27 March 2016

Starting Seeds & Gardening Journal. Ready to Grow!


I started some seeds about a week and a half ago.  We still have a little over a month before the possibility of frost is usually gone, so I was about six weeks out.  Going now is Rosa Bianca eggplant, cherry tomatoes, chocolate bell peppers, Poblano peppers, Fresno chili peppers, Thai basil, and Tom Thumb lettuce.

I'm new to the whole seed starting thing.  I chose it for a couple of reasons:  (1) it's a skill I want to have, and (2) it seems to be the most economical way to get a garden started.  The Prairie Homestead has instructions for making seed starting "pots" out of newspaper (diy!), as shown in the image above.  I really like the idea of this! First, they seem big enough that I shouldn't have to transplant the seedlings before it's time for them to go outside.  Second, I should be able to plant the entire "pot" without stressing over trying to get the seedling out.  All I should have to do is gently open the bottom to make it easier for the plant to root in its new home.  And third, it's cheap!

My only concern is how the newspaper will hold up to watering.  What I did was put a thin layer of dry potting soil (locally sourced!) in the bottom of each "pot." The I added my moist seed starting soil.  Then another thin layer of dry on top.  The top I spritz with water pretty often.  A week and a half into the process, and the bulk of the newspaper pots are still a little damp.  That's good, right? Am I sounding clueless, yet?

100_7017One of the cherry tomatoes, the Tom Thumb lettuce, and the Thai basil are the only ones to have sprouted thus far.  I'm a little anxious.  We had a few days of around freezing temperatures, and the only space for these seeds is by a window that can feel drafty.  So I hope they are just a little slow, waiting on a bit more heat.  I know some peppers take longer to germinate, as well.  Fingers crossed everything is ok. 

There are more seeds I want to get started.  I probably should've made myself do them all in one day, but you know how it is when there is a list a mile long to get done! So said additional seeds are still sitting on the aforementioned mile-long list.  (Spoken with a cheeky grin.)

Another project I started was a gardening journal.  I'm so not interested in having more physical stuff around, so I'm doing it by using Evernote.  If you've never tried it before, you really should.  This little note taking app has changed my life.  It helps me run my household and homestead.  It helps me blog.  It helps me research (which I do – a lot).  Basically, it helps run my life!

Here's a screen shot:


You can customize your view, of course.  What you see above, on the left, is my main menu.  The middle column shows the notes within my Gardening Journal 2016 notebook, in alphabetical order, with snippets.  The far right panel, the largest, shows the entire highlighted note.  What I opened was the Rosa Bianca Eggplant note.  I jotted down where I purchased the seeds, the "official name," seed type (certified organic, for example), and packet notes.  I also added some additional information I gathered from other places.  Then I added what I have done so far, when I started the seeds, what medium I used, etc,…

I'm committed to doing this for the whole season.  Then I'll assess whether or not it's how I want to continue journaling about my garden.

Have you started any seeds, yet? Do you keep a gardening journal? What's your method?

Shared at Happiness Is Homemade, Nifty Thrifty Sunday, Simple Saturdays, Simply Natural Saturdays, and The Homemaking Party.

From my mountaintop garden to yours!

23 March 2016

Why I Hike in Winter (Almost Wordless Wednesday)

Just look at this scenery.  In a few months these views will be mostly covered.





From my mountaintop to yours,

19 March 2016

Snake! And it's Almost Spring. (Homesteading Newbie Diary)

100_7015Are you ready? Tomorrow is the first day of Spring.  And the weather people are calling for lows of 38, 29, and 33 degrees over the next 72 hours.  Go figure.

Did you know this is the earliest arrival of Spring since 1896? Me either.  File that under things that make you go hmmm…

Well, I think I had a pretty productive week.  I had two big items to get going.  One was completed, and the other has been started.  Yay, me!

I've been reading through the Old Testament.  All told, I read chapters 21-32 in the Book of Numbers this past week.  Two quick thoughts:  those wilderness wanderers whined a lot, and sometimes I find the Old Testament disturbing.

We were able to go on long walks with the dogs a couple days.  Once along a creek by our place, and once around the lake just a few miles away.  Our youngest, Kody, dove in the lake without a thought all the way up to his chest.  Then quickly decided it was too cold and got out just as fast.  The older one, Bear, who is more cautious and measured in his decision making, decided not to go in at all.  It was beautiful scenery, and we all had a good time.  So much so, one of us was all tuckered out afterward.


Think I mentioned this in the Cabbage Rolls Deconstructed post.  I'll pop it in here, too, since it is part of the weekly recap.  I created a facebook page for Stephlin's Mountain.  If you like to follow blogs there, stop by and give the page a like.  'Preciate it!

