Country Living & Penny Pinching

Getting back to "Little House on the Prairie" living

Category: In the Garden (page 1 of 3)

2016 Homestead Management Printables

***This is a review for the 2016 Homestead Management Printables that Quinn over at Reformation Acres put together. I was not paid for this review and all of the thoughts are my own. If you just want the meat of the review scroll down until you see stars.***

For those that have been following from the beginning you know that the beginning wasn’t that long ago. October 2015 (the end to be honest) was when our blog started. Before that we only had chickens for a couple of months and a somewhat of a sad garden and now we have dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, goats, better plans for a garden and the pigs will get here in a couple of months.
With the chickens there was not much record keeping to do. They were little, had no eggs and I knew about how much feed I would need a month and I just budgeted accordingly. Now there is production flowing out our ears. Baby goats due in a month which means milk coming in, almost every chicken is laying, half the ducks are sitting on eggs, and it seems that I have been really bad about record keeping.

Now in my defense I really was trying but using a pen and lined paper was just not cutting it. I felt like things were missing, everything was getting put together when it should be separate, there was no direction to my unorganized chaos and there needed to be. That is when I stumbled upon a heaven-sent printable package over at Reformation Acres Quinn has made a full scope homesteading printables package. When I first saw it I thought it would have the basics, chickens, goats, pigs and cows. Then upon further investigation it also has gardening printables and my FAVORITE PART……..

a seed sowing calendar!!!!!!!!!!!!

Last years garden was so sad even though I tried to plan well for it. I believe that if I had these printable and sowing calendars then things would have gone a lot smoother. Knowing the exact dates of when to soak seeds and start them indoors and harden off and transplant them is such a load off of my mind that I don’t have to figure it all out I feel really confident that this year we will be a much happier garden and gardener. If you want to know about our garden adventures click over here to read about that.  Otherwise I will keep going.

****the meat of the review****

There are pages for all of the animals we have, so we are able to document expenses and production with no hassles and there are even pages that make the Hubby not too happy….there are ones for meat chickens… cows…. rabbits…. and bees….Oh those pages are just calling to me “Please start raising us so you can write down all the expenses and production” haha yes I know I am a bit crazy and I am trying really hard to just stick with what we have now and get good at it then expand but these printables are so cute and fun and I really love beef and honey…I’ve only had rabbit once out on the trail but I want to start them anyways!


So long story short 2016 is going to be an organized year thanks to these fun and clear printables that Quinn put together. Now I know that I am all about penny-pinching and spending money is not something I like to do but when it comes to something that will truly help the homestead out and is very reasonably priced I just can’t say no. For the time and effort that Quinn at Reformation Acres put into these printables I gladly paid the high price (just kidding) of $5.99. I would pay that price just for the seed sowing calendar that is included.

Now I know that not everyone has all the crazy amount of animals that I do, or the amount that Quinn has, but even if you are starting out with a garden or a few chickens these printables can work for you and maybe even encourage you to start adding more ways to help you get back to the basics of living.

Building the Compost Pile

Calling all pallet lovers! This compost pile is for you. Gather up those pallets, look behind stores and Craigslist. They are out there and ready to be found. Thankfully we have great neighbors who lent me their tools and coached me on using them. Five pallets, long screws, a power screw driver, and helpful neighbors is a recipe for success.

all set up

all set up, as you can see I was not concerned about them being different sizes

We made a three sided square with three pallets standing up so the slats were horizontal, screwed the corners together. Then added the other two pallets to make two, three sided squares that shared a side. Look at the picture and it will all make sense. Once we attached them, that was that, the next step was to add material that needed to be composted.

this is the back of the pallets where the screws were put

this is the back of the pallets where the screws were put

Now there are two compartments to work with. All of our compostable material goes in one side and when we are ready to stir it, the compost gets moved from one side to the other. Added benefits are that it’s on concrete so I know I’m getting just compost when digging it out and the chickens get immediate access to all of the food scraps and bugs. But dirt is always good to because its easier for the bugs to just crawl straight from the ground into the pile.

