3 Pathways for $30.00


As you know, we moved just at the end of winter into our homestead!  What you cannot read on a flat screen is the giddy squeal in my voice when I say that.  Oh, it is a great deal of work, do not misunderstand, but it is the work of my heart. 


Moving in just before the spring thaw, we quickly realized that walking paths would be a first order of business.  The house has three doors that we use almost equally depending on which part of the land or deck we intend to use, and none of them had sidewalks.  Our busy feet quickly trampled the grass into a muddy mess.  The immediate crisis of muddy children was alleviated by dragging home some pallets from the local hardware store, free to a good home. 


Pallets, free to good home


So the pallets lay for a month.  The kids thought it was fun at first, like jumping on rocks at the local creek.  Bugaloo, the two-year-old, quickly wearied of the long jumps and of the fear that her tiny foot would fall through the cracks.  This was definitely not a safe option, nor a practical one, as the others in the house just started walking in the grass around them! 

 After the pallets were removed


We live in Northwestern Montana, a place once known for its logging industry.  Although there are hauntings of the logging industry, by and large, it is no more.  One such shadow is a small operation on the edge of town, affectionately known as “Tom’s place”.    One day I stopped in.

“Do you have woodchips?”

“Not nice ones.  No one ever wants ‘em.”

“I think I do.  How much are they?”

“No, really.  No one wants these.  They are rough pieces of cedar, not the nice garden variety you get at the hardware store.  These have some greenery in them.”

Now, I happen to know that cedar is terrible for growing anything.  It is terrible for a garden bed, ideal for a walkway!  When he said that no one wanted them, it left him with an ecological dilemma.  He ethically harvests trees for his business, and he wants to see that excellent carbon source used for the maximum benefit of the local land. 

 Cedar Woodchips, straight from the logger


We live rather far out of town, and he was so pleased to find a good home for his cedar woodchips, he delivered a dump truck full for only $30!  That barely covered gas, and certainly didn’t touch the labor of loading and delivering. 


The kids and I spent several sunny days combing our land for just the right sized rocks.  With the snow melting and the much anticipated sunshine, this was a labor of love.  It was a wonderful excuse for all of us to study the nature surrounding us and we made a few discoveries along the way. Ants on our land


I found by studying the rocks on the ground that there was an overgrown flower bed, long forgotten.  My children discovered an unusual variety of ant, and the land and our family officially began the introductions. 


Chaya in front of new path


I have a total of three paths to make.  Free rocks and $30 in mulch.  Sunshine and a job completed—what a wonderful return on our money!




Enjoy your next job well done,





Guest Blog—Tips for Natural Living – Coconut Oil Body Scrub

Title PhotoWelcome Tanya from www.perfectlyflawedwoman.com



Tips for Natural Living – Coconut Oil Body Scrub

In my never ending quest to be as plastic-free as possible, I’ve been taking a closer look at the products our family uses on a daily basis.  Which of them, if not all, can we DIY to eliminate the need to purchase yet another plastic container?  Well, while researching the endless amounts of things that one can do with coconut oil, I came across this recipe by Deliciously organized for a Coconut Oil Body Scrub.  I decided to tweak it a bit and go for it!




1 cup organic raw brown Turbinado sugar
1/3 cup dead sea salts or other sea salt
1/2 cup organic coconut oil
2 tablespoons almond oil
1/2 tablespoon Vitamin E Oil
1/2 cup crushed Lavender Flowers (optional)
5-7 drops Lavender Essential Oil


Coconut Body Scrub in a jar

Combine sugar and salt, then add in oils one at a time checking for consistency. If too dry at the end, add a bit more  coconut oil.  Then mix in any dried flowers and essential oils.  I also love to combine Sweet Orange essential oil with Lavender or for a pick me up scrub use a combination of Peppermint and Rosemary!

This scrub is wonderful in the bath or bath or shower for all your edges and rough parts.  Or by the sink as a nice hand softener. Just rinse with warm water and you’ll have yummy soft skin.

Have fun!

