Today's episode is a fun one because it's full of your questions and my answers on a variety of topics. For those of you who follow me on Facebook and Instagram, you sent me your questions and this is the podcast where they're being answered! I'm covering everything from growing food for a year to my skincare routine! My homesteading bucket list to adjustments we're making here on the homestead as we pivot after a difficult growing season.
Today's podcast will cover the following questions:
- Stocking up on food
- What do I use for makeup and skincare
- My bucketlist for homesteading
- Overwintering strawberries
- Thing I need to increase for a year of food for my family
- Root cellar options
- And so much more!
A little background about me, if we haven't met, or if this is your first time on my blog, I'm a fifth-generation homesteader, best selling author (including the book The Family Garden Plan), and it is my goal to help people learn how to become modern homesteaders and to learn how to live a hand-made and homegrown life.
Root Cellar Options (if you don't have one)
Question: If you don't have a built-in root cellar in your home, what are the other options available?
In my house, we don't have a root cellar, a basement, an unheated garage, or even an out-building that doubles as cold storage. But never fear, there are several things you can “root cellar” using root-cellaring techniques in your home.
Be sure to check out my blog post and podcast episode on 10 tips on storing vegetables without a root cellar for long-term storage.
First off, it's important to know which vegetables will store well if you don't have a cooler environment that also has high humidity. If you don't have a root cellar and are going to be storing them in your house, these are the vegetables that will work well:
- Onions (be sure they're storage varieties such as Copra, Pattersen, blush onions, etc.)
- Garlic (my softneck varieties last over a year for me when cured properly)
- Winter Squash (especially spaghetti, delecata, pumpkin, butternut and acorn)
The key is that you are storing the correct variety of vegetables. Specifically, purple onions tend not to be great storage onions.
Beyond the variety, you also need to be sure you're following proper curing practices for your vegetables.
Winter squash also needs to be cured. To do this you'll want to leave the stem on and allow them to cure until the stem is hard and the outside skin or rind is nice and thick.
The curing process takes a couple of weeks, but the temperature needs to be higher between 80-85 degrees F. Once my winter squash is ripe for the picking, it's sometimes past when we're getting these temps, so you can always bring them inside into a warm room, maybe even by a wood stove if you're already building fires.
No matter how you're storing your veggies, you need to be checking on them frequently (if not daily). Once you see signs of spoilage, rot, or even bruising, you need to use up those veggies quickly, especially to avoid any rot from quickly spreading to your other veggies.
Question: How do I overwinter strawberries?
Strawberry plants are perennial and if you live in a climate where you have mild winters you don't actually have to do anything.
However, strawberry plants can be damaged by hard freezes, so it's best if you can mulch them with something that will still allow airflow. Many people will use straw as it's breathable while also providing insulation (some people use hay, but there tends to be more weed seeds in hay).
If you grow strawberries in containers, especially moveable containers like the Greenstalk Vertical Planter where I grow my strawberries, then I simply move my planter to a southern exposure side of my house and place it up against the wall of the house for extra warmth.
This works well for us and we experience winter temperatures down into the 20 degrees F range. You can also move your pots or planters into an unheated garage or building to keep them from freezing.
I love the GreenStalk Planters because they're easy to move, fairly lightweight (compared to heavy pots) and they have a great self-watering system! Use code “PIONEERING” for $10 off your purchase!
Planning a Year's Worth of Food
Question: What are things you need to increase in order to have a year's worth of food put away?
If you've followed me for any length of time you know that this topic is near and dear to my heart. So much so that I've written two books on the topic, The Family Garden Plan, and more recently The Family Garden Planner which is filled with worksheets for you to successfully grow a year's worth of food for your own family.
This is something that continually changes each year as your children grow, different circumstances that happen in the garden throughout the growing season, etc.
This year, I did experience some early blight on my potato plants so I'm hoping the plants that remain will provide enough potatoes for us this year.
I also need to increase my carrots because I had a hard time keeping the garden moist enough to germinate my seeds during the extremely high heat we had this summer here in the Pacific Northwest.
Because these are one of the veggies I end up supplementing from the grocery store, I need to put up more brussels sprouts. Even though we already grow quite a lot of Brussels sprouts and overwinter them in the garden through January, after this the quality isn't that great and we've usually picked the plants clean.
I would like to grow some extra that I can blanch and freeze so we can have Brussels sprouts throughout the entire year since they're one of my husband's favorites.
