Tag Archives: frugal

Making Homemade Vanilla Extract

20130611 231723 Making Homemade Vanilla Extract

A couple weeks ago one evening I started on my homemade vanilla extract! This is something that I’ve always wanted to try out, but had been skeptical about it, and still am….a bit. I’ve been reading from various blogs about how easy and cost effective it was to make your own so I’ve finally decided to try it myself. I LOVE vanilla extract but buying pure vanilla extract can be costly!! Looking at the recipe to make it, it will take 2 months or longer (the longer it sits, the better!) so I think making it now will be perfect for the holiday seasons coming up where I will use vanilla extract a lot.  Homemade vanilla extract takes up to 6 months to be completely finished, but you can start using it after only 4 weeks.

Here’s what you’ll need-

  • 3 vanilla beans
  • 1 cup of vodka
  • glass jar with a tight fitting lid

20130611 231222 Making Homemade Vanilla ExtractMy vanilla beans are from Madagascar & my vodka is from Krogers 


1. Use kitchen scissors or a sharp paring knife to cut lengthwise down each vanilla bean, splitting them in half, leaving an inch at the end connected. 


20130611 231513 Making Homemade Vanilla Extract
(you can see the bottom of the beans are still connected and it’s split all the way to other end)

2. Put vanilla beans in a glass jar or bottle with a tight fitting lid. (I used my wide mouth pint jars and lids) Add in the 1 cup of vodka.

3. Give the bottle a good shake frequently, everyday would be best if you remember, and store in a cool, dark place.

Once completed, homemade vanilla extract can lasts for years. I plan on buying some cute bottles to put them in to give as gifts this year. Also, once the beans have been used in your extract, you can lay them out to dry and use to make vanilla sugar! Lay out the beans so that they dry out and then place the split vanilla beans into a jar of white sugar. This is a great way to infuse the sugar with vanilla flavor for baking….and just in time for the holiday season!

**I’ll keep ya’ll posted on my progress!**

Mary is a married mother of two children, who lives with her family on a 5 acres farm in Southwestern Ohio. While at work, she day dreams of being a full time farmer and gardener. Within the last couple of years, her and her husband, Aaron, became more interested in becoming self sustaining and leaving a lesser impact on Earth for future generations. Together, they have worked on growing more vegetables and fruits around their farm, raising animals, learning how to cook wild game caught, and learning how to preserve that food they harvest. Mary’s blog, Homegrown on the Hill, is a creation of their journey to becoming more self-sustaining. She has been a contributing author with Modern Homesteaders since May 2013. You can find her here at Modern Homesteaders with her weekly articles, or look for her at her blog, Homegrown on the Hill, and on Facebook as well!

This post can also be viewed here:  www.modernhomesteaders.net

Poverty Jelly

In the worst of financial circumstances you can always make bread.  It is incredibly inexpensive and fills your belly.  Having a jelly or jam on top can be the difference between choking down bland sustenance or having a sweet treat.  You can really make jelly out of anything and people have.  For years my grandmother and great grandmother made strange jelly appear out of nowhere.  I would like to share a few of those recipes with you.


This one will be familiar to many.  It isn’t common but it isn’t uncommon either.  This is easily my favorite and I love it because it makes use of what would otherwise just get thrown out.  There are lots of colored sweet corns out there now and the cobs of these colored ears dye your jelly.  Many people like to use red cob corn for the sole purpose of making their jelly red, which is fine.  I have seen purple, white, yellow red and orange cob jelly.  You could just use a little food coloring too.  Play with the color and have fun.

We usually have between 14 and 20 ears of corn after my family is done with a meal.  I usually use 1 cup of water to 3 ears of corn as a ratio.  Boil your ears for 15 minutes in the stock pot you used to boil them initially.  After 15 minutes discard the cobs and strain your water through cheesecloth (or I admit it…I frequently cheat and use a dishtowel).  Using 16 cobs…this should give you about 4 cups of liquid.    Return to your pot and add 2 ounces of fruit pectin and bring to a rolling boil.  Add 4 cups of sugar and return it to a boil.  Skim off the foam and add color (if you desire).  Pour into cleaned and hot canning jars and let stand upside down for 10 minutes.  Turn upright and allow them to cool completely before you store them.