Be sure to check out Tanya’s website and blog: http://perfectlyflawedwoman.com/


Coconut Body Scrub photo

Looking for supplies?  Be sure to check out our Pantry Staples for things like sea salt and spices, & our Kitchen Hardware and Everyday Tools for your everyday kitchen tools!

Canning Ground Beef

Canning Ground Beef

Canning Meat ? Yes!

Using Tattler Lids for meat canning


Home canning meat, especially ground beef, is a simple process.  The canning of meat is unlike acidic tomatoes because you will need to use pressure canner.  Pressure canning beef is the only safe way to do it, since water bath canning does not get to a high enough temperature to keep meat (and other nonacidic foods) safe.  

 We had a meat sale here at the local grocery store, and I wanted to try to duplicate the results from Patrice Lewis’ post about Tattler reuseable canning lids on her blog on meat canning.  I highly recommend getting grass fed meat where you can, but for this post I am just using the prepackaged grocery store fare.

ground beef sale


In full disclosure, I used 6 lbs ground beef because it was what was on sale—Patrice Lewis used ground beef because,

 “ . . . it’s meat, so it requires a high processing time in a pressure canner. And, it’s greasy and nasty and would thus put the maximum amount of stress on the lids.”

Agreed!  Since onions were also on sale (“genius!”) I chopped up two onions into chunks and put them right into the pot.  The onion outer skin (along with any other vegetable scraps in our house) goes out to the compost bin.  


chopped onions


I added salt and pepper to taste as well as parsley.  How much parsley?  Well to quote my Italian aunt, “There is no such thing as too much parsley.” 


seasoned for browning

There are many canning recipes for meat, but I prefer to keep this one simple especially when I am trying to get everything prepared for winter.  After browning the meat, I load it into the canning jars with 1 ½” head space.  It is best to use the hot pack method when home canning meat and fill any remaining space with boiling water up to the 11/2” head space mark.. 

meat packed in jars


In the interest of saving time, I am also prepping the All-American pressure canner with the lid off by warming up the water in the bottom of it.  We personally use the venerable All American Model 921 pressure canner/cooker.  It has the all metal seal and is built to be used for years and years.  Anyone who is apprehensive about the rubber bullet (aka “pressure bomb” canners) that make up the bulk of the horror stories/urban legends revolving around pressure canner mishaps will be amazed at the engineering, craftsmanship and ease of use of the All American brand pressure canners.  I fully intend to leave mine to my children as an heirloom because it is built that well.  Did I mention that it is made in America?

For home meat canning, I recommend the Tattler Reusable Canning Lids.  They work just as well as the lids that you can buy at the grocery or hardware store, but these are reusable and are American made.   They stay in place well and the grease does not prevent a seal under the lids quite like it does with the metal ones.   I put them in hot water for a few minutes before use.  One question we get about the Tattler lids is, “Do I have to heat them up before I use them?”  My answer remains the same, “I can with everything hot.”  My lids, gaskets, canner, water, jars and what I am canning are all hot for safety reasons.


 The instructions are printed right on the box and are easy to follow.  Here is a pictorial:

 Tattler lids and rings


 I religiously wipe off the rims of the jars before putting the lids on the canning jar.

  wipe off the rim


Apply the lids and rings.  Following the directions on the box, the Tattler lids new instructions call for you to screw the lids finger tight—that is it.  If you have any problems with these lids, it will be from omitting this step.  If you screw them on too tightly, it does not allow air to escape.

finger tight


Then put the jars into the canner—simple.  Note: the spacer at the bottom of the canner.  The All American pressure canners come with a very good manual that Chaya and I have read and re-read a dozen times and have out on hand whenever we can (or “jar” if you will). 


Jars in the Canner



Follow the directions for your pressure canner and bring the unit up to boiling.  For our All American Model 921 we wait seven minutes then apply the weight on the top spout.  Note: without the weight, the canner is an “open system” and is not any different from any other pot with a tight fitting lid that you may already own.  We live just over 2000’ altitude and can everything at 15 lbs of pressure. 


