Reclaim Food Control With Suburban Micro Farming

To me, living in the suburbs seems like a cookie cutter way to live. Every house looking the same: same lawns, same colors, same…everything! While the lawns and manicured look is appealing for the aesthetics, it’s hard for me to see much beyond lost potential. Every single one of those lawns could be a micro farming gold mine!

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Of course, it’s easy to sit and dream about it and quite another to actually do the work. There are all sorts of challenges that many people would have to overcome before they even break ground on a new garden! Home Owner’s Associations (HOAs) tend to have very strict rules against anything that would show individualism on the block, let alone changing your manicured lawn into something that produces food. Most of them even have bans on clotheslines for drying clothes in the sunshine! Once you’ve overcome the logistics of that though….it’s game on!!

Other than local restrictions, many people never take the plunge because it can be overwhelming. They have no idea how to start or it may seem cost prohibitive (it’s not!) or any other number of reasons not to. Don’t toss in the rake yet! There’s hope for you, dear Suburbanite!

Enter Amy Stross, author of the very informative (and fun to read) “The Suburban Micro Farm.” In her funny and uplifting writing style that matches her personality, Amy has put together a book that can help you realize your micro farm dreams! You could be harvesting from your own, truly organic and fresh produce aisle – all of a few feet from your table. From the author:

“The suburbs are ripe with food-growing potential. The Suburban Micro-Farm will show you how to grow healthy food for your table in only 15 minutes a day, proving that you can have a garden even on a limited schedule. With tips for creating an edible and ecologically friendly landscape, learn how to garden while maintaining aesthetics. You’ll find simple tricks for growing food even in the worst yards. Worried about follow-through? This book is a gold mine of life hacks, guides, and tools to help you reap a harvest as well as a sense of accomplishment for your efforts.”

They are right! Think, for just a moment, how much money would be saved if people converted even half their lawn into a vegetable growing machine!? What about the improved health, better tasting food? Don’t forget a reconnection with neighbors as you plan out what you will grow and trade at harvest time! It’s amazing what can happen with some seeds – I am proof of that myself! This site would NOT be here if I hadn’t decided to start a garden.

This book truly gives you the knowledge you need to transform your lawn into something more beautiful and productive than just growing grass and weeds~you make your own produce section!

I have read this book, cover to cover. Then I went back and re-read several sections: Chapter 2 – Managing Expectations (very important) and Chapter 11 – Permaculture and Micro-Farming. I really want to have some permaculture in my garden! I dream of chives and other herbs growing year after year with little maintenance from me. Truthfully, once you get the garden set up, there isn’t much to it. A few minutes a day or a little longer every other day should cover the needs your garden has. Of course, once it’s harvest time, you’ll be busy again.

Harvesting never really seemed like work to me – it was so much fun to reap the rewards of my efforts (and eat them, too)! I highly recommend this book to newbies and veteran gardeners alike! Reclaim some control over your food source, save money on truly organic veggies, regain control from Big Agra, and beautify your space more than a plain old lawn ever could!

Click here to get your copy of The Suburban Micro-Farm!




For Adventurers: The Nomadik Box!

About two months ago, I was contacted by a company who wanted to send me something to review. Now, I get three to four of these types of emails a month and usually don’t even read them. I admit the name, The Nomadik Box, caught my attention.

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When I was younger, and sometimes still, I had a powerful wanderlust and just wanted to travel wherever the wind blew me. What freedom that would be! So, I admit it was from nostalgia that made me click on the link. I opened the email and was pleasantly surprised to find a NON-canned form letter. It had been written by someone, to me personally. When they say they checked out my site, it was plainly obvious they really had. So rare to find a company that does that these days! Anyway, I met Mr. Patrick who asked me if I would be interested in their adventure box. My curiosity increased. Adventure, you say? Goodies for my backpack, you say? After reading their email, I went to the website for Nomadik and dove a little deeper. I wanted to learn about the company, their philosophy, and of course, what the adventure box was all about.

In short, the adventure box is a monthly subscription you receive that is filled with goodies you’re interested in. Of course, that doesn’t really cover it. Not by half.

Nomadik is a company that is all about getting people outside, exploring their worlds and discovering new mysteries and fun. At first, I worried it was more for the hardcore granola hippies and vegan/gluten-free/paleo but I was wrong. Again, pleasantly surprised. The boxes aren’t about food. In fact, only 1 of the 4 items I was sent was edible. This company isn’t elitist, or hoity-toity, and neither is their message. When I clicked on their “About” page, I was happy to see that part of each sale goes toward the earth. Whether that is environment or other, they came out the gate with an attitude of giving right back to the planet that houses us all. Good stuff!