Lots of people have crabapple trees and have no idea what to do with the bitter little things.  Well…make jelly of course!

Pick about 2 quarts of crabapples.  Clean, de-stem and cut out bad spots.  Cut in half.  Place your cleaned up fruit into a pot of water with the water level at the top of the apples.  Simmer the apples in the pot for 30-60 minutes or until the fruit is tender but not mushy.  Let the fruit drain into pot for several hours using a jelly bag or pantyhose.  You may speed up the process by using cheesecloth and squeezing but this will give you a cloudy jelly.  Ideally let them hang for 12 hours and then measure how many cups you have.  Use 3/4 of a cup of sugar for every cup of juice.

Pour the juice into a pan and let simmer for 30 minutes.  Add sugar per original number of cups of juice and bring to a boil.  Add 2 pats of butter to cut down on foam.  Simmer for an additional 10 minutes and the natural pectin will start to thicken your jelly.  It should drop from the spoon in sheets rather than drops.  Store in hot, clean jars.  Ideally this jelly should be sweet tart.  They are crabapples after all.


Wondering what to do with the pesky weeds that pop up everywhere in your yard.  Make one of the prettier  jellies and use what otherwise would just be a nuisance!

Start with 1 quart of lightly packed dandelion flowers.  Only the yellow portion.  Try not to get any of the bitter greens of stem in to the pot.  Boil the flowers in 2 quarts of water for about 10 minutes.  Cool and strain your liquid.  Add 2tbs of lemon juice, the zest of one lemon and 1 package of pectin to 3 cups of yellow liquid.  Bring to a rolling boil and then add 5 cups of sugar.  Mix well and return to a boil.  Pour into hot pint jars and seal.  Allow to cool before storing.



I love beets but they get a bum rap when it comes to doing things with them.  There is more to them than making pickled beets.  It is a pretty jelly for sure.

Use 8-10 medium beets.  Peel and simmer in 5 cups of water until fork tender.  Strain the beets juice which should yeild about 4 cups.  Mix the beet juice with 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1 pkg of pectin and bring to a full boil.  Stir in 6 cups of sugar and return to a boil for roughly 1-2 minutes.  Put into hot, clean jars and let cool before storing.


Spring is a great time to make floral jelly.  Violet jelly is beautiful to look at and has a faintly floral, kind of grape flavor.  I give it in gifts often because it just looks that darn good!

Collect 3 cups of violet blooms.  Pick all the stems and greens from the flowers.  Pour 3 cups of boiling water onto the flowers and let them steep until the water color is a bright and brilliant blue.  Strain the flowers and place your blue water into your cooking pot.  Add the juice of one lemon and your liquid will change color.  This is normal!  Add 1 pkg of pectin and bring to a rolling boil.  Add 3 1/2 cups of sugar and return to a boil while stirring.  Place into hot/clean jars as normal and allow to cool.

**You can also make LAVENDER JELLY using 1/2 cup of dried lavender flowers.  Place them into 3 1/2 cups of boiling water and allow them to steep for 30 minutes.  Prepare in the same way as the violet jelly.

So I hope you get the gist of it.  You can also follow the basic rules above and make jelly out of your discarded pea pods, extra cucumbers, any fruit tree you have around your house and many florals, like roses.  My favorite question is “what can I do with that?”  Always think about what you can do with what you have available…before you pay for it!


My name is Tracy Loucks but at Modern Homesteaders I am the Hometree Gal. We started homesteading 3 years ago and still have much to learn. My family consists of my husband Todd and our 7 children…Toney, Amanda, Steven, Samuel, Sawyer, Marley and Ben. We live in Missouri at Hometree Homestead where we raise goats, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, ducks and an occasional hog. We, of course, garden but every year the garden gets bigger and yet is never big enough! We also homeschool the children who are still at home. I am happy to be a small part of the MH family. I do think that tough times are ahead for our country and people truly need to know how to take care of their own!

