Off-Grid Micro-Hydro Homestead

Off-Grid Micro-Hydro homestead

Microhydro Electricity Unplugged



Microhydro, its simplicity is so attractive.  So, you have always wanted to do it . . . go off grid and be self-sufficient.   What does it actually take?  From everyone I have spoken to who actually has done it, the answer seems to be, “Take your estimated cost for time, energy and money and triple it.” 

 Still reading this? 

Continue reading Off-Grid Micro-Hydro Homestead

Feeding Pets Organically (& Deleting Corn from their Diet)

Feeding pets Organically

Although humans are eating more fresh fruits and vegetables as a part of our organic diet plan, this should also include our four-legged friends. Especially in the shadow of growing concerns and recent reports of pet poisoning from imported animal foods and treats, we need to be more conscious and aware of what we’re putting into our pet’s dishes. This is why we should all be feeding pets more organically.

Continue reading Feeding Pets Organically (& Deleting Corn from their Diet)

5 Things You Didn’t Know Before Reading This Blog

5 Things You Didn't Know Before Reading This Blog--Pantry Paratus

This blog is a shameless plug for my favorite winter pastime–snuggling up in fuzz gear with my favorite tea and a good read.  Now, I’m not much of a fiction reader, although I do enjoy a good classic now and again.  The truth is that my time is shredded in 10 different directions on any given day, and I have to make the most of my reading indulgence during the winter so that I am better equipped for summertime food production, preparation, and preservation.

Continue reading 5 Things You Didn’t Know Before Reading This Blog

Healthy Food for a Healthy Dog

Healthy Food for a Healthy Dog

Guest Post by Allie Coleman

Allie gives us great tips, and reminds us that the needs of your pooch might change over time.  Please welcome Allie to Pantry Paratus by leaving a comment with your thoughts.  Also, be sure to check out some great dog food recipes at the end!

Healthy Food for a Healthy Dog

Making sure your dog gets regular meals is part of keeping him healthy, but how do you choose the best food for him? With so many options on store shelves, knowing which kind to get can be confusing. The following tips can make it easier for you to determine the healthiest food to purchase.

Take Age and Health into Consideration

Your dog’s age and overall health are the first thing to consider. If your dog is a puppy or senior, make sure you get dog foods that are designed for these age groups. These foods contain the nutrients that a growing puppy or an older dog need. If your dog has any dietary restrictions or health problems, talk to your vet about which ingredients your dog should avoid.

Read Labels Carefully

Look for dog foods that claim to provide complete nutrition and a balanced diet, but don’t take that at face value. A dog food that does provide this should have a statement on it that says the food meets the nutritional standards of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This statement means that the food contains at least the minimum nutrient amounts required for a diet that’s balanced and complete.

As for the ingredients, look for dog foods that contain higher amounts of protein. The label should list the protein amount, and you can also tell by looking at the ingredients list. The first few ingredients should be sources of protein, such as chicken or venison. While meat byproducts might not sound appetizing, they can provide your dog with good nutrition.

What to Avoid

Avoid foods with high amounts of grains, which serve as fillers rather than nutritious ingredients. Also, stay away from foods with BHA, ethoxyquin or BHT, which could be harmful to your dog.

The author: Allie Coleman is the founder of the doggy bloggy startup:

  Read More:  How to Properly Store Pet Food

Dog Food Recipes

 Around the homestead, we know the value of utilizing every ounce of nutrition out of a butchered animal–even the ounces that we ourselves do not eat.  Stretching a dollar, placing a high value on nutrition and performance…whatever your reasons may be, here are some excellent homemade dog food recipes that nourish your pooch!

A Return to Simplicity

Angi from A Return to Simplicity explains the importance of real food, and how the switch to a more nutrient-dense style of feeding also resulted in cost savings, simply by sourcing wholesome ingredients from their own homestead and butchering.

Prepper's Guide to Homemade Dog Food

Erica from Mom Prepares guides towards what we need to know in preparing homemade dog food. She also expresses the sentiment we do here at Pantry Paratus–that to be truly prepared, you will need to know the “DIY” of the thing…and yes, that applies to pet nutrition too!  If you were unable to purchase dog food, what healthy alternatives will you have? It’s a great time to practice these skills.