Safety tip: When putting the weight on top, please use an oven mitt;

the steam emitted from the canner can burn you.


put weight on with an oven mit


After processing for 90 minutes we now have four jars or just slightly short of 6 lbs of ground beef  perfectly sealed under the Tattler lids.  Since these are made of BPA free plastic they do not have the quintessential “ping” sound as they seal under the ambient atmospheric pressure.  However, if you look at them from the side you can see if they are sealed or not.  Chaya applies the “wiggle test”.  She uses her thumb on the lid to see if it will push or give.  If it does not budge, it is sealed.   I have very few failures with Tattler lids.  And I can pinpoint them to user error—either over-screwing on the ring, or failing to screw the ring on tightly afterwards, etc.  If the lids are good enough for meat canning, then they are certainly good enough to can your other foods as well.


Jars of Properly Canned Beef


Once the jars are removed from the canner I prefer to let them set undisturbed.  An old tip from days gone by is to flip the jars upside down; this seems to be controversial to some.  I have done it both ways with success both ways.

 Before I called this done, I removed the rings and washed the jars gently with dish soap because they will likely be greasy to the touch and have grease especially around the ring . 

 If you are new to canning, or just like to watch someone who really knows what they are doing with canning please visit SimplyCanning.com.  It is run by Sharon who is a good friend to Pantry Paratus.  Whether you have been canning for a day or a decade you can get some very good information from her website. 

 Regarding the finished product: “Oh look at the fat, isn’t that gross?” 

 My answer—“Not really.”  What is in the jar, is what was with the ground beef (20% fat as packaged—I did not add any oil during the process); after the temperature cooled with the cooked product in a clear jar you can now see it. 

 Despite the typical body composition of today’s average process food fed person, if food becomes hard to get, one of the hardest items to get into your diet will be fat. Having your own animals to produce this resource that every healthy body metabolism needs may be the only reliable way to get this into your regular diet.  Store bought industrial processed seed ois wil not last long, go rancid after awhile depending on temperature and humidity and are horrible for you.  JWR has had great results deep freezing olive oil for up to five years.  

Canning meat at home is not hard, anyone can do it.  I recommend having the right tools, and for that it starts with the right pressure canner and quality lids.  Leave a comment if you like on canning meat at your place–we would love to hear from you. 


Pro Deo et Patria


 Pressure canning done in the proper way is safe, but if you do not follow the instructions of your canner, then you will run the risk of serious injury.  We sell, personally use and recommend the All-American pressure canner because it is very well constructed, reliable and very safe—when used properly.

What Did $1.00 Buy?

Meatballs Frying

This was one of our most popular articles from 2011. 

Food Inflation

 Food inflation over time


We were too young, did not listen and we were blissfully happy.  Everyone told us to wait until we were out of college to get married, that it would be better to land good jobs first and do not be in a rush to start a family, “But we really want grandchildren by the way.”  We were 21 years old, headstrong, and in love.  Is that not how the story is told, over and over again?  So Wilson and I were students during the day (I took 21 credit hours to graduate earlier), and he changed tires at an auto store in the evening while I sold clothes.  Both ($6/hr) jobs were at the mall, so I would literally run from my side of the mall to his so that we could see each other on our dinner breaks.  But we made it through the progressive food inflation somehow.

 Life is not much different now—we are still very frugal.  My memory of that first year is so clear—the difficulty of balancing the checkbook and the contents of the cupboard shelves, both were usually simultaneously on empty.  So I will engage in that “yes, I’m old” game of “I remember when…” as we take a look at an inflation marker. We were married in 1998 and one pound ground beef was only $.99 a pound!

Ground Beef

What year did you get married or move out on your own?  Do you remember any of the cost of living prices?  Here’s a reality check: http://www.dollartimes.com/calculators/inflation.htm  You can measure the value of a dollar from one year to the next and see the average rate of inflation. 

 How far did your dollar go then?  For me in 1998, my dollar then requires $1.36 to wield the same purchasing power as I had in my newlywed bliss.  Sigh. 

 What is food inflation?  It depends who you ask.  The number magicians tend to omit the cost of fuel and food when it comes to calculating inflation.  Hmmmmmm, here in reality town the grocery store does not pay much attention to that fuzzy math. 