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE FOR HOMESTEAD DREAMER READERS BELOW!

Now then, on to the box of goodies I got! Not really knowing what to expect as I hadn’t given any indication as to what I was into before they sent it, I had no idea what may be inside. I was surprised to find myself rather excited about what mysteries lay waiting for me to find! I tore into the box with childish enthusiasm and pulled out these 4 items:

  • nomadik-box-goodiesA smaller knife
  • A bandana
  • A reusable cloth bag
  • A tube of some acai/blueberry spread of some kind.

Initially, I was amused with the variety and then began to look more closely. The knife was simple looking but when I held it, I could feel how sturdy it was. The edge is nice and sharp and it fits inside the sheath perfectly. I turned the knife over and realized it was entirely Swiss made. The reusable cloth bag is always nice to have: I ordered a dozen some years back and have them everywhere. The difference was the size! This bag could easily hold double what my others can!

The bandana was more that I thought. At first glance, I saw it had some pattern on it but as I read the label, it became clear that the pattern was actually instructions on how to tie 16 different knots! Talk about useful!

The tube of oatmeal spread was something I was less than enthusiastic about. At least at first. With labels like ‘vegan’ and ‘gluten free,’ I was immediately convinced that it would taste like sawdust dipped in berry juice. Or worse, tofu soaked in berry juice. And, once again, I was wrong.

Holy buckets, this stuff is delicious! I remember looking at the tube, wide eyed and thinking there was no way this was somehow good for me. Talk about a power punch of energy, too! I ate some in the morning on my toast and sailed through to the afternoon, pleasant as you please. I didn’t even think about a second cup of coffee and that is more telling than anything.

WHY would you want to subscribe to a Nomadik box? I asked myself the same question. “Why would I have a monthly subscription to a place that sends me adventure gear when I can buy what I want anyway?”  The answer, for me at least, is quite simple. First, I don’t have to think about it, not really. I get this wonderful little treasure box each month of goodies that I can use for being outside and having fun (while still being practical). On top of that, I will be exposed to more products than I ever would otherwise! Finally, it is entirely possible that several items will help me increase my skills, too. It will broaden my horizons some and that is always a good thing. Mind open, eyes wide.

In all, I’m really glad I decided to read the email and get this box of goodies. Pretty much all of it was added to my everyday carry backpack, much to Mr. Dreamer’s grumbling. Maybe I’ll let him have the knife….nah. 😉

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT CODE FOR HOMESTEAD DREAMER FANS!

YOU can get your own Nomadik Box subscription and save money doing it, too!  Use the code HOMESTEAD for 15% OFF & FREE SHIPPING on any pricing plan!




Women Farmers aka Soil Sisters

There is a food movement gaining ground, literally, going on across the country. It’s not controversial, or ‘shocking’ enough to warrant media coverage, and most people are just fine with that. They quietly work in soil to nurture and grow their food and contribute to the ecosystem. Sure, there’s always been some ‘movement’ like this going on but this one is different. It’s women, these soil sisters, who are paving the way!

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Soil Sisters: A Toolkit for Women Farmers,” is the latest book by author Lisa Kivirist that directly speaks to those who are part of this return to the soil. It’s for those who want to start or have already begun taking control over your food and sustainability back from the corporate world. Now, before you go thinking this is one of those ‘radical or extreme’ gardening books, let me explain why I give this particular book very high praise! One of the reasons I enjoyed it so much was because it didn’t read like I expected it to: hoity toity, all about how women are just as good as anyone, etc. I kind of expected a little feminism to be in there. There is no hint of any ‘holier than thou’ attitude and I was pleasantly surprised.

This book is a collaboration of over fifty soil sister farmers and is written in an easy-to-read, straightforward manner while still retaining the warmth of talking to a person. Truly well written, it follows along like a manual and yet entertains with quips and notes of interest. There are four main parts:

  • Understanding Our Roots
  • Gleaning Knowledge
  • Plowing Ahead
  • Cultivating Quality of Life

With actionable steps and lots of food for thought, each part goes into deeper detail, down into the root of it all: pun intended. The book helps you to get a grasp on a world and mindset you may have little to no experience with. The only thing some newbies have is a passion to grow good food and preserve it for their family. They may not have any idea about soil composition, let alone how important networking is when you choose to be a farmer (no matter what level you’re at)! Thanks to this book aimed at including the women farmer into the mix, a strong passion and willingness to work, it can be enough to get you started quickly. You don’t have to wade your way through a bunch of stuff that doesn’t really apply to this special niche.