Bacon Dog Treats

Rebecca from Letters from Sunnybrook gives us her recipe, but I must confess–bacon doesn’t last long on the plate at our house so I’m not certain it’ll get as far as into this recipe.  Her use of bacon fat, though, is something I will have to incorporate in the future!  Wilson used to make homemade dog treats for our boxers, but his recipe stank horribly–I do believe that this one will smell like a country breakfast on a summer day!

Whether purchasing or making pet food, your pet is depending on you for proper nutrition.  We know you love your pets as much as they love you; so let’s all make deliberate choices for our four legged friends.




posted on Sunday, February 15, 2015 6:14:28 PM America/Denver

I am happy to be seeing more articles and blogs on making your own dog food and treats. I have started doing this. One day I went to Walmart and started looking at the dog and cat foods. I stood there exasperated and another lady in the aisle started laughing. She said that she had been going through the bags and cans for over 20 minutes and couldn’t find anything on the ingredient lists that didn’t start out with corn!


posted on Sunday, February 15, 2015 6:19:42 PM America/Denver

Very good article! I’m glad more people are coming to their senses regarding pet food. I have started making my own healthy treats for our dogs and they really enjoy them!


posted on Wednesday, February 18, 2015 11:47:23 PM America/Denver

When it comes to health of my dog, I am very much concerned about his diet, his daily schedule which includes eating, This article has helped me learn a lot more about the precautions that I need to take care of while choosing the right food and what to consider according to the dog’s age. I read a lot over the internet and I came across your article where I encountered some great dog health tips. I am thankful to you for sharing this article because it helped me to learn something new which I was not aware of. Keep posting such articles.

4 Steps to Sanity: Setting Priorities for a Healthy Homesteading Life

4 Tips to Sanity: Setting Priorities for a Healthy Homesteading Life

4 Tips to Sanity


I surprise people when they discover I’m an introvert; I am a bit overdramatic in storytelling and the first to show up, with dessert in hand, to every party.  But here are some personality traits common to most successful homesteaders:  I draw my strength from being alone, and I measure the day by its’ accomplishments.  Even yet, my thirst for life often takes me everywhere from sewing costumes at midnight just days before the performance, to baking 4 dozen cupcakes for the car wash & bake sale. Can you relate? Continue reading 4 Steps to Sanity: Setting Priorities for a Healthy Homesteading Life

Pantry Paratus: Garden Tour 2014

Pantry Paratus:

Garden Tour 2014

We are on a family vacation deep in the Rocky Mountains, and I am often struck at the gardening contrasts found within our beautiful country.  Ohio’s peonies are replaced with Georgia’s Gardenias; Florida’s Birds of Paradise are replaced with Colorado’s “rock gardens.”  We are a diverse nation.  I asked our facebook and blogging friends to share their favorite garden spots with us so that we can tour the nation!


Jared, a friend who happens to run J & J Acres, shares his zinnias with us.  He is a true permaculturist at heart and reminds us that permaculture means so much more than just traditional food crops.  He says, “Growing flowers, like Zinnia, has multiple uses in a vegetable garden. They are, of course, beautiful to look at, but also bring in a lot of pollinators, like butterflies. Best of all, you can even clip a few to bring inside your home as well!”

 Zinnias at J&J Acres

And just as Jared hopes to educate others to positive food production, so does Christina, who works with the younger set.  I’d like to do the garden tour if that’s okay. Christina in Oklahoma is teaching her daycare kids to grow their own food with her opus, “Little Sprouts Learning.”

Little Sprouts

 I recently found some great advice on Green Talk about how to get rid of unwanted garden visitors, and began admiring her beautiful squash, which did its part in converting her to square foot gardening–you will have to check out Anna’s blog to see all of her great pictures and advice.  I was, however, wondering why I have never tried to grow daikon radishes when I saw this picture! It’s gotta go on my garden list for next year!

Green Talk

 Halfway Oak Farm tried a new method of gardening this year – raised beds. It was such a success, they have enough harvest to fill their pantry through the winter. Next year they plan to triple the number of beds. 