So! Sowed any seeds lately? I did! Rosa Bianca eggplant, small cherry tomatoes, chocolate bell peppers, Poblano peppers, Fresno chili peppers, Thai basil, and Tom Thumb lettuce.  I have more to do, but that's a start! B also got the small greenhouse put together for me, and all the pots are out.  Ready and waiting! I was going to sow some rainbow swiss chard seeds, but thought I'd wait until after the possible freeze over the next few days.  I also read that cilantro doesn't like to be transplanted.  That right?


It took three more days' work, but I finally finished the women's history post I mentioned to you last week.  The subject is Myrtle Terry Lawrence, organizer for the Southern Tenant Farmers Union.  It's here at the Southern Graves blog, if you're interested.

One of my big goals for next week is to get some water kefir started.  Anyone else made it before? Any tips?

Made a loaf of sweet Mountain Dew bread.  Not a good step forward in healthy eating, per se, but it's a recipe I'm comfortable with.  And I did have to make some adjustments in the actual baking process.  This is my first experience with baking bread in a gas oven.  Plus, said oven is smaller than a usual one.  So even though I made my regular loaf size, I couldn't proof it as long as I would normally, or it would have hit the top of the oven.  I double panned it, but the bottom heat was still too much for my liking.  And lastly, I needed an egg wash for it to brown…It was still yummy, though!

We might have discovered a wild blueberry bush in the back corner of our lot.  Fingers crossed!

Made iced sugar cookie bars and watched In the Heart of the Sea.  Good dessert.  Good movie.

Last, but not least by any stretch of the imagination…SNAKE! Bear saw it first.  I walked by it at least twice before turning around to see Bear on his hind legs sniffing the air.  Then he dropped back to all fours and backed up a bit.  I followed his gaze to see a nice creepy black (rat?) snake slithering in between the railroad ties bordering our lot.  By the time I got the dogs inside and grabbed the camera, it was out of sight.  Even if I'm not exactly right in my naming of the type of snake, I'm still fairly confident it was not a poisonous one.  But still! This is the one thing I've been fearful of since moving.  I stress so much over my dogs, and it's not like I'm ever excited to see a snake.  Ugh.  Know of any natural snake repellant? (I'm only half kidding.)

Well, you're all caught up! What homestead happenings went on at your place last week?

Shared at Freedom Fridays, Simple Saturdays, Happiness is Homemade, and The Homemaking Party.

From my mountaintop to yours,

16 March 2016

Cabbage Rolls Deconstructed (Happy Saint Patrick's Day!)

100_7008Did you know Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated in more countries than any other national festival? Me either.  That's what Wikipedia says, anyway…I don't know of any certain Irish heritage in my family.  And the most I remember doing as kids is making sure to wear green.  Didn't want to get pinched!

One thing that I have developed over my adulthood, however, is a fondness of cabbage.  And once you've been grocery shopping for any length of time, you discover that cabbage is usually on sale around Saint Patrick's Day.  Yes, I took advantage of the price this year.  I hope you did, too.

Now, if you'll remember, I don't cook.  Well, I guess I should say I'm learning to cook.   Anyway.  I enjoy some cabbage rolls, ya know, but the thought of attempting to make them was a bit intimidating.  So I knew I would be going a different route with my cabbage.

I don't remember where I found the recipe.  Was it Pinterest? (Follow me!) I'm not sure.  The point is I was led to Cooking with K, and she had posted (just earlier this month, I think) a recipe for Cabbage Roll Skillet Casserole.  One look, and I knew that was a recipe for me!

100_7012Now Kay's finished product might look better than mine, and she does have a low carb option.  But I'll tell you how I made it anyway.  Chopping the onion and cabbage took me a while.  Other than that, though, the recipe is a breeze.  The ingredients are as follows:

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper (or about; I didn't measure)
  • 1 tsp steak seasoning (my brand was StoneMill Essentials)
  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1 cup white rice, cooked
  • 1/2 medium cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 1 (15 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 tsp (heaping) crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt, to taste (I just added a pinch)

First, I browned the ground beef with the onion on medium heat.  Once the meat was no longer pink, and the onion was translucent, I poured off the excess grease.  Then I added the ground black pepper and steak seasoning.


Continuing on with Kay's directions, I added the tomato sauce, rice, and cabbage.  Before I could move on, I had to let the cabbage cook down a bit.  The rest of the ingredients wouldn't fit in my skillet, yet!



After the cabbage cooked down a bit, I was able to add the diced tomatoes, ketchup, and crushed red pepper flakes.  This is where I added the pinch of salt, too…And that was it! I let the mixture go, stirring every so often, until the cabbage was heated through and softened.