It goes beyond the soil and growing food, too! There are bits about different homesteading skills, tips, and tricks sprinkled throughout the whole book. Whether you’re wanting to reclaim control over the source of your food, save money by growing and preserving it yourself, or sell to the public, this book covers it all! This is one of the rare books that would be good to have in both paperback and Kindle!




Communicating After the Disaster for Newbies

It doesn’t have to be some global disaster. It doesn’t even have to be something that is a ‘big’ disaster covering a country, region, or even a whole state. Disasters  can affect large swaths of the surrounding area, even if there is no clear evidence that something is amiss. If there’s no cell service or internet, communicating after a disaster can be hit or miss.

Communicating After the Disaster

Communication is usually one of the first things that goes down, and is ironically the most important, when a crisis strikes. The majority of the population is uneducated about how it works, let alone what types of options are out there.

Have you ever been without cell service or internet for more than a few hours? Imagine how much different your life would be if you were without any communication to the outside world for a week! During Hurricane Katrina, there was absolutely no communication through anything that connected to a tower. No service. For weeks. The only communication that was available out there was by radios. Good, old fashioned radios. Funny how when the ‘new stuff’ fails, the ‘old stuff’ still keeps working. Living in rural Alaska, communication has always been an issue. We have satellite, of course, but when it’s blowing 30+ and raining sideways for days on end, that doesn’t really help much. Having alternatives should be something you include in your preps! The problem is, very few people know much about communication, other than on their cell phones and online.

This book is designed to help you explore and learn about communication device options!

Enter author Jim Cobb’s latest book, Preppers Communication Handbook.” We’ve reviewed several of Jim’s books before (see below for a list), and this one proves to be just as well done as the rest have been. Written in plain language, Jim teaches people various aspects of preparedness and helps take you from a newbie to the next level. His explanations, good humor, and conversational writing style makes for some easy reading that helps with information retention. It also makes you consider what you would do about communicating after a disaster strikes, not to mention make you realize just how important communication is. It’s a good reminder that we are lucky to live in a time with such connection and communication capabilities, and that system is fragile, too.

In Preppers Communication HandbookJim explains the different kinds of communication devices out there. This book is not meant to teach you how to use each method or device; it’s meant to help you explore and learn about them so you can choose the best option for your family and situation! Things covered include:

  • The different kinds of radios (1 way, 2 way, and HAM radio)
  • Making an emergency communication plan
  • Effective communication
  • Using codes and ciphers

For those just beginning their preparedness or self-sufficient journey, this is a fantastic and inexpensive way to learn the broad picture first. This will help you make sure you have the right solution for you! 

Other Jim Cobb Books

Urban Emergency Survival

Countdown to Preparedness




Excalibur Dehydrator Review (Plus Tips and Tricks!)

We have had our Excalibur Dehydrator for just over 3 years now. I’d never owned or used a dehydrator of any kind before that and it took awhile for me to realize that I had made the best choice right out the gate! We had to save up for a few months to get the monster 9 tray model and I am here to tell you that it was worth.every.penny. – and it’s still paying off! I’ve had a couple people ask me why I’ve never done an excalibur dehydrator review before and yet, I babble about how awesome it is on Facebook and in various articles.

Excalibur Dehydrator Review

There’s good reason why I haven’t done it until now: I didn’t have experience with anything else! How could I possibly make a good comparison that people could trust? A friend got a different model and after talking with her about it, seeing how it functions, and the end results – I am now confident enough to give my opinion with solid reasons for why I feel the way I do about this most wonderful food preservation tool.

A dehydrator removes the moisture from the food, therefore preserving it. So, you want a dehydrator to evenly move the warm air around and keep a consistent temperature. I didn’t really understand what other people went through with the interlocking trays in the round dehydrators. I was blown away by the extra work my friend had to do. Every 2-3 hours, she would have to go in and rotate the trays. The food was cooled down while doing it, of course, and then it would take extra time (and energy) to heat back up. I suppose an upside would be all that moisture getting released out of the machine but a good dehydrator should have the right ventilation in the first place. For the first 5-7 minutes, there would be condensation inside the machine as it came back up to temp.