Peas are definitely one of the vegetables I need to increase in order to have enough to get our family through a year. Though we don't eat a ton of peas, I do love to use them in certain dishes (like a Seven-Layer Salad) and I've found myself buying frozen bags of peas to use in these recipes.
I plan on growing some more varieties of shelled peas in order to accomplish this.
We put in some more raspberry vines this year to increase the number of berries we're both eating fresh and preserving. You can find out how many berry bushes to plant for your family here, plus learn how to prune raspberries here.
We also had an unfortunate mishap with one of our blueberry bushes this year and we'll need to be replacing that bush in order to get our supply back up to the amount our family consumes in a year.
The blueberry bush mishap was a combination of mummy berry (which is a fungal disease) and the extreme temps we had where we had a four-day stretch of 104-120 degrees F. Many of my plants and trees suffered due to this extreme heat. (Learn how to prune and care for blueberries here.)
My oldest elderberry plants are three years old, but I did have to transplant one of them because it wasn't very happy in the location I planted it. I also planted some new elderberry plants this year that will eventually flower and fruit. (How to grow and elderberry planting tips here!)
Anytime you transplant it sets the fruit back on that tree or bush by about a year, so, unfortunately, even though one of my trees was filled with blossoms, the pollinator tree (which is the one I transplanted) didn't do well in order to get the blossoms to produce fruit.
My Skincare Routine
Question: Your skin looks so amazing, would you mind sharing your skincare routine and which products you use?
I actually just released a podcast where I discuss my skincare routine and everything I do for skin health in detail. And I joke saying I think cameras have natural built-in filters that definitely help!
Over the years I have tried many different things, but have settled on not using bar soap on my face as I've always struggled to find the right balance in moisture. I haven't yet found the perfect face wash for me, but I've been trying a new product for about four weeks now.
Hopefully, I'll have that answer by the time I publish my podcast! (I'll be sure to update this section with a link once it's published!)
The other product I've been using for almost a year now is Toups Organics. I cover exactly what I use in the podcast, but you can check out all the Toups Organic products here. (Use code “Pioneering” to receive FREE shipping on your order!)
I'm a lotion bar addict! They're super simple to make at home and you can follow the easy tutorial right here: DIY Lotion Bars.
The simple combination of ingredients is so beneficial for your skin and I've been using them all over my body for over a decade now.
Stocking Up on Supplies
Question: Are you feeling the need to stock up on food and supplies like you did last year?
My answer here is yes and no. I learned my lesson last year by letting my supplies run down and haven't actually let my stores run down. I've kept my threshold stocked up at a level I feel comfortable with.
Onion seeds might be the only caveat as seeds older than one year don't tend to have a good germination rate.
One thing I'm looking into is ways to diversify our food supply with what we're not already doing ourselves.
I already have a large supply of mason jars and canning lids and happened to reorder to replenish my supply just before the pandemic and shortage of these items began. (If you're having a hard time finding canning supplies, this may help.)
I know some people who ordered canning lids and had to wait an entire year before receiving their order!
I'm looking to grow more food in cold-frames and high tunnels for fresh eating foods that I don't need to preserve.
We also got a freeze dryer this year which has allowed me to preserve foods that I could only store in the freezer (which we all know the freezer is prime real estate when it comes to food storage!). (Check out my new favorite food to freeze dry!)
Bottom line, I've been looking for additional ways to expand our food supply and food storage, but I'm also very happy with where our stock levels are!
Homesteading Bucket List
Question: What is on your homesteading bucket list?
I never really considered my future dreams for our homestead as a bucket list, but it's funny because I actually already have quite a list!
At some point, I would really like to get a dairy animal here on the homestead. But I also know it's not something that's on the horizon in the next six months or so.
I'm expanding my hard cheese-making skills and that's something that's been on my bucket list for a long time. I've been making cultured cheeses and soft cheeses for a long time, but hard cheeses are new for me!
We actually just enjoyed our first batch of homemade cheddar cheese and it's so incredible I can't wait to share the recipe with you! As this obsession builds, I know I'll be needing more milk to keep up with my cheese-making, hence, the desire for a milk cow!
You know I'm a huge proponent of teaching people how to homestead through my blog, podcast, online courses, and membership to the Pioneering Today Academy, but something that my husband and I have felt led to explore is opening up our homestead for people to be able to come and have some hands-on learning experiences.
In fact, we're actually about to have our very first chicken butchering workshop here in just a few short weeks and we're very excited to see how it goes.
