Friday, August 22, 2014

Pantry Organization

I have wanted to purge, reorganize, and beautify our pantry for quite some time. We tried reorganizing a while back when I transferred several staples to glass jars and got rid of some things that were unhealthy or overly processed. However, the pantry slowly crept back to its state of usual disorder.

I've been tackling the pantry little by little for months now, so I thought I would show you a peek of my progress:

 Our pantry is located in a kitchen closet lined with shelves and fortunately the ceiling is high so there is a lot of vertical space for storage. It's sometimes tight fitting into the pantry and we never have enough room to store everything! I'm sure I'm not the only one with that problem :)

condiments, sauces, oils and vinegars and held together on a tray- the tiny bottles are different speciality types of balsamic vinegars and olive oils

canned goods are together and the chicken wire basket holds canning lids and rims

I did a major clean sweep and made some structural changes in order to see and fit things much better. I also tried to group like items by function and located the most used things in the easiest to reach places.

my baking supplies are corralled together on this shelf

Our pantry holds items such as:

  •  dry goods (beans, rice, pasta, nuts etc.)
  •  oils, vinegars, and sauces
  •  baking supplies (flours, sugars, cornmeal, etc.)
  •  sweeteners, chocolate and honey
  •  canned goods and preserves
  •  potatoes and onions
  •  beverages
  •  cereal and crackers
  •  paper towels and party/entertaining supplies
  •  paper shopping bags
  •  home canning equipment, food dehydrator, roasting pans
  •  plastic bags, wraps, foils, etc.
  •  misc. items (lunch boxes, nursery water, egg cartons, etc.)
I added a skirt in some brown check fabric to hide the miscellaneous items and make for a softer look.

I have never been a fan of this rack on the inside of the pantry door, but it does hold a lot of random stuff that we don't use too often. I'm hoping to gradually get rid of a lot of this stuff and simplify down to the basics.

The biggest change we made was adding a fourth shelf to the pantry (lowest shelf). It really provides so much more storage and of course we had no trouble filling it up. My hubby also constructed more open shelving just outside of the pantry door overtop of our trash can to match our other open shelving. Right now we are storing our Berkey Water Filter there, along with coffee and tea supplies, cook books, plus some other odds and ends.

shelving outside pantry door

My goal is to gradually whittle away items that are probably not great for a real foods-based diet. Things like white flour and white sugar, processed or boxed items that can be replaced by healthier alternatives, and any unhealthy snacks.

a chicken chalkboard wall hanging for jotting down supplies needed

I feel like the pantry is more functional and now that I can see everything cleanly organized. It helps me to avoid duplicating items and it's easy to see what staples need to be replenished.

Happy Organizing,

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Sweet Summertime

Summer seems to be flying by! Here at the roost we are getting back into a routine after being away on vacation for a week. June and Georgia had a ball on their first beach trip and we loved getting to spend time with extended family!

my cousins and our baby girls

Now that we are back there are a host of homestead projects to tackle. First and foremost starting with the garden.

Our kale and collards are still going strong and I have been lazy about harvesting them, so I need to get on it so that we can plant some fall crops in their place. We have been getting lots of romaine lettuce all summer long and a new baby crop of arugula is about ready for harvest.

Our tomatoes have done ok, but not great. One entire row all died and overall they have been slow-growing. Our garden definitely does not get enough sun for the crops that are sun-loving. If we can grow enough, I plan to can some and make some sauce to preserve. Same with the cucumbers.

The beans have produced a slow but steady supply of half-runners and Kentucky wonder beans, the harvests of which should increase as the summer goes on. Again, I'm hoping to preserve and and pickle the extra beans that we don't eat fresh, as well as dry some for making shuck beans.

Our peppers aren't doing so great but we will let them continue growing and see what we get. Our squash is growing pretty good but we don't have much fruit from them yet. We did not grow any potatoes this year and didn't have the time to get peanuts, melons, or sunflowers into the ground as we had hoped. I don't feel so bad about not growing sweet potatoes because most of them in grocery stores are grown right here in North Carolina and they are super cheap. With sweet potatoes, I'm at least still eating local and saving money.

The chickens are still very much a part of our homestead life, although we don't have the time to devote to them as we did before now that we have the babies. My hubby wants them gone as they have taken to wanting to roost on our porches since they are free range. Our flock never ceases to have some sort of drama going on. We recently had two of our hens go missing which brings our flock total down to ten.  Rosemary was also sick recently with flystrike and a swollen fluid-filled abdomen, and though she seems to be doing better, I think her days are numbered (she is over 4 years old!). Why is it always the good hens that go missing and never the roosters or the ones you don't like?

Chicken-related projects include mending the fence and netting for each coop's pen, repairing the wooden ramps to the coops, cleaning the coops, and dusting each chicken with DE.

Finally, I am still in the process of transitioning our diet to a real foods diet with sort of an emphasis on eating a low-gluten or gluten-free, paleo-based diet if we can. We already eat mostly whole, real foods anyway but there are several areas where we could use improvement and times when temptation or convenience gets the best of us. Meal preparation is key to overcoming the convenience of grabbing something on the go. Back earlier in the year we purchased a large package of grass-fed beef from a local farmer and it was fabulous! We hope to do more of this, grow more of our food, and purchase from local farmer's markets as much as possible. One big problem is in the state of North Carolina it is illegal to sell/consume raw diary products, and with twin 9 month old babies THERE. IS. JUST. NO. TIME. LEFT. to do much of anything else!

It definitely seems overwhelming at times but in the end I know it will be so worth it to our health and well-being. Hope you are having a wonderful summer and that your gardens are giving you an endless bounty :)

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

House Hunting (and dreaming...)

We have been casually on the hunt for a permanent home (we are in a rental house currently) for a while now but have always been hesitant for a variety of reasons. The main one being that we never knew if we were going to move back to Kentucky (where we are from and our family lives) sometime soon.

Well, its been three years since my husband finished his Ph.D. and we are still here in NC! The longer we are here the harder it is to move back but at the same time we miss our family and would reap so many benefits of being close by--the most important of which is having help with the babies. However, we both love our jobs (I'm blessed to be part-time) and have a wonderful church family here and new friends.

Either way, whether we move home soon or stay in NC a while longer, we are keeping our eye out for houses that would be a good fit for our family. We'd love an old farmhouse with some acreage where we could set up our homestead. My husband definitely wants some outbuildings including a place for his workshop and of course a coop for our chickens. I'm hoping to find something at least fifty years old, with some architectural character and at least three bedrooms. The tricky part for us is finding this in a location that works in our price range.

In my mind I'm picturing something like this:

or this:

or this would be nice:

the classic Triple-A I-House is always a winner in my book:

I've always loved the Braun House in Rowan County:

but of course in reality we won't find something near that nice in our price range....

So we will continue looking perhaps for an old fixer upper or something much more modest. Y'all know how I love old abandoned farmhouses :)  Looking so forward to this next adventure!