Halfway Oak Farm

Donna and I have something in common this gardening season–our eggplant!  Hers are still blooming in the Phoenix desert, whereas ours are about the size of your palm in Montana. She says, “Here in the desert, eggplant is one of the few crops that grows best in August.”  Read about her gardening adventures at Sharing Life’s Abundance.

Eggplant Blossom

 Erica from says “Plant it and they will come!” as she plugs flowers into the corners of her garden beds in hopes they’ll attract honeybees to pollenate her vegetables. And hey, they’re pretty to look at too!

Mom Prepares


Along with Erica, Samantha is doing her part to encourage the birds & bees.  Samantha at Runamuk Acres in Maine plants herbs and flowers with her vegetables as part of her companion planting strategy; and also to benefit her honeybees and local native pollinators!

Runamok Acres

Vegetables combine with flowers and herbs in Teri’s garden to create a overspilling hodge podge of edibles and soul-nourishing ornamentals. This garden was created using the sheet mulching, or lasagna gardening technique, which she writes about here. This was her garden in early July!

Homestead Honey Garden

Oh, there is so much to love on this garden tour, but this next picture is the most inspiring one yet (to me personally, anyway).  One Acre Farm entered their bounty of everything from vegetables to eggs to maple syrup to extracts, in their local agricultural fair, and pulled off second place in the Farm Products Display!

One Acre Farm

It’s always great to be reminded we can produce so much even with little space! Nicole may not have a huge garden, but she is doing everything she can to homestead right where they are to help supplement their pantry! By the way, she’s pretty convinced it’s gonna be a good year for salsa. 

Little Blog on the Homestead

Andrea from LittleBigHarvest gardens in all the nooks and crannies she can find on her 1/6 acre. Her favorite spot is the sunny south wall of the house, where there are currently tomatoes, peppers, onions, kale, kohlrabi, ghost..jalapeno…habanero peppers, cabbage, green beans, and plenty of herbs! Check out her latest projects here.

Little Big Harvest

The next garden is a little closer to home for Pantry Paratus, a Montanan–Annie and her family–put in a 7,000 square foot dream garden at their new homestead and planted close to 100 tomato plants to make homemade salsa, tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, and more! You just have to see more of what there are doing here.

Montana Homesteader

I hope that you are inspired.  And for those who may be beginners, I highly recommend starting with herbs!  You can get nearly immediate satisfaction and a new beginner can grow and preserve enough to enjoy their bounty throughout the upcoming year.  They are practical and reap a lot of economic benefits, especially considering the outrageous price they charge for fresh herbs in the grocery store.  So, to complete the tour, let’s look at 2 herb gardens.

It’s no secret that I’m an admirer of the gardens you will find at The Organic Kitchen.  Look at these herbs!

The Organic Kitchen

My friend Tessa from has this to say when I asked her for a recommendation on getting started:

“If you’re looking to start an herb garden this year or augment your existing herbal patch, mint is a wonderful addition to the garden.  Mint is easy to grow (although it does like to be damp-ish) and, once its established, you may discover it taking over if you’re not vigilant.  The flavor of mint may just be the most widely recognizable herbal flavor in the world.  From toothpaste to candy, you’ll find mint in many edible items.  It also lends itself well to handmade cosmetics and to home remedies for tummy aches and sore throats.  With a wide range of minty flavors (chocolate and orange being two examples), every gardener is bound to find a mint variety that appeals them.”


Spearmint by Homestead Lady

Let’s go grow something,


Pantry Paratus hopes to encourage you to produce, prepare, and preserve your own harvest.  Check out our full catalog of kitchen self-sufficiency supplies!

All photos were used with permission from the blog associated with each one, respectively.  Please honor these hard working homesteaders by enjoying their photos without taking them.

10 Reasons Why I Bother Homesteading

apple tree in bloom


Wilson milking cow

It isn’t glorious, glittery, or glamorous.  Hard work and empty pockets.  So why do I bother? 

 This is not philosophical, discussing the next generation raised in an agrarian society or any such thing.  This has far more to do with the taste of a real tomato.

10 reasons I homestead:


1.  Daily life has many sides.  From creativity to accounting, to creative accounting; the need for ingenuity and need for routine,  even ingenious routine…I  actively use both sides of my brain.

  Homesteading requires both sides of your brain!