If coming out to our homestead to learn homesteading skills is something that interests you, please leave a comment below on the topics or tutorials that you would like to learn about!
Verse of the Week: Galatians 6:4
Hey there, pioneers, and welcome to episode number 316. Today's episode is a fun one because it is a Q and A. For those of you who follow me on Instagram or on Facebook, you sent me in your questions. So we're going to be covering things like stocking up on food, what do I use for makeup and skincare, as well as what my bucket list is for homesteading, overwintering strawberries, and things that I need to increase to have a year's worth of food put up, as well as root cellar options. So this is going to be a really fun episode. Welcome to the Pioneering Today podcast. I'm your host, Melissa K. Norris. I'm a fifth generation homesteader, bestselling author, including the book The Family Garden Plan, and it is my goal to help people learn how to do modern homesteading, to live a homegrown and handmade life.
So the first question comes from Michelle and says, "If you don't have a built-in root cellar at your home, what are other options available?" Well, Michelle, I love this question because I do not have a built-in root cellar at my home. I don't have a basement. We don't have an unheated garage or outbuilding that works well for a root cellar. But never fear. There are several things that you can root cellar using root cellaring techniques right in your home.
Now, I actually have a podcast episode and a blog post that is 10 Tips For Storing Vegetables Without A Root Cellar Long-Term that we will link to in the show notes so that you can go and grab those. And you can find all of those at MelissaKNorris.com/316, or just the number, three one six, because this is episode number 316. But the key is knowing which crops will be good candidates for root cellaring. So the best ones, if you don't actually have a root cellar that allows you to control the humidity and to have certain areas that are just above freezing or in the 33 to 40, 45 degree Fahrenheit mark, and humidity control, that's a big one. It's not just the temperature, it's also humidity for a lot of those crops.
So we have a cold area, but if we don't have the ability to create the humidity in the winter months, then they're going to shrivel up and they're not going to last. So for the vegetables, if you don't actually have a root cellar and are just going to be storing them in your house, the ones that store the best for us are going to be onions, garlic, winter squash, especially spaghetti squash, delicata, butternut, pumpkin, and then acorn. Those crops don't require having a super high humidity so that they will store well. They key, though, to those, is you want to make sure that, one, you have, especially of onions, that they are storage varieties.
So Copra, Patterson, those are both ones that I have done that I've had great storage, been able to store them up to an entire year. I've done a blush onion. That one has done very well for me long storage. Usually the really pretty purple onions, those aren't super good stores. I mean, they'll store for months, but your really sweet onions like Walla Wallas, those aren't going to last very long. So it's usually the yellow onion. As I said, I've done a blush onion. Those have done well for me and have stored almost as long as the Copra and the Patterson. So storage variety, with the garlic, my softneck, Red Inchelium garlic lasts an entire year, and actually sometimes even about a month past a year, so at least 13 months. Those do well for me.
The key, though, is making sure that you cure them. They have to be cured, including the winter squash, if you want to be using these root cellar techniques, even if it is just in the house. I also have a video and a blog post on walking you through how to cure onions. It's the same process for curing your garlic, so definitely check that out. Again, we'll have that in the blog post that accompanies this episode, so you can go and grab links to these if you haven't seen those resources.
Now, your winter squash also needs to be cured so that the... Leave the stem on as well. Leaving the stem on means that you're not going to get oxygen breaking it down and entering into it quickly. So for all of the winter squash, including pumpkins, leave the stem on. You want them to cure so that the stems dry out and that the outer skin or the rind gets nice and thick. Your curing period is usually only a couple of weeks, and it needs to be warmer, higher temperatures, so ideally, 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, once my winter squash begins to ripen and come on, I rarely have outdoor temps that reach that, so [inaudible 00:05:00] and you want good air ventilation, and you don't really want them in direct sunlight, especially when you are doing the onions and the garlic, because you can get sun scald on them. So not in direct sunlight, good ventilation, and those warm temperatures. But I will actually cure my winter squash. I've even had to bring it indoors and cure it next to the wood stove. But after it's cured, stem's dried out, outer rind is hard, then you want to move them away from heat and away from any windows. So ideally a dark room, not even indirect light that may be coming just from having light bulbs on, et cetera, for your longer term storage.