This post can also be viewed here:  www.modernhomesteaders.net

Tornado: What You Should Know

After what I thought was a quiet spring, we have experienced a horrific tornado in Oklahoma with more than 50 killed. Loss of life from disasters, both natural and man-made, is an ever-present danger, and we must be prepared to deal with these issues are they present. Given the unpredictable nature of these calamities, it is more important now than ever to be prepared to deal with injuries. Medical preparedness has never been more important.

There are few people who haven’t been in the path of a major storm at one point or another. If you fail to plan ways to protect yourself and your family, you may find yourself having to treat significant traumatic injuries in the immediate aftermath. Later, flooding may contaminate your water supplies and expose you to serious infectious disease. Preparing to weather the storm safely will avoid major medical problems for you, in your role as survival medic, later on.

A tornado is a violently rotating column of air that is in contact with both the surface of the earth and the thunderstorm (sometimes called a “supercell”) that spawned it. From a distance, tornadoes usually appear in the form of a visible dark funnel with all sorts of flying debris in and around it. Because of rainfall, they may be difficult to see when close up. A tornado (also called a “twister”) may have winds of up to 300 miles per hour, and can travel for a number of kilometers or miles before petering out. They may be accompanied by hail and will emit a roaring sound that will remind you of a passing train (I can tell you this is true by personal experience). There are almost a thousand tornadoes in the United States every year, more than are reported in any other country. Most of these occur in Tornado Alley, an area that includes Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, and neighboring states. Spring and early summer are the peak seasons.

Injuries from tornadoes usually come as a result of trauma from all the flying debris that is carried along with it. Strong winds can carry large objects and fling them around in a manner that is hard to believe; Indeed, there is a report that, in 1931, an 83 ton train was lifted and thrown 80 feet from the tracks.

Tornadoes are categorized by something called the Fujita Scale, from level 0-5, based on the amount of damage caused:

•F0 Light: broken tree branches, mild structural damage, some uprooted
•F1 Moderate: broken windows, small tree trunks broken, overturned mobile homes, destruction of carports or toolsheds, roof tiles missing
•F2 Considerable: mobile homes destroyed, major structural damage to frame homes due to flying debris, some large trees snapped in half or uprooted
•F3 Severe: Roofs torn from homes, small frame homes destroyed, most trees snapped and uprooted
•F4 Devastating: strong structure building damaged or destroyed or lifted from foundations, cars lifted and blown away, even large debris airborne
•F5 Incredible: larger building lifted from foundations, trees snapped, uprooted and debarked, multi-ton debris becomes airborne missiles

Although some places may have sirens or other methods of warning you of an approaching twister, it is important to have a plan for your family to weather the storm. Having a plan before a tornado approaches is the most likely way you will survive the event. Children should be taught where to find the medical kits and, if possible, how to turn off gas and electricity. Giving your loved ones experience in the use of a fire extinguisher and the treatment of injuries would be highly useful as well. Just use the search engine at www.doomandbloom.net for more information on treating wounds and fractures.

If you see a twister funnel, take shelter immediately. If your domicile is a mobile home, leave! They are especially vulnerable to damage from the winds. If you live in a mobile home and there is time, get to the nearest building that has a tornado shelter; underground shelters are best. If you live in Tornado Alley, consider putting together your own underground shelter. Here’s a link on how: http://www.tornadoproject.com/safety/ism2.pdf

Unlike bunkers and other structures built for long-term protection, a tornado shelter has to provide safety for a short period of time. As such, it doesn’t have to be very large; 8-10 square feet per person would be acceptable. Despite this, be sure to consider ventilation and the comfort or special needs of those using the shelter.

If you don’t have a shelter, find a place where family members can gather if a tornado is headed your way. Basements, bathrooms, closets or inside rooms without windows are the best options. Windows can easily shatter from impact due to flying debris. For added protection, get under a heavy object such as a sturdy table. Covering up your body with a sleeping bag or mattress will provide an additional shield. Discuss this plan of action with each and every member of your family or group in such a way that they will know this process by heart.

