In todays world, the desire to get back to basics is becoming more and more desirable. Our hope is that you will find some of the knowledge we share a benefit to you, to get closer to your dream of a healthier lifestyle, less dependent on assembly lined, processed, manufactured items.

Our goal is to help you find ways to use modern conveniences to allow you to live the life you want to live, and raise your family with the traditions that are important to you.

Grab a cup of coffee, or a glass of tea, and join us as we share our lives, our family and our knowledge with you.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Home Made Fabric Softener and Stain Remover

This recipe is so easy, I am almost ashamed to make it a post of its own.  Along with making my laundry soap for the past couple of years, I began making my own fabric softener.  I make if for pennies a load!  The only ingredients used are inexpensive hair conditioner (I usually pick up Suave because they make a couple of fragrances that I love), white vinegar and water! That's it! A gallon jug can be made for $2 or less and will last a very long time.  It can be added to the washer like the liquid made by the big companies.  

I hang my clothes on the clothes line on all but the rainy/snowy days and this formula works great.  I like to use the fragrances that are nature smells, Mountain Air, Spring Rain, etc, but you can use whichever fragrance you choose.  I show a bottle of coconut, because that is what I have on hand for my hair!  ;) I use a kitchen funnel and pour all ingredients into a plastic milk jug. The jug makes a great storage container and is great for pouring.  Using only 1/8 of a cup per regular load makes this go a long way.  I jug will last 3-4 months, easily.  I have little to no static cling, even in the winter with the extra dry air of wood heat.

Large Batch:                                                          Small  Batch:
3 Cups conditioner (22-24 ounce bottle)              1/3 Cups conditioner
4 1/2 Cups white vinegar                                      1/2 Cups white vinegar
9 Cups HOT water                                                1 Cup HOT water

There is nothing complicated about the recipe.  And it is just one more way I can save money and Do-It-Myself on this Modern Missouri Pioneer journey.  Next week I will show you how I use this fabric softener in the dryer, for those cold rainy/snowy days when I don't hang my clothes out to dry.

I've been asked about what I use for stains and tough farm dirt.  The above picture shows the bottle of stain remover I use.  The recipe is on the label.  Excuse the peeling label; this bottle gets used A LOT.  It is simply equal parts Dawn, Ammonia, and water.  I usually use one cup of each so that I get a good amount that fits easily into my quart spray bottle.  I buy the Dawn in the 5 gallon buckets for $35 from a local vendor ($0.22/cup).  Ammonia is $1.00 for a half gallon at my local Dollar General ($0.125 /cup). This makes a total cost of 34 1/2 cents  for a 24 ounce bottle!  Excellent cost per use.  Even with heavy use, I won't use more than 3 or 4 bottles in a year.  How well does it work?  The best example I could come up with while preparing for this post, was the collar of my uniform shirts.  They get very grimy and discolored.  If you are anywhere near my age, you might remember the old commercials regarding "ring around the collar" on the Whisk commercials....and that is exactly what I have...Ring Around the Collar! 

The inner collar and neckline of my inner and outer shirts soak up the skin oil and become very dark very quickly.  They look greasy.

I spray the effected area and scrub gently with a scrub brush.  The best results are found after allowing this to set for 12 to 24 hours after treatment, however, I am usually in a hurry and not organized enough to treat that far ahead.  The pictures below are how the collar areas came out by spraying, scrubbing, and dropping immediately into the washer with my home made laundry soap. 

Although not perfect, the improvement is obvious.  If you have a tough stain, retreat and rewash before placing in the dryer.  Remember heat will set a stain, so if you aren't happy with the results from ANY stain treatment, try something else BEFORE placing in the heat of the dryer for a better change of removal.

These two products do not allow us to avoid buying items at the store completely, but they do allow us to purchase basic items with multiple uses for much less than the finished products.  The part of my life as a Modern Missouri Pioneer that is to keep more money in my pocket that I spend at the store is satisfied with these types of products.  If you trying to avoid buying anything at any time, these products will not be for you, but if you are interested in continuing to utilize your modern appliances and dramatically cut the costs of doing so, these two items will help you do just that. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Wash Day--making my own laundry detergent

One of the first overpriced items I stopped purchasing from the store was laundry soap.  I found several recipes and used a couple different ones that worked well, until I finally came up with the one I have been using for almost 2 years now.  It is simple to make, remains in powder form, so there is no melting, mixing, re-mixing or wait time for use.  It is a simple matter of measuring the ingredients and combining them with a grated bar of Fels Naptha or Zote soap, your preference or what is available in your area.  This is not the simplest recipe I found, but even though it has 5 different products it does a good job, along with my home made stain remover on even the dirtiest of our farm clothing.  I also use it on my work uniforms, and the navy blue pants do not fade nearly as quickly as with commercial laundry detergents.  The Zote soap is 3 x the weight and volume of the Fels Naptha for the same price, but I still use it in place of two pars of the Fels Naptha.  So here is my recipe.