And I have our back pantry, which is the furthest away from our wood stove, which is our heat source, and I can keep our winter squash there. The acorn usually starts to break down the fastest, so usually about two months for that. I've had pumpkins go anywhere from three to almost six months. But the spaghetti squash and the delicata and the butternut lasts the longest for me. I have actually had spaghetti squash last almost an entire year, at least nine months, and still be just fine.
With any root cellar storage technique, be it in a real root cellar or doing makeshift like we're doing, you do want to keep an eye on it, check them periodically, because once you have one spot start to go bad, rot can quickly spread. So we want to make sure that we're keeping an eye on and removing any that are beginning to show signs of softening and/or rot. And our home temperature for these crops that we're storing in the back pantry where I keep everything except the braid of garlic or the braid of onions that I'm using at that time, everything else is stored back there.
It's usually anywhere from about 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. And gosh, I have never actually measured our humidity indoors. We live in the west side of Washington State, so the humidity level isn't super high during the winter months, but that's about the long-time storage. And I've tried to do potatoes and apples and other things that way, but without being able to control the humidity, even if it is in a cool environment, they have not lasted long-term for me because they end up shriveling up and/or sprouting. So I've not had as good success with some crops that you can do really easily in a true root cellar type environment. Carrots would be some other ones. But the crops that I mentioned above, those work really, really well.
This next question is from [Hoytie Chick 00:07:24] and says, "How to overwinter strawberries, please?" Well, strawberries are a perennial, so they can definitely be overwintered. If you live in an area that has a mild winter, you really don't need to do much of anything, but they will become damaged if it gets really cold out, if you're getting down 20 degrees or lower. Then they don't have bark. Like a lot of our fruit trees and berries have bark to help protect them, obviously strawberries don't. So it is best to mulch them. So once they enter into dormancy, meaning there is no new growth, there's no new green that's shooting up and they're in complete dormancy.
So for most places, you're starting to get some hard freezes, that's going to put them into dormancy, so that's going to depend on where that falls for you into the fall and winter months. And then it is best if you can mulch them. Now, when you mulch them, though, it still needs to have air flow and water drainage. A lot of people like to use straw. Strawberries, they like to mulch them with straw because water will still drain through there. It's not going to get as moldy as something like hay. Hay tends to mat and mold a lot more than straw, at least in my experience.
And you also have a lot more weed seeds when you use hay instead of straw. Other times people will use a pine mulch, or pine needles can work well. Strawberries like to be slightly acidic, and so as the pine needles begin to break down, they can actually help add acidity levels to the soil. Now, if they're in a container, then they need extra protection because containers are above ground and they're going to freeze and experience harsher temps where they don't have the extra insulation of being in ground with their roots as their soil if they're in containers.
So you can move them. This is what I do with my strawberries. I actually have my strawberries in a container, is simply move them against a southern exposure wall of outside or building, southern exposure because that's going to get the most heat. Even on days where it's not sunny, you're still going to get more heat there. And that's just a great way of taking advantage of a micro climate. I put them against our house with southern exposure and very little mulching, and they go the entire winter. Now, our temperatures, we definitely get down to the freezing, so we'll get some snows, but typically the low 20s is about our average cold temps that we get. We don't typically get down into the teens or single digits. And if we do, it's for only a day or a couple of days with just a specific storm coming through.
So you could also move them into an unheated garage or an unheated building. You do want to make sure, though, that that building is not going to be getting beneath 20 degrees Fahrenheit if you're moving them in there, or that you're covering them up. So you can wrap containers. You can wrap them with burlap. You also can still mulch your strawberries when they're in a container, so that will help on the top. I've even seen, if it's not a super large container, where people will bury or use dirt or sod or other things like that to help insulate the outside, so that would be another option that you could go.
Like I said, just moving ours against the southern exposure of our home worked incredibly well, and I didn't even have to wrap them. But there are even covers that you can get. I have a GreenStalk, which is a vertical stacked growing planter that all of my strawberries are in. It's five stacks, and they do have frost protection, and they do have some protection covers that you can get if you're growing perennials in their containers to help with that overwintering. So if you want to check that out, you can go to MelissaKNorris.com/vertical.
This next question is from Robin C. And Robin says, "What are things you need to increase to have a year's worth put away?" Robin, this is a great question, and it really made me think. As far as our vegetables go, I need to... Well, we're testing to see if we planted enough potatoes this year to take us all the way through. I did have some early blight that is affecting the harvest on one of the potato patches, so we'll see. That definitely decreased the amount of harvest I'm getting off of that patch, but I have some later plants that we'll leave in the ground and overwinter, and so far, those have escaped the blight, so I'm hopeful that I'll get a really good production on them.