Remember…NO PROTEIN or DAIRY! We keep a bin on the kitchen counter for scraps and take it out every morning when we let the chickens out. I found this awesome picture on pinterest, the link is in the description.

great list of what is and isn’t compostable

Now with all the compostable materials the chickens LOVE the compost area. My only problem is the spread it out super fast. IMG_3752

The next addition to the compost structure will be a board at the front blocking the chickens from spreading the waste everywhere. For now though this is them enjoying their compost heap.


she does looked peeved though haha she is the only one who really sits still for a picture


Also if you do not have much waste in your house ask for friends and relatives to help out. Make them buckets for them to keep outside with a list on the top saying what can and can’t be put inside. Then once a week stop by their house and collect all of the scraps. Then offer them a share of the compost when spring comes around. There are always ways to find stuff for the compost bin.  Have fun making black gold and saving the landfills from our excess.

What does your compost pile look like? Or what plans do you have for making one? Even people in an apartment can have a compost bin. More on that in another post though 🙂

Persimmon Bread

Persimmons…Do you know what that is? It is an orange fruit that is either heart shaped (hachiya) for baking or tomato shaped (fuyu) for eating as is.

I'm an adult...can't I play with my food? :)

I’m an adult…can’t I play with my food? 🙂 These are heart shaped

I had no idea what a persimmon was until we moved out here. Never heard of them. Although if I had paid attention in the stores I would have known they exist because now I see them everywhere haha It also seems that lots of people know what they are so just ignore my descriptions of them if that’s the case.

Well once we discovered these fruits I then had to find a way to use them. NEVER EVER bite into a heart shaped persimmon until it is as soft as a rotting tomato. Seriously, your mouth with thank me for listening to this advice. I didn’t know when they were ripe until after the awful day that I bit into a hard persimmon right off the tree. OH MY GOSH! I though my mouth was dying. It was so bitter and made my mouth feel like I had a hundred cotton balls were in it. I will never do that again.  You can eat the heart shaped ones by themselves if you wait til they are almost rotten and then they are actually really sweet, which is why they are great for baking.  Natural sweetness and if there is still a bit of bitterness left in them the baking and added sweetener helps to even it all out 🙂 Don’t let them get too mushy though…

the seed has gone bad and turned it black

the seed has gone bad and turned it black, not sure if that makes it inedible but we gave this one to the chickens

So back to the question of what do I do with these fruits? One can really can only eat so many of these, they are delicious but definitely an acquired taste when raw. Off to Pinterest I went looking for persimmon recipes. The top recipe was persimmon bread….I LOVE BREAD! This seemed like a good fit. Jump on over here to Putney Farm to find the original recipe that includes alcohol, pecans and cranberries. Unfortunately when sharing with the kids alcohol is out of the question and they aren’t a fan of cranberries and pecans….so I got to experiment with what I had on hand.  Fruit juice for the liquid and raisins instead of cranberries and I completely took out the pecans.  This recipe makes two loaves of bread, feel free to eat both, freeze one or just cut the recipe in half. Do what works for you.

So here we go…..

Preheat the oven to 350 F and start melting your 1 cup of butter. Don’t boil it, just melt it and let cool.

isn't that cool?

isn’t that cool? I did not make a heart on purpose

Sift the 3 1/2 cups of flour, 1 1/2 tsp salt,  2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp nutmeg, and 2 cups of sugar. We do not own a sifter but we do own this strainer (not sure what its original use was for but it surprisingly gets used a lot around here), and it works great as a sifter when I hit it against my hand.

Sift the

Now the melting butter will still be hot so take the time to butter and flour your two cake pans, I put a tiny slice of butter on a paper towel then use that for wiping it all around. Then add your bit of flour and shake it around and dump the excess that does not stick.