Dehydrated FruitWhile this is not ‘bad’ per se, it does seem to be at least inconvenient. After seeing what another model is like, I know what I love about my Excalibur:

  • 100% even air flow. The air comes from the fan in the back of the machine, pushing it forward and through the space, hitting the other side of the machine and swirling around. The fan is large and really moves the air around well!
  • No need to rotate trays. The design of the air movement ensures all trays are reached for an even heating and air flow. There are no ‘drier spots’ that would cause the need to move trays around. The top layer gets as much as the bottom!
  • No need to rotate or flip the food. Again, the air flow is so well designed that there is no need to flip the food over to make sure it gets evenly dehydrated. The holes in the sheets make sure the bottom gets as much as the top!
  • Timer. The model I have has a timer. I have learned that there aren’t many out there that have a timer: usually just a temperature dial to adjust for whatever you’re dehydrating.
  • All the options! There is so much more you can do with this dehydrator versus other popular models! From the book that came with it, I can use my dehydrator to raise bread dough, make yogurt, ferment, and make cheese! Switch the mats used and make your own fruit leather! I also loooove to make jerky (see links below for more information on making jerky!)

My friend had to essentially babysit her dehydrator. That isn’t so terrible overall but if you have stuff to do outside, it can make getting anything accomplished more challenging when you have to stop every few hours to rotate or reset the dehydrator. They told me that since the fan mechanism was on the bottom of the machine, they couldn’t dehydrate things like orange slices  because the excess liquid pools at the bottom. With the Excalibur, the liquid pools in the bottom without hurting anything. Mind you, liquid only pools on high water content food processing (like pineapple). Messy but worth it when you are on the trail and want a sweet treat. 🙂

Tips and Tricks

Stew Starters with Dehydrated veggiesI have used my Excalibur Dehydrator for all sorts of different things and have learned a lot along the way. An example is to dehydrate the food that needs longer times at night. To me, the dehydrator isn’t all that loud – just a fan running in the background. For others, it may be too loud. Either way, it’s not as noisy as most circular tray models. My friend’s was incredibly loud but we didn’t notice just how much until we tried to watch TV.

Another thing I learned was that if it’s raining out or there is high humidity, you need to add time to whatever the book says. I live in a temperate rainforest and we rarely see anything below 60% humidity (even in summer) so I always have to add time on to what the book recommends. They say 2-4 hours for dehydrating herbs and spices. I set run them for 6 hours to be safe.

Using your dehydrator alongside your vacuum sealer is a great way to get more variety! We make stew starters (pictured left and linked below) and vacuum seal the jars. We also dehydrate up fruit and vacuum seal bags to make the perfect hiking treat that will stay good for at least a year.

Lastly, using your dehydrator to dry and preserve food before it goes bad is a great way to save money, stretch your budget and cut the waste!

For more tips and tricks, you can go here!


Want more about dehydrating food? Check out the links below!

Unraveling the Mystery: Drying and Dehydrating Food
Dehydrating Herbs and Spices
The Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook Review
How to Make Your Own “Stew Starters”
Unraveling the Mystery: Making Jerky



Making Pizza on a Dutch Oven Lid

I couldn’t believe it when I first saw it: Making pizza while camping?! In a Dutch Oven? It’s true!I made a pizza on a dutch oven lid this last weekend with Mr. Dreamer and have pictures to prove it!

Making_Pizza_on_a_Dutch_Oven_Lid

If you regularly follow along with the Facebook page, you’ll know I got my hands on a CampMaid Dutch Oven 4 piece set that turns your Dutch Oven into the single most versatile cooking set ups for camping! Now, I know it’s nothing ‘new’ to cook bacon and eggs on the lid of your dutch oven, turned upside down. What makes the difference is the ease of handling it, the complete control you have, and did I mention the versatility?

With my 4 piece system, I can make my dutch oven a grill, steamer, smoker, pizza maker… just by flipping the lid one way or another, or using the grill as a steamer rack! Instead of trying to explain it all, here’s a video that shows you what prompted me to sit on the edge of my seat, repeatedly saying “No way!” louder and louder as the possibilities of having this set up exploded in my imagination!

You saw the pizza, right? That was what did it for me. I went full on little-kid-camping-and-makin-pizza mode. It’s better than a couch fort! I really wanted to try making it and was budgeting to get at least the basic CampMaid Lid holder and tray because, honestly, that alone is worth having! The ease of taking the whole oven out of the coals and the lid being kept up off the ground while you’re stirring or serving food is fantastic. Not only does it stay clean, you don’t have to worry about burn rings! By a twist of fate, I was actually contacted by the company, asking if I would be interested in doing a review. I turn down things often because either I am not interested, the company wants too much for too little, or the product has nothing to do with the subject matter of the site. This one, I jumped all over with a very enthusiastic “Yes!”