So we're going to be testing to see if I put enough potato plants in and they were able to produce enough to take us through an entire year. I need to increase my carrots, which sounds funny because I've grown a year's worth of carrots before in the past, but this year we were really hot, experienced 120 degrees Fahrenheit here in Western Washington, which is unheard of. We had several heat waves come through. And so my carrot seed, I had a hard time keeping the garden moist enough and wet enough after we got into the summer months. And typically, I do my carrot planting in the late summer so that it can stay in the ground and can take us through the winter without me having to can or do a bunch of preserving.
As I mentioned, I can't keep carrots in a root cellar condition because I don't have a cold enough area for the carrots with proper humidity and place to store them currently. So I had a hard time getting my carrot seed to germinate this year just because we were so dry and hot. It was very difficult. So I think I'm going to have to up my carrot production because I don't think I have quite enough to take us through an entire year's worth this year.
Now, if we're talking about vegetables, I need to also grow... I think we need to put out more Brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts are my husband and mine's, one of our absolute favorite. And even though we grow quite a lot, and I can overwinter them from the first frost usually clear into January, I think we need to grow a few more and I'm going to have to blanch and freeze them, simply because by the time you hit January, if they're still out on the vine, that's kind of about the longest I've been able to stretch them... Or I should say on the plant. I don't know that it's technically a vine. On the stock, I should say.
I haven't been able to keep them in good condition, prime condition past that point, so I need to grow extra so that I can blanch those and have them in the freezer, which is really the only, without a root cellar type technique, which I don't have an area with [inaudible 00:14:00] that would have humidity or the space and the coolness. They need to be kept colder than the aforementioned things when we were talking about roots cellaring. But that is definitely one that we like to have all year round, and so it's either figuring that you're not going to eat it in the off season.
Unless you are preserving it some way, you're going to go without it, so we do supplement our Brussels sprouts from the store, I have to say. So that would be something that I would like to grow more of and figure out a way to preserve them in a way that we really like them and that is safe. They're not a canning candidate, and I don't know that I would like them fermented. I like kimchi and I love curtido, which is a Spanish fermented sauerkraut, but I'm not sure that... We like the Brussels sprouts roasted, so I don't think that we would enjoy them in a fermented state, but I could be wrong. It's not one that we've tried yet.
Peas are definitely one that we need to increase to have a year's worth. We don't eat a ton of peas, but I do like them in certain dishes, and so I found myself, when I wanted to make said dishes, usually in salads, actually, a seven layer salad, I love making a seven layer salad, and I like to have the crunch of the peas in there and the sweetness textural-wise, but I found myself buying some bags of frozen peas this year, especially once we moved into the early spring before I could have any ready from the garden. So definitely looking at doing a shelled pea to store and not just the sugar snap peas, which I do love those just to snack on.
I rarely even get them into a stir fry because I'll just go out and eat them right off the vine. But growing some more shelled pea varieties and getting enough of those so that I don't have to buy them from the store. That's probably as much as our produce. We are increasing... I put in some more raspberry plants, and we're going to put in some more blueberry plants because I lost a blueberry plant this year. It was a combination of mummy berry, which is a fungal disease, and then the extreme hot temps that we had where I said we had a week... It was about four days where we were between about 110 to 120 degrees.
And it was really hard on the blueberries, and the apple tree suffered the most, actually, the apple trees and the blueberries. Everything else so far seem to have came through okay, but I did lose one of my most mature and larger producing blueberry plants, so I need to put in another blueberry plant in order to make sure we've got enough. Because prior to that, the amount of plants that we had did take us through an entire year on blueberries, but I suffered that loss this year, so that is something that we're going to be upping.
And I also need to get my elderberries, either put in some more plants... I have one that is going phenomenally well. My plants are only three years old, my oldest ones. I only put elderberries in about three years ago. But I had to move one of them because it wasn't growing very well in the first spot that I had it planted. So any time you transplant a berry bush or a fruit tree, I have found it usually sets back fruit production by about a year. So the one that I didn't have to move this year had tons of flowers. I mean, it is so robust. It's doing amazing.