I ate two platefuls!

As an aside, Stephlin's Mountain now has its own facebook page.  If you're into social media, I'd appreciate a like and follow.  Not only will I be sharing posts from the blog there, but I'll also include info on other homesteading and homemaking stuff I think is neat.  I just shared a link to canning pineapple yesterday, for example.  Thanks for the support!

Shared at Simple Saturdays and Happiness is Homemade.

From my mountaintop to yours,

13 March 2016

5 Ways to Use Ready to Eat (Now!) Bananas

Ever find yourself with more bananas than you can eat before they start to brown? Ever wanted to take advantage of a good sale on bananas, but weren't sure how you'd use them all? Here are 5+ ideas for those ready-to-eat (now!) bananas.

Blueberry Banana Donuts

1. Banana Bread

100_6936The recipe I used combined all-purpose and whole wheat flour.  I didn't think it was sweet enough (for me) at first, but the more I munched the more I liked what I was munching.  It was a good platform for blueberry-lemon-honey fruit spread, too.  Here's the super easy recipe:

  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) butter, at room temp.
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour*
  • 3 large ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 tsp vanilla (how I make it)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease 9x5x3" bread pan.  Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (I used a KitchenAid Classic stand mixer).  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add all-purpose flour, baking soda, salt, and whole wheat flour to cream mixture, mixing a bit after each addition.  Mix well.  Fold in bananas and vanilla.  Pour mixture into pan, bake 50 to 60 min. or until cake tester comes out clean - cool in pan 10 minutes, on rack.  Makes one loaf.

*I mill my wheat flour using a WonderMill.  In this recipe I used what I had on hand, which was flour from organic hard white wheat berries.


2.  Banana Jam

100_6941I had never heard of banana jam before reading this post at Confessions of an Overworked Mom.  It sounded delicious, and it's something that may be preserved with water bath canning.  I gave it a go and was not disappointed.  It's swe-eet, though.  I might lower the sugar amount next time, cuz there will be a next time.  Here's the recipe (adapted from Ellen's, linked above):

  • 2 cups mashed bananas (about 4-5)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

Put all ingredients in a pan (I used a 12-inch nonstick skillet) and simmer on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until bananas are broken down to your liking. I like some texture, but still want it to spread easily.  Know what I mean?

Now let the jam roll at a full boil 5-6 minutes.  Everything will reduce and thicken.  Ladle jam into jar or jars.  I got a bit over 12 oz.

3.  Chocolate, Peanut Butter, & Banana Smoothie

I've been making this off and on for more than a year.  It's got enough good for you stuff to be a nice breakfast or snack.  Yet it's got enough chocolate flavor that I had it for dessert just last night!


Click here for the Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Banana Smoothie recipe!

4.  Blueberry Banana Cake Donuts

These came about when I planned to make some blueberry donuts and at the last minute decided to throw in an overripe banana.  Good stuff happened there – moist, tender, blueberry freshness, with a hint of banana.


Click here for the Blueberry Banana Cake Donuts recipe!

5.  Strawberry Banana Soup

100_6944Ok.  I know "soup" is a poor choice for this often made traditional dessert.  You could think of it as a sauce.  If you want to make an angel food cake a little more special, add this strawberry banana mixture.  It wouldn't hurt to top your ice cream with it, either.

All you do is slice up a bunch of strawberries and bananas.  Toss them in a bowl with some sugar and fruit juice.  Just enough of each to bring out the natural juice of the strawberries.  It really is yummy all by itself.

There you have it! 5 ways to use some ready-to-eat (now!) bananas…But I did type 5 plus in the opening paragraph, didn't I? Well, don't forget banana pudding.  The best way is to go all out and make the custard from scratch, of course, but I was short on time the first night we procured the bananas.  So semi-homemade it was.

Get some banana (or vanilla) pudding mix and whip it up.  Get a bowl and layer the following:  vanilla wafers, pudding, and sliced bananas.  Then repeat until the bowl is full or your ingredients are gone.  You have a pretty nice trifle style dessert.

And last, but by no means least, I really enjoy sliced bananas in my breakfast cereal.  Sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised how many times I forget to take this simple step to enrich my morning when I'm in a hurry.

Now the next time you see those marked down several pounds bag of bananas in the produce department, have no fear.  You have at least 5 (or 7) ways to use them!


Shared at Clever Chicks Blog Hop, Simple & Sweet Fridays, Freedom Fridays, The Homemaking Party, Tuesdays Rubies, Happiness is Homemade, and Tuesdays with a Twist.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click a link and buy something. This helps support my mountain homestead dream as well as my blogging activities, and the price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! Thanks for reading, following, and supporting Stephlin's Mountain.