1 Bar Zote Soap OR 2 bars Fels Naptha-grated
3 cups Borax
3 cups Washing Soda
3 cups Baking Soda
1 1/2 cups Oxygen cleaner (Oxyclean or store brand)

 The first step is to grate the soap into fine shreds.  This can be accomplished several different ways.  You can use an electric food processor with the grating blade, a hand grater or if you have one, a hand food slicer with the grating blade.  I found the one I have on Craigslist, dirt cheap.  It has different cones for thick slicing, thin slicing, French fry cutter, and grater.  This is invaluable in my kitchen.

After grating, add all ingredients to a large bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands.  This only takes a few minutes.

I then pour the mixed ingredients into a seal-able container and have a supply of laundry soap that will last Papa and I 6-8 months for under $8.00.  I know there are concerns regarding the use of Borax, so if you have those concerns, leave it out.  I find it is a great booster for deep cleaning the clothing and we have no issues, but for those who do, you will still have a great cleaning laundry soap.  Papa is actually very sensitive to may commercial detergents, but has had no issues at all since we switched over to using this.  Here is a cost breakdown of the ingredients:

Zote (2)                        1.94
Baking Soda                 2.24
Washing Soda              3.97
Borax                            3.97
Oxygen booster            3.86
Total for 2 batches   $15.98       (this will last us at least a year).

I like this process for many reasons, no the least of which is the ease of making it.  I work a full time job away from the farm, and it keeps me away at least 48 hours a week. Many weeks I am on the clock for 72 hours.  I need something that I can whip up in a hurry and not take all day doing it.  This fits the bill.  I am able to save many dollars over the course of a year, know the ingredients I am using on clothing that will touch our skin and still be able to fulfill my other work and family obligations.  This batch was whipped up in less than 15 minutes, and I have enough ingredients on had to make another batch.  This is the kind of DIY that allows me to be a Modern Missouri Pioneer and be grateful for the life we live. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Birds of a Feather

The latest addition to our farm is a group of these little guys.  We have been talking about raising quail again, but hadn't decided when to do so. I had talked to a friend who will be having Jumbo Brown quail this summer about getting some eggs to hatch, but this little flock appears on Facebook and were an excellent deal, so we started now.  Funny how life will put things in front of you when you least expect it.  These 23 chicks were advertised as Texas A & M white quail, and Papa's previous experience with quail lead him to believe that they are truly the A & M.  This was the kind he was wanting, the price was right, so we made arrangements to purchase them.  They were eight days old when we picked them up yesterday and seem to be healthy and lively. 

Why would we want to raise quail?  There are actually many reasons.  The meat from quail is a very light, white meat and is quite delicious.  The eggs are considered by many to be a high end delicacy especially when boiled and pickled. The birds themselves mature rapidly and reach maturation and start laying eggs at approximately 8 weeks, and are ready for processing around 6 weeks.  This makes the time from birth to freezer one of the shortest of any meat animal.  The area needed for quail is small.  A nice pen or hutch could easily be placed in an urban yard.  There is no noise associated with them, so they are a good option for an urban homestead to raise some of the family meat supply, providing there are no zoning restrictions.  Papa and I are the only ones at home now, so many times a whole chicken is just too much for us.  We get tired of eating chicken before we get it all eaten. The smaller size of the quail makes them perfect for a single meal for the two of us. 

While there are many positive reasons for raising quail, I would be remiss if I didn't mention some of the negative aspects as well.  Each person should do their research and become familiar the requirements, pros and cons of raising any animal before making the decision to move forward and add it to their farm or homestead.  Some of the disadvantages to raising quail domestically are their broody habits, or lack of.  Quail are prolific egg layers, however they will seldom "go broody", set and hatch their own eggs. Unlike the Bob White quail that are native to Missouri, the Texas A&M and other Cortunix breeds seem to lack the natural instincts for setting and hatching.  The eggs will need to be incubated to hatch and replace the adult birds as they age.  While the size of the birds make them great for a meal for Papa and myself, if you have a large family you will need to take into account the small size of the birds when planning how many to raise and how much to place in a package together at processing time.  While most of these quail will not have the natural broody instincts they will have retained their natural flight instinct when startled, which can lead to broken necks when they are startled and hit the top of their cages.  They will need an area that free from sudden noise and other things that might startle the birds. They are also susceptible to drafts, cold and dampness, so their shelters need to have attention paid to those issues.  And finally, predators can be a problem, especially when the birds are kept in lightweight cages. 

Do your research, learn all you can and if you decide to start raising quail, I don't think you will be disappointed.  Let me show you how our birds will spend the next few days. 