However, its pollinator is the one that I had to transplant. It didn't blossom this year, so I did not get any elderberries off my own plants because I don't have a pollinator, unfortunately, for that elderberry. And then I planted a different variety, but they're only one year old. I planted them last year. So I will have elderberries coming, but not yet. They're not going to be getting [inaudible 00:17:30] production to get us through a year's worth of our own elderberries supply for a couple of more years yet, but I am working on that.
So this question is from... I'm not actually sure how to pronounce your handle, but S-I-O-B? I don't know. I'm sorry. I have no idea how to pronounce that one, but thank you so much. She says, "Your skin is incredible," meaning me, obviously. And what do I use? So actually, I have an upcoming amazing podcast episode that will be releasing in September, September 10th, actually. It'll be episode number 318. And I am very excited for that episode because we're going to be talking about homestead skincare for health, and we'll be able to go really into depth on that episode for you.
But in order to answer your question, I use a few different products. One, thank you for saying that my skin looks incredible. I really do feel like cameras have natural filters built in, because I have always had acne. Even as an adult, I still will get breakouts and deal with that. And I do have a little bit of scarring from some of the acne, so thank you that you think that my skin looks incredible. That actually made me feel really good when I read that, so thank you.
But as for the products that I use, right now I am using a cleanser. I have tried using different face soap cleansers in bar soap format. I've tried charcoal. I've tried all different ones, but I have to be honest that I don't use the soap bars for my face because they end up drying out my skin, or they just don't ever feel like my skin's moisture level is right when I use those. And I've tried all different kinds. [inaudible 00:19:16] all different kinds, homemade, avocado, charcoal, you name it. I can use them every now and then, but they're not a face wash that I can use every day. My skin just does not seem happy.
So right now I don't feel like I've found the perfect face wash, is where I'm going with this. I am testing out right now using a face wash from... It's a company called Proven, and they actually formulate it. You do this whole quiz, and they formulate it based upon your answers to this quiz, as well as by your zip code. So they look at humidity and pollutants in the air, what your ratings are, and they help formulate your face wash to that. I've only been using it for about four weeks.
I am happy with it so far, but we'll see for the long-term, because it actually takes about... I believe it's four weeks for the lower layer of your skin... So you have two layers, you have the dermis and the epidermis. And so it takes about four weeks for that lower layer to begin to reach to the top before you can truly see, am I seeing a lot of improvement by using a new product? So we're going to see how that goes. But when it comes to foundation and moisturizer, I love Toups Organics.
And I actually have the founder and the creator and the formulator, who is also a homesteader, of that is going to be on the episode and we're going to go into that a lot more in depth in detail on that upcoming episode. But you can check that out. We'll have it at the blog post as well, but you can also go to MelissaKNorris.com/skincare, and that will take you to their website. And it is an affiliate link, so thank you for using that because I do get a small commission if you decide to make a purchase, which helps me with the cost of hosting and editing and all of the fun things that go along with the podcast. So I appreciate any support if you use any of my links.
But I really like the Frankincense Tallow Balm. That is what I'm using as my face moisturizer, and so is my daughter. So you've got very young pre-teen skin, and then you have... I'd like to say still very young, but I'm 40. So I don't know what... Middle age? We'll go with... Is that middle age? I guess it's all perspective. Anyways, it's working phenomenally well for both of us and have been using it for... Has it been almost a year? At least nine months, and so very, very happy with that. And you'll hear more about in that next episode why I love a lot of their other products and ingredients, et cetera.
This next question is from the [Bee 00:21:59] and is asking about natural moisturizing lotion recipe, my instruction, amounts, and ingredients. So for my hands, elbows, feet, all the other spots, I love my lotion bar. I use that lotion bar on my hands all the time. And like I said, elbows, any of those rough spots. I have one in my car. I have one in all of the bathrooms, all of the bedsides, everywhere. So that, you can just go to MelissaKNorris.com and type in lotion bar, or just do a Google search. Just write lotion bar, Melissa K. Norris, and you will find that one.
We'll also link to it in the show notes, but if you're listening, it is a very simple and easy recipe. You can do the addition of different essential oils, which I have in the blog post and a step-by-step tutorial, but all you're going to do is equal amounts of coconut oil, shea butter, and beeswax. And I go into detail in the blog post as to why the beeswax and the coconut oil and the shea butter, and how they work together. Beeswax is really great because it's... I always mispronounce this. Humectant?