If you’re in a car and can drive to a shelter, do so. Although you may be hesitant to leave your vehicle, remember that they can be easily tossed around by the winds; you may be safer if there is a culvert or other area lower than the roadway. In town, leaving the car to enter a sturdy building is appropriate.If there is no other shelter, your car will protect you from some of the flying debris. Keep your seat beat on, put you head down below the level of the windows, and cover yourself with something.

If you are caught outside when the tornado hits (on a hike, for instance), stay away from wooded areas. Torn branches and other debris become missiles, so an open field or ditch may be safer. Lying down flat in a low spot in the ground will give you some protection. Make sure to cover your head if at all possible, even if it’s just with your hands.

Armed with a plan of action, you will know what to do when you see that funnel cloud or hear that tornado siren. Evaluate your home for weak and strong points, educate your loved ones on the right strategy, and you’ll have a head start on weathering that storm.

Dr. Bones

You many view the original article here: http://www.doomandbloom.net/tornado/

Can also be viewed here:  www.modernhomesteaders.net

Homemade Pesticides for your Garden

aphids Homemade Pesticides for your Garden


A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that something was munching on my tomato plants. After some researching and looking at all my plants, I believe they’re aphids! Yuck! Wikipedia defines aphids as small sap sucking insects that  are among the most destructive insect pests on cultivated plants in temperate regions. Great…most destructive of the insects. *Sigh.*

I knew that I didn’t want to use any harsh chemicals or pesticides on my plants this year so I had to look into a more natural approach. I read that some predators of the aphids are ladybirds, parasitic wasps, crab spiders, and lacewings, but I don’t know if I have any hanging around my garden. I’m assuming not since I have a HUGE family of aphids living in my tomatoes, haha! So I had to take matters into my own hands to get rid of these guys. I research into different homemade natural pesticides and found this one that I liked to try out. It’s made from onions, garlic, and a jalapeno pepper so I knew it’d be spicy and possible potent to work!

20130522 180253 Homemade Pesticides for your Garden
something chewing on my tomato leaves 

Here’s the materials you’ll need:

  • a clean gallon jug (like milk jug)
  • a spray bottle with a nozzle spray
  • a funnel
  • piece of cloth, I used an old kitchen towel
  • a big pot that will hold 1 gallon of water
  • a strainer
  • 1 large onion or 2 small ones
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tblsp of dish soap

1. Fill up your milk jug with water and then dump the water in the pot. Put the pot on the stove on high to start boiling.

2. Take all the vegetables and start chopping them up. You can leave the seeds in the jalapeno since they’re hot too. Once all chopped, put in a food processor/blender and puree. This will start to make a paste. I started to use my blender, but felt like it wasn’t as chopped as I’d like it so I changed it over to my food processor and it worked a lot better!

3. After everything is pureed good, put the paste into pot with the water and let it sit for 20 minutes. Once the water starts boiling, it will start to get really smelly! I put a lid on my pot to try to keep the smell contained. 

4. Using a strainer, I laid an old kitchen towel across it to catch all the fine chopped up vegetables and put another big pot underneath to catch the liquid.

5. Once completely strained, put the liquid back into the gallon milk jug using a funnel. I then added 1 tblsp of Dawn dish soap. If you use natural dish soap, then I would add 2 tablespoons. Put the lid on and mix together well. The soap make the already bad tasting stinky liquid soapy and less palatable to the pests in your garden.

6. Carefully put some of the liquid into your spray bottle. You can use a funnel or just eye ball it. I eye balled mine in the kitchen sink. The rest of the liquid can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Simply shake it before it’s used to mix together.

Take the spray bottle and spray all your plants, and don’t forget to spray the stems and the leaves underneath. You want to spray them very well from top to bottom. I started by just spraying a couple of tomato plants to make sure that it wouldn’t kill my plants. After one day, they looked fine, so I sprayed the rest of my garden. You want to treat every few days to kill off the pests. This will not kill the pests, but will make the plants gross for them to eat that they’ve eventually starve.

20130611 204122 Homemade Pesticides for your Garden

new leaves growing with no chewing! 

