagus!!

Here are two of self sustainable meals from the last few weeks. Elk courtesy of Paul’s uncle, salmon caught by Paul, zucchinis that kept on giving (and we love it), mushrooms that we had gathered, pickles that we had pickled, sauerkraut made by my sister and last but not least, potatoes from the garden.  Love it!!  The quality of pictures are not ideal–I apologize for that.  Life is very fast on our homestead, there is no time for a camera, all must be done with my phone.

dinner two dinner1

 

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out the new tab from time to time!