Category Archives: Rural rants

Rural living, West Virginie, self sufficiency

Homemade “Playdoh”

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My daughter loves to be outside. She also hates snow/mud/wet/icky/cold. This can be a problem during the winter months here in the mountains.  While she did receive many a lovely  flashing, plastic plaything from various well- meaning relatives in December, one of her favorite things to do is help mom in the kitchen. Together we mixed up a batch of homemade “playdoh” for her to “knead” while I knead my bread. It was great fun, and I used ingredients I already had on hand. This recipe I found on the back of a Cream corn starch box. You could also add food coloring and even spices (think cinnamon) to liven it up. While its non toxic, you may want to save the coloring and spices for the over 5 crowd, as yummy smells and colors may encourage nibbling.

  • 1 1/2 cups corn starch
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cups water

mix all ingredients in a sauce pan. (obviously, this next step is for grown-ups only) Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture gathers on the stirring spoon and forms a dough, about 6 minutes.  Let mass cool on wax paper until cool enough to handle, then knead until pliable. Store in closed container. This should alow for about 2 pounds of “playdoh”

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On the Cheap Pet Dewormer

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My pets are a random assortment of abandoned creatures that have wandered onto our property and have never left. While they were all taken to the vet for a first round of shots and a general checkup, I can hardly afford a hundred bucks a pop every time my cats eat a rat, or the dog finds some gnarly carcass left behind by hunters.  Like most men, these guys are only interested in a big ‘ol rack.  Anyway, as you can imagine, my pets often come down with worms. Enter food grade diatomaceous earth!  It is completely organic, and kills fleas, ticks, worms, mites, ect. by physical action rather than chemical. The sand-like diatoms scratch the waxy coating of the infesting parasites surface, leading to dehydration and death.  When fed as a supplement to pets or livestock, worms are naturally eliminated with out chemicals of any kind, it’s cheap, and easy to feed. Simply mix wet food or a treat your dog/cat likes  with the  amount of diatomaceous earth best suited to your pets wieght for 4 days. Repeat as necessary every 2 weeks.  CAUTION: YOU MUST USE ONLY FOOD GRADE diatomaceous earth, not the stuff found in drywall, ect. Food grade diatomaceous earth can be found at just about any feed and seed store, or may also be obtained on the internet. We buy ours from Southern States, and I believe it’s around 9.00$ for a four pound bag. As we have small pets, this bag will last quite a long time.  Mix as follows:

  • Lrg cats-1tsp
  • kittens-1/4 tsp
  • dogs 100 ibs and up-1-2 Tbsp
  • dogs 50-100 ibs-1 Tbsp
  • under 50 ibs- 1 tsp
  • miniature breeds 1/2 tsp

The “spirited” child and the great outdoors

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When my daughter was born, she was completely unlike any baby I’d ever known. And no, I’m not going to launch into some diatribe about how beautiful and special EVERYONE (not just me) thought my child was, blah,blah,blah.  Every parent thinks their baby is destined for greatness, so I’ll spare you that.  Lulu was what the nurses kindly refered to as a “high needs” baby. Her Pawpaw called her a “handful”.  Hub and I jokingly (kind of)  nicknamed her “Lucifer”. Now, it wasn’t that she had colic or some other sort of medical issue, this kid was just Bored.  This was not the kind of baby contented to lounge in her bouncy chair, ride in a car seat, or spend any amount of time on the floor. Tummy time? Not so much. She preferred voicing her shrill little opinion over any sort of pacifier. Toys did not amuse this one.  The only thing that kept her happy was strapping her into the Baby Bjorn and taking a walk in the wide, wide world. Otherwise known as the back yard.  Well she’s 2 now and nothing much has changed, with the exception that she can walk and holler more or less intelligible phrases.  She’s since graduated from “high needs” to “spirited”, but is certainly no more easygoing. Her greatest delight is still the outdoors, a kingdom all her own where she can impose her will on the surrounding countryside with little intervention. As always, she rules with an iron fist. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheap stock