So it doesn't just help to trap or create a barrier to keep moisture in the skin, it will actually help to draw moisture into the skin. So it's not just putting an oil slick on the outside of the skin, it actually helps draw it down into the skin. And then coconut oil and shea butter also have some really great, amazing properties. So I love my hard lotion bars, and I have used those probably close for a decade now. And I don't usually use regular body lotion. I just use these hard lotion bars.
So the next question is from Urbanstead Garden and says, "Are you feeling the need to stock up on food and supplies like you did last year?" That is a great question, and yes and no. One is, I feel like I learned my lesson last year, and I have stayed stocked up. I haven't allowed our supplies to run down like I had previously, so I don't really need to stock up like I did last year because I have kept that threshold of our stock and of things on hand. So I'm feeling really good about that.
Same thing even with our garden seed. I am ordering... If it's something I'm not seed saving myself, I should say, then I am making sure that I have... So right now I'm going through my seeds, what do I need for next year's planting, and being a year ahead in our seeds, because seeds, with the exception of onions, onion seed is one of the few if you're doing those from seed yourself and not getting the start somewhere, that don't tend to have a good germination rate after one year.
But almost all other garden seed is fine and will germinate for at least a couple of years, provided you store them in a dark environment where they're not getting direct sunlight, they're not getting a lot of heat and moisture. But they will germinate three, four, five years out, just fine. The kind of general rule of thumb is the smaller the seed, the less... How do you say that? How do I speak? What is grammar? The smaller the seed, the least amount of years. So if it's a really small seed, then usually just two to three years, and then you're going to start to see a significant loss in germination rate.
But the larger seeds like bean seed, corn seed, et cetera, I've had them five, six, even seven year old seed, and they still germinated. One of the things, even though I don't feel like I'm really stocking up more on food just because we have a certain threshold that I'm not letting us go beneath, but I am looking at ways to diversify our food supply with what we're not doing ourselves, or increasing, I should say, things that maybe I was purchasing in the past, but I'd like to start to grow or be more self-sufficient with ourselves, but also really diversifying in the way that we are preserving our food.
Now, I have a large supply of Mason jars and lids because I had always been buying them in bulk. And right as the pandemic hit, I ordered up additional bulk before there were shortages of canning lids. I also had the reusable canning lids, which are either [Tatlist 00:26:25] or Harvest Guard, I believe is another maker of canning lists that are safe to reuse. They're not the metal lids, they're a different system. So I feel like I have a great supply of that, but I still saw the shortages. And for people who didn't already have bulked up on those items or have their supply in, I want to be using more root cellaring techniques, so we experimented last year with a lot of in ground storage.
And in our climate that worked really well, so I'm going to be pushing the boundary even more on that and seeing what I can do this year of growing more things in cold frames and high tunnels, et cetera, for a cold weather crop so that I have more fresh food that's just out in the garden that I don't have to preserve. And then we also got a freeze dryer, so I've been freeze drying foods.
And what's been really fun with that is it's allowing me to preserve foods that I in the past haven't been able to preserve or could only preserve in the deep freezer. So any ways that we can, fermenting, trying different ferments of different things like that, just looking for ways to diversify and increase our food storage and production, yes, I'm still doing. I still think it's really important. So it's kind of a yes and no answer to that question.
Now this next question, I thought this was a really fun one. This is from The Happy Homestead, and it's, "What's on your bucket list for homesteading?" And I had to sit and think about that one for a little bit, because the bucket list, I'm like, is it bucket list things like someday, things that we're starting to work on right now? How far out do I go with this? First, I still would love to get a dairy animal at some point on the homestead. But I know right now, realistically, that it's not something that I'm going to be moving on within the next six months. maybe next year.
But at the time of this recording, it's not something that we're going to be doing this fall or winter. Possibly next spring, but I don't know yet. So definitely a dairy animal. And cheese making... I should specify this. Hard cheese making has been on my homestead bucket list for years. It's just been one of, I feel like the last homestead kitchen elusive things that I have not gotten to. And I just started making hard cheese. Now, cultured dairy and soft cheeses, I have been making those for a very, very long time, but the hard cheese is just not a jump that I had made.
So I just made my first farmhouse cheddar, and we are eating that. It is two weeks old and it is delicious, and I am so excited. I ordered a bigger cheese mold already because the one that I use for soft cheeses, I quickly discovered, is not going to be big enough. And I'm really excited to get into some of those longer aged ones as well. So that is something on my bucket list that I'm just starting, and I can see where having a dairy animal is going to be very helpful with this obsession as I go down the road, because you need a lot of milk when you are making cheese. And I only buy grass-fed, non-homogenized, organic, local milk.