Broken Piggy Bank

So, it is clear to me that when I look at ground beef or green peppers, a dollar does not buy what it used to—that is the inflation of food prices for you.  Food inflation is real, kind of like I cannot find my keys and I am late to get somewhere—not just perceived as in, “Is it me or has that comic strip has not been funny since Kennedy was president?” 

 Let’s just say that you work a job that allows for an annual raise of 3% yearly to compensate for the rate of inflation, as mine did (prior to becoming a stay-at-home mother).  Many jobs are better than that rate, some are worse, but work with me.  12 x .03 = 36.  That is 36% in 13 years. 

So there you have it: if you have received a consistent 3% raise for every year for the last 13 years, you have kept up with inflation, almost neck to neck.  If your raises do not average that, you have fallen behind the decreasing value of the dollar. 

 To me food inflation is just one more reason to make your kitchen self sufficient.  A bucket of wheat purchased in 2011 will still be good in 2021, 2031 or 2041.  Today it cost $28.00 for 26 pounds—anyone want to take a guess at what it will cost in 2041?  Food inflation is real, but if you are smart with your food shopping you can stock your pantry, grind your own flour (which is much better for you) and come out ahead.  Use coupons, grow your own, buy in bulk—all of these can help you stay ahead of the inflation of food.  Can those green beans in the summer, eat them in the winter and enjoy the savings—you know Grandma used to.   Have a tip on saving at the grocery store?  Please leave a comment!




Photo Credits:

Bag of Beans by Pantry Paratus

Ground Beef by chidseyc  http://www.rgbstock.com/photo/mtLNWJW/sizzle

Piggy Bank by chidseyc  http://www.rgbstock.com/photo/mAbSBWW/Bankcrupt


My Less than Altruistic Motives for Kitchen Self-Sufficiency

Top ten list


Self Sufficiency, it is a goal.  To that end, we started Pantry Paratus to help other people produce, prepare and preserve their own food surplus.

So how do you know when you have gotten there?  What is the definition of self sufficiency?  Do you get there when you reach food self sufficiency?  How about economic self sufficiency? 

It is my goal, so I may never reach complete self sufficiency (as in autonomy), but here are the top ten  reasons why I make the pursuit: 

10.  If I take some time when I might have it then I have worked ahead on my kitchen prep for dinner on those days when I just do not have it in me to get it all done.

Rolling Pin

9.  I am cheap.  Frugal.  Economically inclined.  However you wanna say it. 

Tater Skin Crispies by Kitchen Stewardship
Tater Skin Crispies by Kitchen Stewardship

8.  If my house smells like fresh bread straight from the oven, it does NOT smell like poopy diaper or sweaty boy. 

Challah Bread with Frontier Sesame Seeds
Challah Bread with Frontier Sesame Seeds in Bulk

7.  A garden fresh tomato is not to be compared to the hormonally-ripened red replicas you buy in the grocery store.  And since I ca not grow them all year around, dehydrating or canning them gives me that instant mental vacation back to summer days. 


bowl of tomatoes

6.  Most of my daily tasks do not result in immediate gratification; a row of cooling jars on the counter from an hour in the canner, now THAT is something I can see!


5. Most of my daily tasks do not require a great deal of skill (diapers, dishes, laundry), and I enjoy trying a new recipe or developing new skills to stretch myself.


4. I want my sons to marry girls who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and who know how to work hard.  I figure I probably ought to model that for them. 

carrots potatoes from garden

3. I want my daughter to be feminine, yet rugged in her ability to work from sun-up to sundown (and in a Northwest Montanan summer, that’s saying something) and I figure I probably ought to model that for her. 

Chaya building the goat shed
Chaya building the goat shed

2.  I still love to wiggle my naked toes in cool dirt.  I still love to eat produce straight out of the garden, unwashed.  My kids do too; these are the memories of summer.

1. I get better and faster at these skills as I go, and I can whip something up to wow last-minute dinner guests with very little effort! 

Gluten-Free Nacho Pizza
Gluten-Free Nacho Pizza

Self Sufficiency, it is a worthy goal.  What are your reasons?  Leave a comment below!



Photos Credits:

Rolling Pin by scottchan http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1701″

Tomato by Simon Howden http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=404

Carrots by Simon Howden http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=404