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I enjoy making my own stock, but I’ve recently been able to stretch this already money-saving pantry item even further.  Here’s the deal: I save EVERYTHING. Lately I’ve been buying bone in chicken or even whole chickens and deboning them myself. Not only is it  much more cost-effective to buy this way, but I also prefer a minimum of corporate processing in anything I put into my or my families mouths. Hope fully by next fall we’ll be harvesting and processing our own backyard poultry, but that’s another post altogether.  So…..after deboning, I save the bones, necks, backs, and wing tips in a ziplock freezer bag. In another Freezer bag I save the ends of carrots, onions, and celery, as well as potato peels, mushroom stalks, kale and swiss chard ribs, ect. when making salads and other dishes. When both bags are full, I make stock. Nothing is wasted. One thing, though. My stock makings are always fresh, I don’t use scraps that are better suited for the compost pile.  Also, I usually don’t use strong veggies like asparagus or broccoli.  Are there any money saving tricks you use to keep your families groccery budget in check? I’d love to hear ’em!

you can eat that?-Learning to forage

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O.k., so just in case sh*# does hit the fan, economically speaking, it might be a good idea to brush up on some of those ol’ lost arts. Plus, wild plants, unlike their cultivated cousins,  have much more in the way of nutrition and tend  naturally  to be organic. Unless you happen to enjoy spraying your yard regularly with sevendust or gathering them on a freeway (which I wouldn’t recommend.) However, some plants can make you sick or even kill you. DO NOT EAT ANY WILD THING IF YOU ARE NOT ONE HUNDRED PERCENT POSITIVE THAT YOU KNOW WHAT IT IS.  IF YOU ARE NOT A  PROFESSIONAL SCOUT, OR OTHERWISE TRAINED IN  WILD EDIBLES,  DO NOT EAT ANY BERRIES OR MUSHROOMS EVEN IF YOU HAVE BROUGHT ALONG A GUIDE BOOK. SOME OF THESE HAVE LOOKALIKES THAT ARE DEADLY TOXIC. I would also recommend bringing along a guide or knowledgable friend the first couple of times you go out. My community hosts “walk- alongs” with trained guides who help you to identify wild edibles and their poisonous lookalikes. Be safe.

Dandelions, the bane of most people’s back yard. This little plant is not only extremely common but also very edible. Young leaves and flowers are great in a salad, while the larger, tougher leaves can be parboiled in lightly salted water and eaten warm. Some people enjoy the medicinal properties of these mature leaves steeped to form a tea, and the bloom is often used to make dandelion wine.  The only part of the plant to avoid would be the stem of the flour and the milky fluid it secretes. This fluid isn’t toxic, but it is very bitter.

 

 

 

Cress, or shotweed, is in the mustard family.  Its young leaves are great in salads, older leaves may be steamed until tender.

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some cleaned cress greens I found right outside the front door. These were young and tender enough to mix other salad greens for lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

The plantain, not to be confused with the fried bannana-like things served in Cuban restaurants, can also be used as a ‘pot herb’, although only the very young leaves are eaten due to their stringy texture. These are usually simmered 15 minutes or until tender.

 

 

 

 

The burdock is used for both food and medicinal purposes. The ‘bur’ of the burdock is frequently used to make tea, purportedly helping to ease a variety of ailments including exema, colds and infections, and diabetes. The root of the burdock plant is commonly eaten as any other root vegetable, however it is best harvested in spring from the first year of the plant. Once you see the burs form, the root is in its second year and more or less unpalatable. The first year burdock will have a rosette on leaves with a small shoot in the middle, looking like this.

image from wildmanstevebrill.com, click for link

 You will not be ble to pull this by hand, it’s much stronger than it looks! Grab a shovel. The roots should be white and somewhat pliable.

 Roast them with a mixture of other root vegetables and tubers, or chop and throw into a pot of soup.