2015.10.08 persimmon bread 5

there was no difference in baking or sticking between the glass and nonstick pans

If you haven’t already, now is also the time to get your fruit puree 🙂 Just cut it in half, take out the seeds and scoop out the insides with a spoon and smash with a fork. Then you have your fruit puree. If you do not like chunks then definitely use a food processor but chunks are always fun for me to bite into. Almost like buried treasure in food 🙂

2015.10.08 persimmon bread 10

Now back to the dry ingredients, make a hole, well, pit anything that resembles a spot for all the wet ingredients to be dumped….and dump!

2015.10.08 persimmon bread 13

Now stir all this yummy goodness together and pour it into your floured baking pans and put them in the oven for about an hour.

2015.10.08 persimmon bread 17

Once a toothpick comes out clean let them cool on the counter all the way then remove and eat.

2015.10.08 persimmon bread 19

This bread was really delicious. Definitely sweeter than banana bread, but not as sweet as a cookie. I’ve made this multiple times and used different fruit juices, just NO orange juice, I do not think that would blend well. Also almost all the Littles and Hubby are not fans of raisins so I have kept them out of the recipe and everything still turned out just fine.

Please 🙂 Feel free to experiment and make this recipe your own, play with the sugar amount, maybe try a different sweetener, add whatever clear juice you want or even jump back to the original recipe to see what others say about using alcohol. Just have fun and try to enjoy baking.


  • 3½ cups sifted flour (don’t use all whole wheat)
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled to room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup fruit juice
  • 2 cups persimmon puree (about 4 persimmons)
  • 2 cups raisins


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Start melting your butter.
  2. Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and sugar.  Then make a hole in the middle of it.
  3. Stir the butter, eggs, juice, persimmon, and raisins, then dump it into the middle of the dry ingredients.
  4. Stir it all together really well.
  5. Pour the batter into the pans and put it in the oven for  about an hour until a toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Cool all the way before removing from the pans and then eat it all up 🙂

2015.10.08 persimmon bread 23 william

Here is our littlest Little enjoying butter on his raisin filled persimmon bread.

Have you ever had a persimmon? What did you think about it? Next season we should have more persimmons and I plan on trying a persimmon pudding. For now stay tuned for more recipes and adventures of using what we have on the homestead.

Lessons From a First Time Gardener

 1. Research all of your options

I knew about raised beds and the old fashioned method, straight in the ground. There are many more ways than those. Permaculture, square foot gardening, containers (even for the big stuff), etc. different methods are everywhere. I will be implementing permaculture and square foot gardening next. They are opposites but I want to experience both to see which one is better and why.

straight in the ground and a short fence

straight in the ground and a short fence

2. Observe the wildlife

Look at all of the creatures of the sky and ground. Will you need a scarecrow, rubber snakes, gopher wire, short fence, tall fence, or no fence? I know its awful to wait but even watching your land for a week or two will give you some insight on the best ways to protect your garden.

3. Ask around

Good neighbors love to help. Some might even have extra materials to have/borrow. Now don’t get me wrong, all neighbors love to give advice but be wary of the naysayers who tried once and failed. They will have advice but it may only be what NOT to do. No matter what don’t poo-poo what the neighbors have to say.

4. Prepare the soil with out breaking the bank

According to experts my garden was not going to do well. The pH levels weren’t just right, the soil was on clay-y side, i had quite a few little rocks mixed in, and I did not perfectly measure out the fertilizer. Making everything ideal would have cost WAY TOO MUCH money. Just get out there, do your best with what you have, and there is always next year. My crops could have been much bigger if I had used the chemical fertilizer but we don’t want to use chemicals so we suffered through a smaller crop and learned more this year that should allow a bigger harvest next year.

5. Plant a garden for the Littles

Keeping kids out of a fenced garden is quite difficult unless…they have their own space. Giving kids their own garden responsibilities makes them feel good about themselves and helps them not step on your precious plants. I do recommend getting the dollar store fences to place around their garden so they know the borders and the house pets and even littler Littles don’t walk in the garden.


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