Several years ago, Papa made our small brooder box to hold baby chicks in the first few hours after hatching before being moved to our larger brooder box in the barn.  It is a small lidded box that has a screen in the top for ventilation, a porcelain light fixture for a bulb for heat, and room for a small feeder and a small water dish. 

The light bulb is enough heat to keep them warm because of the small area and close proximity to the chicks.  The cord runs out the back and plugs into a standard outlet.  There is no switch to go bad, plugged in is on.  The lid lifts for easy access to clean bedding, refill feeders and add water.

These little guys did surprise me, and I quickly realized that much greater care needs to be taken when opening the box.  The flight instinct is strong even at 8 days.  I realized how high they could fly after two flew out and I had to pick them up off the floor before they disappeared under the couch.  We will leave them in this small brood box for 3 or 4 more days, so that we can keep a close eye on them.  They will then be moved to a larger brooder box, that is made similar, but has an area to hang a larger heat lamp and room for larger feeders.  They will also be able to be provided with more water.  They will eat and drink a remarkable amount over the next 4-6 weeks, considering their size.  When they are almost mature, and the weather warms a bit, they can be moved to a quail house and outdoor run. We will shut them up at night, even as adults to avoid attracting predators, which could include opossums, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, hawks and more. 

I'm not an expert in raising quail, though we have had some in the past and while they have some specific special care needs our job for these birds is the same as any of our other animals.  We must provide food, shelter, clean water and protection from elements and predators.  In return, they will provide us with food for the table.  Food that we know the ingredients and freshness of.  Just as the Pioneers of yesterday, provided sustenance for themselves and their families, we are also the providers for our family.  Yesterdays pioneers had many more difficulties to overcome.  As a modern Missouri Pioneer, I am glad to have the electricity to provide power for a heat lamps that will keep our birds warm.  I am glad to have running water and the choice of commercial feeds to make the care less labor intensive, but I am still proud to be able to provide farm raised meat for ourselves and our families.   

Monday, February 8, 2016

Goats, Goats, Goats....Bob, David, and Daffodil

 The newest additions to our farm family include three boer baby goats, 2 bucklings and a doeling.  Thanks to Papa and the grandkids, they are now fondly known as Bob, David, and Daffodil.  The grandkids named the boys...something to do with Minions!  ;)  I never know what those children are going to come with next.  They always have a long, thought out reason for their decisions.  One of them named every animal he got "Bucky".  He even went so far as to call his little sister "Maddie-Jo-Bucky" when she was born.  I am relatively certain she will be very glad he has outgrown that, if she is not already.  But, I digress. 

These three cutie pies are now 3-4 weeks old and are weighing 11 - 12 pounds each, gaining a pound to a pound and half each last week.

Having bottle baby goats has been a new experience for us, but thanks to the help of some great friends and some helpful Facebook groups, they, and we, have done well.  We did not realize when we got into the goat business, that we picked one the few animals that will actually eat themselves to death!  We were warned over and over again not to over feed them.  We were told that they would eat all the milk a person would give them, to the point they could actually become fatally ill.  So we asked a lot of questions, and researched many resources on the internet.  According to the charts we are still over feeding slightly, but they are gaining, doing well, and have only scoured for a day or so when changed feed and mixed the new milk replacer a bit richer than it was supposed be mixed.

We are currently feeding them three times a day, the minimum for 10-15 pound goats, and giving them approximately 13 ounces per feeding.  They are each starting to eat some grain, and are developing their personalities.  They think we are their momma.  They will be moved out to a pen in the big barn as soon our current cold and windy snap is over, but for now they remain in a lean-to off my canning kitchen, out of the wind and with a heat light available in case it dips down too cold. 

At this point we plan to band the bucklings making them wethers and butcher them when they are big enough.  Somewhere in the neighborhood of 6-8 months based on our research.  We enjoy beef, but it has become outrageously priced.  Our second option for red meat is venison, when one of us is successful during the fall hunting season.  Last year it was me that put one in the freezer and this past fall Papa got one.  We have been told that goat is a meat that is between those two, so we are confident we will like it, but if not, there is also a high demand in our area, so selling the boys at butcher weight will not be a problem. 

Miss Daffodil is expected to be our herd Matriarch, as we build a little herd to supply our family with meat and add a bit of income from, and for, the farm. 