And it's funny. It's not cheap, but honestly, neither is a dairy animal. We have cattle. I know how much they cost feed-wise and as far as infrastructure and fences, all those things. So I'm like, actually, it's not that expensive for me to buy the milk, but man, I would love the self-sufficiency part of having our own dairy animal, but that's further down on the bucket list. And then this is still homesteading, but my husband and I both really want, not just want, but we both feel like it is something that God has put on our hearts as a mission, and that is to have our homestead be a teaching hands-on farm.
Now, I do a ton digitally. I have my membership, the Pioneering Today Academy. I've got independent, full canning courses that you can get. I've got gardening courses. I've got a lot of courses and stuff that you can access digitally, which is phenomenal. I do a lot of my own learning of things digitally as well, but there's something about being hands-on and getting to do it in person that is really incredible, and it's a different experience. And we both really feel that that is something that we want to do, so we are doing our very first chicken butchering workshop here on our homestead.
And my husband is helping to teach with that one, so that's kind of fun because he's not really ever done the digital teaching with me. He does stuff behind the scenes. He does a lot on our homestead, but not the actual teaching part. So we're really excited for that. We're doing it very small as a test run just to see how things go. But on our bucket list is to be able to have this be an actual teaching homestead farm with workshops and all kinds of things.
We feel like we are just getting started on that aspect, but it's also an unknown, and it's different when it's your home and it's your livelihood, meaning it's your livestock, it's what supports your family, it's what you eat, and then turning that into a working teaching farm. It's like a whole nother animal. And so it's something that we're going into slowly, but we really want to be able to do some larger workshops that do more than just the chicken butchering and to evolve that here, and to be able to offer that and to have people be able to come and learn.
So it's a really big thing on our side, and we are starting it now, but we have these hopes and dreams to take it much, much larger than where we're just starting right now. So that's something I would love your guys' feedback on. If that's something you would be interested in, do let me know, because we want to know topics and things that people would want to learn in a hands-on environment on a farm, et cetera, in person, so that we can try to meet those needs as we grow and evolve this.
So this was really fun. I had a blast getting your guys' questions and seeing the things that you were interested in. And I plan on doing more of these. So if you are not following me on Instagram, it's @MelissaKNorris. And again, we'll put that in the blog post and show notes as well. I would love to see you there because I can do stories and fun and quick things like that and get your immediate feedback. You can also leave me comments with questions on this episode as well and let me know your thoughts.
For our verse of the week, we are in Galatians, and Galatians six verse four. This is the Amplified translation, but, "Let every person carefully scrutinize and examine and test his own conduct and his own work. He can then have the personal satisfaction and joy of doing something commendable in itself alone without resorting to boastful comparison with his neighbor." And I've said this in the past, but with the social media, which has a lot of good things for it, we can find pros and cons with anything in life, and social media and the internet is no different. There's a lot of good, there's a lot of bad.
But I think that not only do we now see those around us in a physical sense, but we're also seeing the virtual, right? And so it can be really easy to get caught up, and I think a lot of times it's not even truly intentional. I don't know. Maybe I have a Pollyanna outlook. But I think a lot of times it's not even intentional, that we're not trying to be boastful or comparing ourselves, but it's just that natural tendency that comes out. But unfortunately, it can rob us of our joy and it can rob us of things that we're doing and how we feel about things and have a really negative impact on us.
And that doesn't mean that you just stop using the internet. I mean, I suppose it might for some people. It's not for me, but it's just keeping that remembrance that what I'm doing both with my homestead and any aspect of your life, maybe it's your career, relationships, physical fitness, anything like that, but to always just be scrutinizing and examining and testing our own conduct and our own work. It's keeping your blinders on and in your own lane, focusing on what you're doing and measuring that against yourself and not anyone else.
So this verse, when we were reading it in church this past week, our pastor was teaching for the passage of Galatians again, and that just really jumped out at me and has been one that I have been coming back to throughout the week during my morning prayer and devotion time, so I wanted to share that with you. Thank you so much for listening to this episode, and I'm really excited for next week's episode. You are really going to be enjoying it because we are going to be diving into looking at different ways to be self-sufficient with meat sources on the homestead, and goes into [inaudible 00:35:46] topic I have not had before on the podcast and one that we do not raise ourselves yet. So I will meet you back here next week. Until then, blessings and Mason jars for now.
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