From my mountaintop to yours!

12 March 2016

Welcome to Week One! (Diary of a Newbie Homesteader)

100_6923Our first week in the mountains of course necessitated getting our beginning homestead up and running.  I say "beginning homestead" because we are hoping to have our own land in the future.  So anything we do here will be of the portable fashion.  Would you like a tour?



Yep, everything we own is right there – only what we need and love.  Been "tiny house" living for over a year and haven't missed a single thing donated or trashed during the move.

And here is our back "yard."


Might not look like much to some, but it's more than I had when we were in a 1,200 square foot apartment! I envision a large container garden for the summer.  Need to get those seeds started…

And that's it! Hope you enjoyed your tour. 

It doesn't feel like I've done any homestead-y stuff this week.  More like homemaking.  But those two are sometimes interchangeable, aren't they?

We partook in a couple of good grocery store deals this week.  Nine "milanese style" slices of top round steak for just over $8.  That's three meals worth of meat protein for us.  And we got several pounds of "ready-to-eat" bananas.  Stay tuned for a post on five different ways I used them! (Minus the semi-homemade banana pudding I made the day we got them and the peanut butter banana cookies that were an epic fail.)

Got some family news that confirmed my desire to have a natural medicine cabinet and hopefully the ability to not rely heavily on mainstream medicine.  Not going to elaborate at this time, but I'm sure many of you understand where I'm coming from.

Got eleven chapters in the book of Numbers read.  I'd like to have spent more time with God this week, yet still feel happy with the progress made.  Stay tuned for more on that.

The biggest blessing of the week was B getting a job! Say it with me – "Hallelujah!"

Started a to-do list.  That didn't take long to get long.

We've been going out every day to learn a bit about our surroundings.  Found a beautiful lake that sits just a few miles away.


Started doing some research for a women's history month blog post.  I'll let ya know when it's done in case you're interested.

Something about me:  I don't cook.  Really.  I don't.  But that is something I must learn to do, for many reasons (it's better for you and saves money are just two).  So I was thrilled, ecstatic, and jubilant (read:  happy) to cook my first vegetarian – one pot – meal that. was. good! So good, that I might share it with you in a later post.

…And that was week one! Thanks for following along.  I'll leave you with a few images from the local St. Patrick's Day parade (that I walked the 1/2 mile – majority up a mountain – to see, btw)…  From my mountaintop to yours!


Shared at Faith Filled Friday and Freedom Fridays.

07 March 2016

On Chapters and Seasons

A new chapter has begun.  Two months and four days later than planned, we are (finally!) in the mountains.  We got things set up yesterday.  A move I thought would take 5-6 hours ended up taking nearly 12.  And that doesn't count unpacking.  But I guess that just follows true to our recent "luck."

It's also kind of funny I used the word "planned" in the first sentence of this post.  I dare say almost nothing we planned went according to said plan.  After two years of strategizing and working toward our goal, of which this is only step one by the way, we are in a radically different position from where we thought we would be.

The time of our move is different from first planned (not our choice).

The town we live in is different from first planned (our choice).

The actual home in which we live is different from first planned (our choice).

The "making a living" plan is different from the original (our choice).

The lot on which we are staying is different from first planned (not our choice).

Everything on my "preparation" list was not completed (some our choice, some not).

The number of months worth of living expenses in the bank is different from planned (our choice or not?).

And I could go on.  And on.

Which brings me to Ecclesiastes 3, verses 1 and 6 ~

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

…A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away"

Yes, we have free will.  But (especially) for those that choose to follow Him, God is in control.  Faith is necessary to believe his timing is perfect.  [I will readily admit I am still dumbfounded at the obstacles that came our way.]

Nonetheless, I am also led to Romans 8, verse 28 ~

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

I must (must!) believe all things leading up to this moment have worked together for my good.  Because The Word says so.  And since we are trying to follow the will of God, the choices we made were done so with an intentional, prayerful heart.

If you read my previous post, you might remember I stated my feelings of being in the middle of a battle between good and evil.  Just because we have arrived at this point on our journey to an ultimate goal, I don't for one second think the battle is over.  Just this very day – only our first full day in a new home – a couple of things happened in the family to confirm it for me.

This will not, however, cause me to lose sight of what we have and are working toward.  To that end, this blog is no longer about "living the mountain homestead dream…in just a hilly city apartment." It is now, officially, the diary of a (mountain) homesteading newbie!

Woo Hoo! Bring it on, and let it begin!

Shared at Faith Filled Friday and The Homemaking Party.

From my mountaintop to yours,

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