Feeding these three has been an entertaining experience with some trials, a little frustration and a lot of laughter.  Since they constantly think they are starving, it was a juggling act to try to feed one at a time with the bottle.  It worked ok the first few days, but soon became nearly impossible to manage them one at a time.  Papa decided that as soon they knew what the bottle was, it was time to build a bottle stand so that all three could eat at one time.  A couple of hours in the shop and few wood scraps and viola!
Hands free feeding of three!  You can also see in the above picture, we wasted no expense on bottles!  These 20 ounce soda bottles are perfect for feeding them and we bought some nipples that screw onto the bottles from our local feed store.  Cheap, easy, and here are three bottles that are not in a land-fill.  I'm uncertain of exact dimensions, but will post a picture of the stand so that you can get the idea and make your own if the need arises.
We do have a large coyote population in our area, so we decided that this was the perfect time to add a large guard to our farm as well.  Meet Sally, a Great Pyrenees puppy that we purchased from a local family.   Sally lives with the goats and will soon be the herd protector.  We will have to introduce her to the other animals slowly, one at a time so that she understands that she is to protect them too.  They are not a threat to her goats and belong here as well.  She is becoming a sweet heart, bouncing over to get her petting while the babies eat.  She runs and plays with the goats, to the point that I actually think she may believe she is a goat.  :)   For now we are the protectors of the goats, and of Miss Sally, but it won't be long until the farm will be hers and she will keep the predators at bay.  I am going to enjoy that day, and look forward to being able to have turkeys once again without loss to predators. 
As I finish this post, I am thankful to live at a time that I can use modern conveniences to keep our animals warm as needed when winter cold snaps get our attention.  The use of heat lamps, running water to maintain a good supply of fresh, thawed drinking water, a barn to give shelter from the rain and snow in the cold temperatures, without having to work for hours on end out in the elements ourselves, are all blessings.  Though we are moving toward a more self sufficient lifestyle, doing more or ourselves and depending less on processed foods and big box stores, it is nice to know that we do not have work as hard our forefathers, making me very happy to be able to be a Modern Missouri Pioneer. 


Monday, February 1, 2016

Homemade Powdered Sugar!

The list of items we are dependent on the grocery store for keeps shrinking. I ran low on confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar) while baking this past weekend, so it was the perfect to try making my own.  I have read how easy it is to do, but had not taken the time to do so.  Turns out, it is every bit as easy as described.  I used my VitaMix, but am assured that any blender will work.  The VitaMix worked quickly and created a fine powdered sugar with the same consistency as the store bought stuff.  Using 1 1/2 cup sugar, and a Tablespoon of cornstarch, created nearly 2 cups of powdered sugar.  The second batch I did was blended slightly longer, which seemed to make it "fluffier".  I had to really work to get the two batches into my quart storage jar.  Here are the steps I used, and the finished product.

I gathered together the supplies needed.  I used pure cane white sugar and corn starch.  Apparently the cornstarch works as an anti-clumping agent, and arrowroot can be substituted.  I had no arrowroot on hand so I can't speak to the efficacy of it's use.  I set up my VitaMix blender.  Just a tip; I have learned when I want to use mine for grinding dry ingredients, and want to prevent the spout from being caked full of the end product, I take a piece of paper towel or small piece of fabric, roll it tightly and place it in the spout, from the inside, leaving a very small amount sticking out into the container.  Be VERY CAREFUL to pack tightly so that it does not slip out during blending.  With the centrifugal force and outward pressure of the blending, there is minimal chance of it coming, but I am still careful to  avoid it being loose.  You may have to use tweezers to remove it, but this is much easier that trying to dig out the dry packed, product when you are cleaning up.

 Measure 1 1/2 cups white sugar, or the sugar or sugar substitute of your choice.

Add 1 Tablespoon cornstarch to the sugar. You may also choose to use arrowroot.

Pour the two ingredients into the blender.  Place top on Blender.  This is a very important step, as this process creates a lot of sugar dust.  Not only will the be messy, but you don't want to breathe in these small particles.  Keep the lid in place during the blending process and let the dust settle before opening the top.  Do not blend for more than 30 or 45 seconds at a time to avoid heat production and melting the sugar. 

The finished product is fine and fluffy with the same characteristics as the purchased confectioners sugar.  This is used for icing, candy centers and other baked goods.  The original 1 1/2 cups expands as it is ground into the find powder.

I used one of my canning funnels to put the powdered sugar into a mason jar for storage.  The two batches that I made filled a quart jar.  I didn't weigh it, but I suspect this was more or less the equivalent to the typical one pound bag purchased at the grocery store.  It took me about 5 minutes, including clean up and I never left the house.  I know exactly how long it has been on the shelf and what it has in it.  I made sure to use a lid with good moisture proof seal for storage to prevent clumping.  If I were making this up for long term storage, I would vacuum seal the lid in place.   This jar is simply to have on my pantry shelf for weekly baking. 

Filling the jar was a little messy, but it wipes right up with a wet cloth. 

It is true that our forefathers did not have electric blenders and therefore this would not have been something that was done, in this fashion by the pioneer homesteaders.  However, our family's goal is to live simply and do as much as we can without being dependent on the large grocery stores.  This project fits that category, allowing us to mark one more thing off our grocery list and do more and others for the common, everyday items we use.  We are doing more and more for ourselves, using the technology available to us to continue our journey as Modern Missouri Pioneers.