Tag Archives: gardening

Homemade Vitamin C

homemade vitamin c

Homemade Vitamin C was today’s project. The urban homestead has a lemon tree and a grapefruit tree, so we have lots of raw material. We have never used any pesticides on the trees, so this stuff will be all organic! I have always felt wasteful throwing all those peels away. To find out I could have been making Vitamin C, among other things, out of them, made me very happy.

The Ingredients

We eat grapefruit every morning, so afterward, I take the peels and scrape out the remaining fruit and membrane, leaving the white pith.

The Process

drying grapefruit peels

Then I slice the peels very thin and lay them on a baking sheet. When I have a full sheet (not more than a day or two) I turn the warming oven on to 150F and dry them for an hour or 2. Then I turn the oven off and leave them in there while it cools. After all that, if the peels are crispy and snap when I break them, I go on to the next step. If not, I repeat the drying process.

Here in Southern California, the humidity is such that if the peels sit for too long, they start to mold. So drying them in the oven is a must.

Next, the dried peels are placed in the high-speed blender and ground as fine as it will get them. This is fairly powdery, but there do remain a few chunks. I put the powder into a pint or quart jar and add a paper napkin or small piece of paper towel, to absorb any moisture.

 powdered vitamin c

Potential Problems

This is a new project, so I am not sure if mold is going to be a problem. My sources say the powder should last about 3 months on the shelf and 6 months in the freezer. Hopefully, I will get enough made to last from final harvest to the following season’s first fruits.

powdered vitamin c

The Results

I stir a teaspoon of this into my carrot juice in the morning. Sometimes 2t if I have a cold. Seems to work great. The rest of the family is not excited about the taste, so I am going to mix it with some raw honey and make little pills for them to try.


Is Brown the New Green?

brown is new green

So is brown the new green? I think not! Cities in Southern California are covering their greenscapes with brown mulch chips and putting out cute little signs proclaiming “brown is the new green”, encouraging people to change their landscaping over to brown mulch chips, dirt and rocks.

dead brown lawn

Well, it’s not pretty in Phoenix or Palm Desert, and it’s not pretty in the city. Coming from the Northern Arizona area, where it is very dry and it is a struggle to get anything to grow, brown is not green in any way, shape or form. Brown is brown. It’s dirt. Dirt blows around and makes the air all dusty. Green absorbs carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses and converts them back into oxygen, which it puts back into the air. As our city’s air quality gets worse, due to supposed global warming, it is not more brown, but more green that is needed to convert the greenhouse gasses caused by our asphalt, concrete, and industry back into oxygen. More green, not less.

Now, I’m not advocating water-hogging lawns. But trees, shade, drought tolerant plants, lavender, food plants, fruit trees. Even though fruit trees and vegetable gardens use a lot of water, they are also giving back in the form of food, edibles. Herbs and flowers are also useful, as well as attractive. That’s much more efficient than a lawn. I’m also not advocating getting rid of green grass entirely, just cut back on it. We took a walk down in the beach cities a couple of days ago and a lot of homes had strips of grass in geometric patterns on their driveways. Instead of front lawns. And it looked great!

dead city lawn

Do we really need so many golf courses? At the expense of letting our public parks go brown? I do not see that as heroic, nor as conserving water. We have the technology to inexpensively filter gray water into irrigation water. With all the hotels, homes, and businesses with copious amounts of gray water, there would be more than enough to filter and recycle back to flushing toilets and watering public greenspaces, as well as golf courses.  Why not give tax credits to retrofit homes and businesses to filter and recycle their gray water?

dust lawn

So what are solutions to brown is the new green? Well, we water on our watering days, we reuse graywater, with one of the many legal systems, several of which can be installed by the homeowner without any permits required. And, if you run the gray water through a bucket of sand and gravel, it takes out a lot of the junk that is not so good for the plants and the lawn that you’re watering. Doing dishes and washing veggies in a dishpan and dumping that water on the yard. Putting in drought tolerant plants and using that brown (or red, or green) mulch. Or even the free mulch that Calmet gives away several times a year. Retrofitting your home with a gray water recycling system.

What would your suggest?




Homestead Blessings

homestead blessings logo

Homestead Blessings is the website of The West Ladies. They also have put together a series of videos by the same name. These gals live a simple life. They are currently building a little cabin and growing most of their own food. They love to share their homesteading skills and expertise and their videos are very educational and entertaining.

These are just a few of the titles in the Homestead Blessings Collection. These DVDs will inspire you and your children to find new joy in homemaking skills and arts. The West Ladies use simple tools and easily obtained supplies for all their projects. Many include printable instruction sheets.

The blog chronicles their life on the homestead. This includes having to relocate last year, and their trials and successes in raising the money to build a tiny cabin on their new place.

In addition to their DVD collection, The West Ladies offer books, music, and artwork.

  •  In the Homestead Blessings Cookbook, the ladies share some of their favorite recipes.

  • Cecilia has written a children’s book, Bella the Blue Cow Dog. 

  • Vicki invites children of all ages to color in her sketches in her coloring book.

  • The ladies offer 2 CD’s with traditional, Appalachian songs and original tunes. Their family harmonies are uplifting and soothing.