I have a few more sprays I’d like to try, but if this one will work on everything then this will be my main spray. I’m testing it on other vegetables in my garden right now. Do you use anything for your garden? If so, please share!
Thanks for reading!
Mary @ Homegrown on the Hill
Contributing Author for Modern Homesteaders
This post can also be viewed here:  www.modernhomesteaders.net

Preparing for Power Blackouts – Plan Ahead and You Can Weather Any Storm

(Dr. Bones says: Today we publish a post by survival author, blog writer, and emergency preparedness consultant M.D. Creekmore of The Survivalist Blog . He is the author of “31 Days to Survival” and ”The Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat“ and his blog has more than 3,000 articles posted on survival and self-reliance topics.)


Power outages are nothing new and thousands of homes are without power every year in the U.S. most for only a few hours, but some for days or even weeks – would you be prepared if the power stayed off for several days or even months?

Such extended power outages are a real possibility after a serious hurricane, winter storm or even the result of a terrorist attack affecting the power grid or an EMP strike. The U.S. runs on electricity, without a functional power grid the U.S. would come to a standstill. Without electrical power, gas pumps no longer work, scanners at the supermarket will fail, radio and television stations go off the air and computers fail to connect to the web.

Could you provide for your family?

Everyone should plan for and prepare for the possibility of being without power for an extended period of time, but where do you start. What do you need to put away so the next blackout won’t become a nightmare. Let’s take a look…

Have Safe Water

Every emergency kit should begin with a safe supply of drinking water. Granted, if you are on a municipal water supply your water may not be affected by a power outage, but you should still stock up. If backup power fails at water-treatment plants then that water may become unsafe for drinking or cooking and need to be boiled, or treated before use. Including water in your emergency kit is always a good idea no matter how secure you think your current method of supply.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends storing at least one gallon of water per day per person for emergency use. A normally active person needs at least one-half gallon of water daily just for drinking they state. You’ll also need to take into consideration age, physical condition, activity, diet, and climate to determine needed qualities. And don’t forget about your pets, they need water too.

I live off-the grid with most of my water provided from a nearby spring, but I still include stored water in my emergency kit. The easiest way to store drinking water is to simply buy bottled water from the supermarket shelf. But it is cheaper to store water from your own tap. I store most of my water in six-gallon water jugs bought in the sporting goods department at my local Wal-Mart for the purpose. But you can use cleaned 2 liter plastic bottles instead.

Some of the readers of The Survivalist Blog, have asked about using milk jugs for water storage, and I always recommend against it. While milk jugs can work short-term, they are prone to leakage and the plastic deteriorates quickly. Milk jugs are also more susceptible to bacterial growth because of milk proteins that are often left in the container even after cleaning. A much better solution is two liter plastic soda bottles.

If using two liter plastic soda bottles the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends sanitizing the bottles after cleaning with dishwashing soap and water, by adding a solution of 1 teaspoon of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to a quart of water. Swish the sanitizing solution in the bottle so that it touches all surfaces. After sanitizing the bottle, thoroughly rinse out the sanitizing solution with clean water.

Contrary to what you may have read elsewhere, there is no need to add liquid household chlorine bleach to tap water before storage as this water has already been treated by the water utility company. In this case all you need to do is fill the bottles to the top and tightly screw on the cap.

Emergency Food

Next you need food. This should include things your family already eats you just need to store extra for your emergency kit. Canned soups, meats, nuts, fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, dried fruits and vegetables and crackers for example will last at least a year if stored in unopened air tight containers.

Self-rising flour, corn meal, sugar, salt, rolled oats and other died goods should be stored in air tight, food safe containers made of plastic or glass to keep out pests and moister. One mistake a lot of people make is not using what they’ve stored. They buy up a bunch of foods for emergencies; they put it on the shelf and end up throwing it out when it passes the listed expiration date.

This can be avoided by implementing a simple food rotation program.