 

 

Aptly named quickweed, this garden demon is apparently quite tasty. The young plants are simmered in salted water for 15-20 minutes and served warm with butter or sometimes vinegar as a dressing.

 

“Uh, yeah…..that’s a pine tree. I don’t think I’ll ever be forced to eat conifers barring some Survivor Man-esq hiking incident.” Seriously, though, they are edible and actually not bad. Really!  When eaten raw it’s best to gather the bright green new needles in spring, they’re surprising tender and un-piney tasting.  I like to make tea from the needles year round (Christmas tree tea!), especially when I’m ill. Conifers are extremely high in vitamin C. The settlers used to use pine to ward off scurvy. Most pines also have edible nuts inside the cones come late summer to fall.

 

These are just a couple of edible plants that can be found in my area. I ‘d love to hear about edibles in other regions or maybe even some recipes.  Happy hunting!

 

 

 

 

 

‘Wild and Wonderfull West Virginia’

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   That is the actual state slogan, and for the most part it’s fairly accurate.  It’s taken me the better part of three years to acquaint myself with the finer, and somtimes intimidating, points of rural living.  And I do mean RURAL.  I have up-and- hauled myself from the metropolis of Orlando Florida to the most rural county east of the Mississippi.

Culture shock #1: There ain’t no cell service in these here mountains. I don’t mean spotty, I mean nonexistent. Apparently they have some sort of SETI opperation nearby, so the likelyhood of ever getting cell service is nill. In my opinion, this is great. People rely on nieghbors and friends instead of electronics and devices (no, your GPS system isn’t going to work either), and I don’t have to hear other peoples conversations in the checkout line. Plus, it’s good practice for developing such lost arts as map reading, and face to face conversation for when SHTF.

Culture shock#2: If you want to go to a big-box store or a McDonalds it’s gonna’ take awhile to get there.  We live about an hour an a half drive from anywhere. We do have 2 small locally owned groccers, a couple gas stations ( the big one has a Subway sandwhich shop!), a liquor store, and a couple cool, family owned businesses (coffee and bike rental shop, pub, outdoor sports and hunting, ect.) Coroprate America has seen fit to leave this little corner of the world alone, and that’s fine by me.

Culture shock #3: The wood stove.   O.k., so I realize that it is commonplace to quite a few people to heat their home with wood.  I get it; it’s economical, environmentally friendly, and very self sufficient. Yada, yada, yada. I hail from Florida, however, and this small matter has really taken some getting used to.  Unlike the central heating unit I grew up with, there is no thermostat. Essentially the idea  is that you build a fire, maintain said fire,  the encasing meatal heats and the heat radiates to the rest of the house. Simple enough. BUT, you have to continually add wood to the fire. Or it goes out. Even in the middle of the night do you have to add this firewood. Even if you have to get grocceries (a 50 mile round trip) must this fire be maintained. EVEN if you have to proccure for yourself gainfull employment, does this fire have to remain stoked. Otherwise it goes out.  Once the fire goes out, the house gets cold and then (here’s the kicker) it can take up to 8 FREAKIN’ HOURS to heat back up again.  In our cabin the firewood is kept inside in order to avoid opening our home to the freezing elements every half hour or so. Split wood has a tendancy to splinter. Everywhere.  Woodstoves also produce ash which has a tendancy to spread, everywhere. Keeping our home clean and (mostly) free of debris in the winter time, as well as the continual stoking of our heating element, is a full time job. Which brings me to culture shock #4.

Culture shock #4: I’m not expected to work outside of the home.  I must admit, I kinda enjoy this one. When you live in a rural community such as mine, traditional gender roles and other such antiquated notions (the golden rule, ect.) are mostly taken for granted as the norm rather than the exception.  It’s the reason Hub and I are here, we WANT out of the rat race. Keeping up with the Jonese’s isn’t as difficult when the Jonse’s are cows.