  • Vicki also offers her unique sketches as note cards.

In addition to their DVD collection, a number of learning videos can be viewed on the website and YouTube channel. See the West girls in action:

  • Composting

  • Growing Garlic

  • Holiday Pies

  • Growing Zinnias

Vicki, Cecilia, Jasmine and Hannah are talented, inspiring women. They are preserving and passing on timeless skills, and living a simple, beautiful life. Check out all the free tips on their website, then get their DVDs for some in-depth how-to for homesteading!



The 5 Gallon Bucket Book

5-Gallon Bucket Book
This is quickly becoming my favorite go-to book for anything and everything that can be done with a 5 gallon bucket. Of course, I already was familiar with the composting toilet, the washing machine and the planters. This book contains more than 50 projects for around the homestead (and the home) that can be completed with 5 gallon buckets! Including a trash compactor, wine rack, and toddler swing.
I have currently gathered supplies for making the manual washing machine – handy for the rv or any off-grid situation, and the rolling composter – a design that I think is much more efficient for our rving homestead. I just need the time to make them. Be sure that I will be posting pictures and such when I do! Inspired by, but not included in the book, is a design for a spin-dryer for clothes, that I am going to experiment with. Details to follow when I get to that one.
All the projects in the 5 Gallon Bucket Book come with detailed instructions and lots of pictures. Also supply lists for each project and how it is supposed to work and be used when it’s done. Many of the projects are perfect for off-grid applications; some use electricity.  The 5 Gallon Bucket Book is a great investment for any do-it-yourselfer looking for more economical solutions to everyday issues in the home and garden. With this book and a few simple tools, you can make dozens of practical upgrades to your homestead.
The 5 Gallon Bucket Book, by Chris Peterson                                                                                                                                             (c)2015 by Quarto Publishing Group                                                                                                                                                                 http://www.quartoknows.com/books/9780760347898/5-Gallon-Bucket-Book.html                                             Paperback, $19.99
Thanks to the good folks at Quarto Publishing for providing me with a free review copy of this book. No other compensation was received for this review.

Keepin’ up with Fresh Foods

In my commitment to eating as many fresh veggies as possible, I have run into a snag. That is that many times I do not eat up the veggies before they begin to spoil. I have a compost bucket, but these veggies still cost money. Money that is very tight right now. So I want to make sure I’m buying enough, but not too much and that I use it up before it goes bad.

Chinese cabbage and green beans fermenting

 I have not tried fermenting fruits yet, but I have had great results with veggies. So much so that I am now fermenting veggies instead of canning them. The fermentation process preserves many more of the nutrients than heat sealing them in a canning jar, tomatoes excepted, as they are more nutritious cooked.

Tomatoes from an Amish couple at the farmer’s market. Made canned tomato sauce.

Fermenting veggies is easy. I boil a quart of water, add 3 tablespoons of sea salt and stir to dissolve. After this has cooled, I add veggies and place a ziplock bag of brine (the same salt water) on top, which seals out air. It needs to be checked daily for any slime or mold. Sometimes the ziplock needs to be wiped off or refilled. When the contents of the jar are done fermenting after a few weeks, I transfer them to smaller jars with tight fitting lids and store in cool cupboards. Always check for signs of spoilage before using home preserved (or even store bought) items.

Fermenting is great for most veggies. Cabbage (think sauerkraut), beets, green beans, summer squash, corn, onions, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and so many more veggies are great fermented.

Did you know yogurt is fermented milk?

For leafy greens, though, eating fresh is about the only option. If my greens are a little wilty, I soak them in a tub of cool water for several hours and return them to the fridge. This usually crisps them up for a few more days until we can get them eaten. If your greens are not lettuce, but collards, beet greens, cabbage or other sturdy greens, they can be stir fried in a little oil or bacon fat and eaten hot. This is very yummy and we try to have fried greens on a regular basis. As far as the lettuces, though, I’m afraid if they are no longer appealing, the only alternative is the compost bin. Unless you have farm critters. Chickens, pigs and the like love scraps.


Squash is another veggie that can easily become overwhelming. As a starchy veg, our bodies don’t need as much of it as they do the lighter, leafy veggies. Squash is really satisfying in the cold weather, however. Hard squashes, such as pumpkin, acorn, butternut and the like can be stored in a cool basement or a corner of the kitchen that stays cool. Check weekly for soft spots or spoilage and keep them dry. They can also be cooked until soft and canned for making pies and puddings later. I don’t like freezing any kind of squash unless it is shredded, such as for zucchini bread, because it tends to come out of the freezer mushy and tasteless. For summer squash I like fermenting or drying. For fermenting, cut into spears, slices or chunks. For drying, thin slices are best. These can be salted or seasoned before drying, for snack chips, or dried plain, to be added to winter soups and stews.

 I hope this has given you a few new ideas or reminded you of some old ways to keep up with your harvest of fresh foods and make good use of them before they spoil. I try to keep my cooking and preserving simple, so no complicated recipes here. Got no time for that. But you can preserve healthy foods quickly and easily, without spending all day in the kitchen. It just takes some forethought and getting into the habit.