Using Apples!

apple photoApples are free around here for the most part because people don’t pick them from their trees. There really isn’t a bad apple in my opinion because you can mix good apples with tart apples and combine four different varieties to make something tasty!

I don’t pick up apples from the ground that I won’t peel unless I know it is clean. Don’t breed animal feces germs in with your edibles. I usually purchase some and then pick some up around town as well. Keep your eye out for apple trees on your regular driving routes.

The easiest thing to make with apples in my opinion is apple sauce. I use the blender to make it.

Applesauce

Apple Butter takes the applesauce a step further. For the apple butter I add sugar to the apple sauce and cook it for more than an hour till it turns dark and thick.

Canning apples to use for pies or just to eat is easy as well. I put cinnamon in mine and use them to make apple pies and cobblers in the winter. I do have an apple peeler corer which are really nice to have and only about $20. It makes the whole process go faster. I find I use the apples all up faster than if I think I want to make a pie but oh I have to peel and cut the apples and I don’t feel like it right now. Maybe I am just lazy.

I used to have a juicer before I broke it juicing too many carrots. I tend to break stuff that is not industrial strength I think because I use it often and demand a lot of it. Since I can’t afford a juicer right now I attempted to make apple juice from the apples without one. I had mixed results with this and had to add storebought cider to it to bring it up to the tasty level because it was too watered down. The basic technique I used was to cut the apples up and then put them in the pot and cover with a small amount of water. Boil them for about 20 minutes and then wait for them to cool. You can then use a potato masher to mash them and then strain the mixture into a carboy or container. The best result was when I used little water and then did this but I added the apple juice left from canning apples and some store bought apples as well.  We drank one gallon of it and then I made 2 gallons of brandy and 1 gallon of hard apple cider.

I also picked crab apples which I will do a separate post on using.

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Buying Land

ImageIf you are not lucky enough to inherit land or find it for cheap where you want to live you can still buy it and have a farm without breaking the bank. I can’t afford to buy a house on land and the other manufactured homes on land are also too expensive to start off with.

There are different ways to “package” land and a home together. I am doing it the way that I can which is to purchase land on contract and then build the house out of pocket. The land will then be eligible for financing after a house is built on the land. Land alone is not easy to finance because it’s too high risk for banks. Without a house on the property you could walk away.

This is the way that I am going about things and not the way that everyone does it nor is there any right way. This is also my opinion or take on this process and I might not be correct.

First, figure out where you want to live. Where do you want to spend forever or a good portion of your life? Where can you get a job if you need one?

Find a piece of property without HOA’s or CC&R’s. You don’t want to buy land that’s part of a subdivision or land that has a homeowner’s association. To me these mean no fun, no farm and too many rules.

Find a piece of land that has the right zoning as in rural or residential not commercial. Make sure what you want to do is allowed within the zone of the land.

If the land is in timber designation which offers tax deferral you need to make sure that there is still 5 acres for the timber to keep the designation in place and also that the owner of the land who is doing the contract will remove it from the timber status designation. In Washington State it takes 38-40 years for timber to be harvestable. If you buy land that is in timber tax deferral and remove it you have to pay 7 years of back taxes. If the land will be your’s by the time of the harvest then you get the profits. If it is still in a land contract you will not get the profits and will have that much less land at your disposal. If the land is not designated as timber what kind of trees if any are on the land? Can you use or make any money after you remove any of them?

Check the taxes to see what their history is. Make sure you know how much money in taxes will be figured in to your monthly payments.

Check the drainage and the sunlight as well as what parts of the land are level. If you have the opportunity to be pickier look at what is growing on the land currently. What weeds or native plants are there? The land I found has stinging nettle which means the soil is high in nitrogen. What is the soil like? If you are going to have animals make sure there isn’t a large creek running through your property that you will have to fence off and keep animals away from. The animal manure getting in to the water is not good. Wetland designation is also another thing that makes me uncomfortable. I want to maintain native habitat but at the same time don’t want to deal with a lot of standing water and lost space.

What are the future plans for the area? Make sure you aren’t on the edge of a new housing subdivision. How are the roads and your future driveway? Is there an easement?

Talk to the neighbors and be nosey. What are their homes like? Are they all retired or do they commute? Do they farm or homestead or live a simple life? Ask them about the water and how far they had to drill for a well. I got the approximate depth I will have to go to get water and a great explanation of how to tell where the water is on the property from the next door neighbor as well as all of the neighbors occupations.

Get maps to show the exact property lines and check that the owners are actually the owners. How long have they owned the property? Why are they selling?