Date each container with a permanent marker or date stamp and use on a first-in first-out basis (FIFO). As each item is used in your normal everyday meals, replace that item with a new product of the same value, date and repeat. If you follow this simple principle you will never have to discard food from your emergency kit and will always have a fresh supply on hand for emergencies. With canned foods this rotation can be automated by building or buying a building a rotating canned food shelf.

I suggest you keep at least a two-week emergency food supply on hand at all times, several months to a year would be even better, but isn’t practical for most people. This food storage calculator is a big help when determining needed amounts, but it isn’t exact and you will have to make the final decision based on your family’s eating habits.

Heating and Cooking

Most power outages in the U.S. happen during periods of extreme weather. For example, in 1993, I was without power for three weeks after an ice storm blanketed my area. Luckily, I had a fireplace for heating and cooking and a supply of wood to keep the fire burning. But, many folks aren’t so lucky and need to make other preparations for cooking and staying warm.

Kerosene heaters can be used for heating and even cooking with certain models, for example the Alpaca Kerosene Cooker. Kerosene can be stored in large quantities for long periods of time without any special treatment. It has been estimated that a gallon of kerosene will provide about the same heat output as a wheelbarrow load of wood!

Kerosene is easy to store and has a longer storage life than does gasoline. I store kerosene in blue cans marked for its use. Mistakenly pouring gasoline into a kerosene heater, could have dire consequences. Following a color coding system helps avoid this possibility.

The main disadvantage to using a kerosene heater is that they can be smelly if not used properly, they have to be refilled every few hours and the wick needs to be replaced every few months depending on how much the heater is used during that time.

The standard fuel container color coding system is blue for kerosene, red for gasoline, and yellow for diesel. I suggest you follow this system. You’ll need roughly two – three gallons of kerosene per day with continues use, so for two weeks you would need a minimum of 28 gallon.

Keep in mind that this is only an estimate and actual usage will depend on several factors. Including but not limited to the type of heater, quality of the fuel, condition of the wick (don’t for get to add an extra wick to your emergency kit) and environmental conditions where the heater is used.

Propane heaters like the Mr Heater Buddy can be used indoors and in my opinion they are safer and more efficient than the kerosene heaters mentioned. I’ve used one of these heaters for the past two winters to heat my travel trailer with no problems what so ever. They work great and I like not having to refill the tank every few hours or needing to replace the wick as is the case when using kerosene.

I drilled a two-inch hole through my floor beside the outside wall and connected a 100 lb propane tank to my Mr Heater Buddy heater via a hose adapter and filter then sealed the hole around the hose with expanding foam insulation. This also has the advantage of keeping the fuel source outside. One 100 lb tank will last me over a month even in the coldest weather, if I keep the heater burning at the lowest setting.

The downside to the Buddy heater are that they are difficult to cook on and you’ll need a stove just for that purpose if you don’t already have a gas cook stove in your home. I suggest a small propane Colman camp stove; these can be found in the sporting goods department at your local Wal-Mart or Kmart.

It is recommended that portable gas camp stoves not be used indoors as the fumes can be deadly. Using the stove in a ventilated area will help reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. In other words crack a window or door and have a working carbon monoxide detector if you must use the stove for cooking indoors. And make sure the stove is turned off after use.

Miscellaneous Suggestions

Most of these items can be stored in some sort of bug out bag, five-gallon plastic bucket with gamma seal lid or plastic totes until needed.

•A good first aid kit
•A sleeping bag for each family member
•Several pairs of wool socks for each family member
•Thermal underwear for each family member
•A battery-operated or crank radio and extra batteries
•A deck of cards, jigsaw puzzles, and board games etc.
•Flashlight and batteries
•Battery-powered lamps or lanterns
•Non-electric can opener
•Prescription drugs and other needed medicine
•Rock-salt to melt ice on walkways
•Chemical fire extinguisher
•Battery powered smoke alarm
•Battery powered carbon monoxide detector
•Disposable plates, bowls and utensils (to avoid wasting water washing dishes)

If you have any other suggestions or questions feel free to ask in the comments below. Stay safe my friends.

You can view the original article here: http://www.doomandbloom.net/preparing-for-power-blackouts/

Can also be viewed here:  www.modernhomesteaders.net