Category Archives:Crafting on the homestead

Dyeing to share this with you- Part 2

With flowers in full bloom, I spent a lot of time investigating my pasture and the ditches for plants to use for dyeing wool.

As I was doing my research, I realized I need to get things prepared before the wild flowers of summer and fall come in.

One of the things you need for dyeing is a mordant: “a translator that speaks both the language of the fiber and the language of the dye. It functions as a chemical bridge, binding to both the dye and the fabric more effectively than ether can bind to the other” (pg 18 of Harvesting Color).

There are commercial mordant powders you can buy, but I chose to make my own iron mordant.

According to Ms. Burgess’s recipe, iron mordant requires rusty objects, water, and vinegar.

I used an Oberweis milk jar, 6 cups of water, 6 tablespoons of white vinegar, and 1 pound of rusty nails.

After 11 days, I am still not happy with the amount of iron that has been added in the water.

I waited another 7 days to see if more iron would be drawn into the water. It took about 2-3 weeks for the rust to really come off and into the water.

Wow! 25 pounds of flour!

Upon moving to a remote little town, one bar- two churches- a post office, we had to rethink our grocery shopping strategy. Even the nearest fully stocked grocery store is about 20 minutes away. Shopping in bulk became a necessity.

If you told me a few years ago that I would be going through 25 pounds of flour every month, I would have thought you crazy. But here we are, on our way to become more self-sufficient! Not only has our quality of food improved, but also the cost of groceries have gone down. Although it may seem like mere pennies, the cost of sandwich bread ($3-4), hamburger buns ($2-3), brat buns ($3-4), and pasta ($1-3) add up.

Here’s a list all of the things I made with this particular sack of flour.

3 Pizza crusts

4 Pasta Dinners


7 loaves of sandwich bread

48 cupcakes and 1 smash cake

2 double crust pie crusts

5 brat buns

7 Dinner rolls/hamburger buns


Having made all of these items, I have concluded that I can’t go back to buying certain baked goods from the grocery store. Hamburger and brat buns are especially ones that I can’t buy. The time it takes to make them (8 mins kneading, 10 mins rest, shape and rest another 40 mins, 15 in the oven), is well worth the freshness and flavor without added preservatives.



Bread Machine vs Oven

Companies are always finding new ways to make things convenient- especially when it comes to food prep! I am reminded of the opening credits to Stepford Wives– with Nicole Kidman- and the 1950’s women dancing around their kitchens because of all the new gadgets that make cooking huge, 50’s meals faster and easier. Flash forward to today, and meals can be delivered to you in a box ready to eat.

But what about fresh bread?
I was one to always go to the prepackaged bread aisle in the store.  But my husband had high hopes that if he bought me a bread machine, we would be eating fresh bread all the time! He thought it would be fast and convenient: you put the ingredients in- like a crock pot- and walk away. 7 years later with only a few uses, I have hence sold my dust collecting machine. The primary reason for selling it: I received the book below and supplies to make bread in the oven.

So how do you decide which method is best for you?

  1. Give yourself a reality check: Are you really going to use the bread machine, or do you like baking (maybe a stress reliever)? I do more baking with this method now than I have in the past 7 years owning a bread machine.
  2. Quality: Had I used my bread maker more often, then maybe my bread would have been better. However, most of the 2 lbs. loaves I got out of the machine were dense and really too big for grilled cheese sandwiches. Now making my sandwich bread (still 2 lbs.) in a loaf pan with the recipe from the book above, they are airy and a great size (loaf like instead of a box shape). And my husband says the bread I make now tastes a lot better!
  3. Time/Effort: The lady that bought my machine said this was her third machine -she kept burning out the motors- and she uses it just to make the dough not bake it. The time it takes me to whip up a batch of dough is minutes….and if you have a stand mixer, you don’t have to do the stirring. Then I just set the container on the counter to let it rise for 2 hours (which if I remember correctly, is how long the bread maker takes to rise as well?).
  4. Quantity: The main recipe in this book gives you enough dough for almost 4 one pound loaves. Whatever dough I don’t use right away, just stays in the container and lives in the fridge. The next time I get dough out, it is ready to go! I have made one larger free-form loaf and a few rolls or two sandwich loaves from one batch of dough.

    So from my personal experience: I prefer oven baking over bread machine baking, and I think my bread baking skills have increased greatly since switching to the oven!

Cupcake baking 180

This post subject has just done a 180 turn.

In preparation for my son’s 1st birthday, I plan to make decorated cupcakes without using a box mix.

I made these for Easter a few years ago.

The first time I tried a white cake recipe, the finished cupcakes were super dense and crumbly rather than moist.  For this post I was going to try several recipes and report my findings.

So after trying just two batches of cupcakes, I have noted a few things:

  1. On most blog recipes I have read- the author has been searching forever for that perfect recipe. I am on the fence between wanting something easy and wanting to take the long road (i.e. I want to make cupcakes from scratch instead of using a box mix, but I don’t want to spend hours and hours looking for that perfect recipe). The moment you type “Vanilla cupcake recipe” into the search bar, about 1,900,000 results show up boasting of perfection. If it tastes good, than great; if my husband says it could be better, then I’ll look for a different recipe or how to tweak it.
  2. My cookbooks are perfectly functional.  Open that cupboard to the left of the fridge and what do you see? About 12-20 cookbooks, and guess what- amongst them are a few dozen cake recipes that were published into print! I tried two recipes from The Better Homes and Gardens cook book: the white cake one ended up tasting more like corn bread (more than likely due to using shortening instead of butter), and the yellow cake recipe turned out great. Moist, delicious, like a cupcake.
  3. Most of the recipes are all the same ingredients. There have been those few that have slightly different ingredients: one recipe says to mix from scratch and the box mix and one says to use cake flour instead of all purpose flour with oil instead of butter. Both of these are on Pinterest with over 20k pins. Both of these recipes would require me to go out and buy things that aren’t in my pantry already.

    In conclusion: I think the yellow cake recipe from BHG cookbook will serve it’s purpose which is the following: the point of a cupcake is to increase the ratio of frosting to cake; it is the vessel upon which more delicious frosting can be consumed.