Save money up and figure out where you are going to get the money to pay for the land. In my case there is equity in the house so when it sells I can use that money to pay 20 percent down on the land. A majority of land contracts are 15 percent down so that the owner of the property gets funds to close on the loan and so you are seen as a safe and secure buyer who won’t take off.

The contract for the land should also be contingent on a perc test so that you have water. If it doesn’t have water you can either leave it and say no or if you want to do an alternative water system factor that in to the cost.

You can do a land contract with a real estate agent, lawyer or just between two parties. If you are concerned with any of the paperwork or fees or you have additional questions that are not being answered don’t keep signing papers.

BBQ sauce for canning

 

I made tomato sauce and two kinds of salsa with all free or homegrown tomatoes this year. We use quite a bit of barbecue sauce so I used the rest of the tomatoes to make some bbq sauce for canning. I didn’t want to add celery or didn’t have some ingredients but I came up with this recipe to can. I wanted to drink it.

bbq suaceBarbecue Sauce for Canning

Tomatoes – 2 quarts (8 cups) peeled, chopped red ripe tomatoes (about 12 large tomatoes).

2 cups chopped onions

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3 teaspoon garlic pepper, ground

1 tbsp. steak seasoning

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (like, Tabasco®)

1 cup of (5%) apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp. liquid smoke

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp ketchup

2 tbsp. Worceshire sauce

Boil the tomatoes for a few minutes and then drain so you are able to peel the skin from the tomatoes. Let

the tomatoes cool

Try to remove excess water and seeds from the tomatoes and then blend them in two batches in the blender.

Pour into a sauce pot and then add all the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil.

Turn down the heat to medium and simmer for about 45 minutes.

Sauce will thicken and reduce.

Ladle the sauce into jars leaving a 1/2 inch headspace. Use a knife to remove air bubbles.

Screw on lids and process pint jars in a 212 degree water bath for 20 minutes.

Food Bank and Food Stamps

There are a lot of reasons people have for living more simply and being more self-sufficient. Sometimes it happens out of changed habits and other times is forced upon you whether you want it or not. One of the biggest budget items for many households is groceries. If you have ample room and resources to supply your own food needs it’s great. If you don’t then you might need extra help even if temporarily.

I am not preparing for an apocalypse or natural disasters or to supply every single thing my family needs. I suppose it’s a good idea but I am most concerned with the health of my loved ones and being self-sufficient in providing quite a bit of our needs ourselves. I don’t want to be tied to a full-time job in order to pay bills every month and have nothing left over and not enough time spent doing things I enjoy.

When I got divorced the income changed obviously but then decreased a little more after a few months after my hours went down a little bit at work. We receive food stamps which helps pay for most of our groceries and are also eligible to go to the food bank.

There are two food banks in our area. I can go to one twice a week and the other once a month. While it doesn’t supply everything we need it enables me to feel better about giving everyone enough to eat and I can pay my other bills since my grocery budget is tiny.

Our food banks get local produce that can be canned or dried or juiced, etc. which makes me happy since we are trying to sell the house and only planted tomatoes in pots this year. We also have three fruit trees plus the ones in the neighborhood.

I got laid off from my job a week and a half ago. This has meant my income has gone down again but I feel healthier and happier than ever.

I don’t want to work the system or sponge off anyone and hope that next year we can donate our extra produce to the food bank from our farm.  This will make a nice cycle of giving. I feel like support is given to those that need it and so I am going to accept help until I no longer need it.

Path

ImagePreviously I had to have the divorce decree in order to get my loan on a house. I sped up the divorce and agreed to everything in order to be eligible to buy a house/land. It took 2 months to find out I didn’t qualify till September. The bank wanted me to have a job for 6 months of being at one job in order to be more secure.

Because I haven’t worked in 10 years I start at the bottom and have to work my way up the “pay scale” if I wanted to be competitive.  I need little money to be happy. I have simple needs and wants and my most basic is that my daughters and I are happy and healthy.

The idea of the farm has gone back and forth in my mind because I worry what other people think. I worry that I should just give the chickens away and get a different job and move into an apartment. Then I think of what I want for myself. What do I want? I want land and to have room for animals and to grow fruit and vegetables. All along my daughters have known that we will have a farm. It is the hope for our future and it represents more than just a parcel of a couple acres.

I am currently a month behind on the mortgage payments because I have little income. I am staying on top of things with not getting two or more months behind.

The house sold in two days before and I am hoping that it will sell fairly fast again. I want to be able to feel settled in my life and not be looking over my shoulder or stressed about finances.

With this timeline of land and house and farm are so many different variables. I have studied, interviewed and lived a lot of the options available. The most important thing to me is the land that I will build my future on. I do not want to settle for anything less than what I have envisioned.