The title picture above is of ours all set up. It was very easy, once you get the overall hang of it, to set up. The overall design is truly genius. Someone really put some time and thought into the functionality of it. The basic CampMaid lid holder has notches where the charcoal tray settles and locks into. You can move them up and down without having to worry about it deciding to slide down on its own. The materials used are strong, stout, and is easily felt while using it. It’s not going to fall apart anytime soon! Really well made.

SAFETY NOTE: Use heavy duty pot holders when using the CampMaid system or cooking with cast iron in general.

I only have one thing negative to say about the system overall:

  1. The little red rubber handles on the charcoal tray heat up to the point of easily sliding whichever way it can. It makes them slide around and off incredibly easy and I almost dropped the tray a couple times. I was going to say that opening the charcoal tray was also a little hard to do (I used to use both hands) but then I realized that’s a necessary part of the design. It has to be strong to hold the weight of charcoal and stay in place!

Dutch_Oven_Lid_Pizza_Since this was our first time using our CampMaid, or making a pizza while camping for that matter, there were a couple snafus that went along with it but I overcame. First, I forgot the rolling pin and used an unopened pop can instead. (No big deal and kind of humorous now that I think about it.) The second was that I forgot the flour to roll the dough out on. My only solution (other than driving home which I was not going to do) was to use some pancake mix I had for the next morning. It did change the flavor of the crust a little for certain bites but it worked in a pinch!

Dutch_Oven_Pizza_I put a good layer of olive oil on the lid while it was heating up to ensure it was well seasoned and that the crust wouldn’t stick. Getting it off the cutting board and onto the lid was a trick or two and required the help of Mr. Dreamer to make sure I didn’t botch the whole thing. We had pepperoni and bacon that was saved from breakfast that morning. Note the tray has been moved almost right up under the lid, too.

Dutch_Oven_Pizza_Cooking

 

Once the pizza was in place, all we had to do was place the pot portion of the dutch oven on top and let it cook! As you can see, we had a roaring fire going that we enjoyed while we waited the 20-25 minutes it took for the pizza to be done. I checked it a couple times and realized that we had waited a little too long before we started cooking it and needed to add a couple briquettes to bring the heat up again. I prefer a crunchy crust. Because I was using a dutch oven (we use a Lodge 12 inch Dutch Oven), I didn’t have to worry about any lighter fluid smell or taste getting into the food.

Below is the final result of our first attempt at not only using the CampMaid cooking system, but also making pizza while camping. What a success! It was delicious and we are already talking about using our 4 piece cooking set in different ways that were shown in the video above. I very highly recommend this if you love to cook with cast iron in general but especially when camping, tailgating parties, a day trip for a picnic…there are SO MANY OPTIONS!

You can get the one, two, three, and four piece CampMaid sets from Amazon but the only place to get the five and eight piece sets is directly from their site, CampMaid.com.*

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*Those living in AK and HI should go the Amazon route because the shipping is high from the main site (assuming you have Amazon Prime). Unless your heart is set on the 5 or 8 piece set of course!



Aftermath II: The Struggle for Independence Now Available!

FINALLY! After months of delays, trying to get help with editing, and draft after draft, “Aftermath II: The Struggle for Independence” has released!

 

AFTRMTH II

For those who are new, this is book 2 in the Jimmy Walker Series. Book one was released a year ago and has enjoyed a warm welcome among the survival, homesteading, and prepper communities. You can learn more about “Aftermath, A Story of Survival” by clicking here. Now, on to book 2!

If you haven’t read book one, the world was taken down to its knees by a virus that wiped out all electronics on the planet and wreaked havoc on every system and left the picture of a dog taking a squat with the words, “IT happens” on the screen. A cascading effect quickly brought humanity to its knees and caused the largest die off of the species in recorded history. The main character, Jimmy Walker, managed to bug out to his cabin in northern Michigan where he met with others and formed a community that worked together to meet the challenges of not only the criminal element, but also the United Nations who assumed global authority.

In book 2, the groups face the first winter without any modern conveniences. They have to get enough food put away to make it through the cold and dark and ensure there is enough firewood and shelter for everyone. They also have to face a lot of downtime with little to do other than get lost in thought and come to grips with the magnitude of all that has happened so not only are they battling Mother Nature, they are battling their own minds. Not everyone is able to come out the other side.

No spoilers but I can tell you that a less-than-favorite character from book 1 makes quite the impact here in book 2! Weather, spies, the U.N., resistance groups, and new life all await you in Book 2 of the Jimmy Walker Series!

If you prefer paperback, click here: http://amzn.to/1m7GX5T

If you prefer Kindle, click here: http://amzn.to/1m7H1CL