2. No one’s egg tastes better than the ones I find under the wheelbarrow or in the playhouse. 

Farm Fresh Eggs 

 No other apple rivals that from the tops of my own trees.

 One of our apple trees


  3. I have a constant awareness of just how small, minute, and meaningless I am as an individual in comparison to the marvels of Creation.

 Keeping Perspective

I have a constant awareness of how much the little things matter.

Both extremes keep everything else in perspective.


 4. I know what I am eating.  I can pronounce it.  I can recreate it.  Heck, I probably even named it.

 I know where my food comes from.

 5. Duty.  I am fulfilling a rather joyful obligation to take care of the earth (man’s first directive from God himself). Some do this with a flower box on a balcony, I do this on the side of a hill, but we can all take part in this one.

 6. I have something to show for my work at the end of a day.  Often, anyway.


  7. I have no commute, no big city monthly parking fee, no homeowner’s association & no need for a gym membership.


No commute, no traffic

8. I get to play in the dirt.

  9. I have always loved the combined smell of wet grass and manure, ever since I was a little girl.  Who’s with me on this one?

 Alternatively… the smell of the early spring blooms, the buzz and hum of the birds and bees working hard towards that end.  The slightest breeze, the gentle beginnings of a summer rain. The taste of the carrot straight from the ground, the tomato from vine-to-mouth…the happy honking of a goose or the taily-wag of an excited outdoor companion…these are the things that construct my day as I homestead.

 Carrots, Potatoes from Garden

 10.  I know where my food comes from, and I know what to do with it!



*Catch the next blog (a continuation, of sorts): Homesteading: 10 Things I Have Learned 


Nothing in this blog constitutes medical advice.  You should consult your own physician before making any dietary changes.  Statements in this blog may or may not be congruent with current USDA or FDA guidance.



Photo Credits:

Unless otherwise stated, all photos are property of Pantry Paratus.  Feel free to share them on your social media, but please keep proper attribution.


“lapolab” via photopin cc



Breaking in a New Cast Iron Pan

 I have to say that I love cast iron and use it for just about everything. 

It seems to play well with my thrifty nature in that if properly cared for it can be given to my great-grandchildren.  Other than being durable, it is in its own way, beautiful.  I love how it hangs on the rack in our kitchen.

cast iron skillet

“Anything that holds food and transfers heat can be considered cookware. . . . ideally [cookware] would heat up quickly, distribute the heat evenly, retain the heat well, and respond quickly to changes in temperature.  Unfortunately, no such material exists” (Joachim & Schloss, p. 160).

 American made cast iron is such a rich tradition that traces back to the very roots of Yankee ingenuity.  Take for example our favorite hand crank appliances made by Chop Rite Two in Pennsylvania.  These truly are built like family heirlooms that can be used for generations, not to mention that all spare parts are available for sale separately.  As a personal policy, whenever I see cast iron at a thrift store, it generally is coming home with us.  Take this recent score, a cast iron pot with lid which will certainly be used over the campfire this summer. 

 cast iron pan

 Whether it comes to pan frying, deep fat frying, campfire cooking, baking, braising or broiling—a good cast iron pan just cannot be beat.  So this week we decided to add one more to the fleet, and bought a new Lodge brand pan (also made in America). 

While I have always been satisfied with the way that cast iron performs when it is heated up, getting it to that temperature can take longer and there is a good reason for that.  “cast iron is only a fair heat conductor (about four times slower than aluminum), but it retains heat well and has a high melting point, making it excellent for high-heat cooking” (Joachim & Schloss, p. 162).


new cast iron skillet

 First off, the question of how to clean cast iron comes up quite a bit.  For an initial cleaning (right home from the store) I will use dish soap and water.  The Lodge cast iron products come already seasoned, but I still want to clean off any yucky stuff picked up in transit or while on display. 

For daily use I typically just wipe out the pan and hang it up until it is used again, avoiding using soap at all—and never put it in the dishwasher.  This can be done largely because we cook with saturated fats or olive oil (although typically not for high heat cooking).  For stuck on food bits, you can try coarse salt or citric acid, or a cup or so of beer simmering in the bottom of the pan does wonders but the definitive treatment on cast iron can be found here in a great article by Paul Wheaton.  Also, here is a great video post from Jocelyn Campbell on how to restart a cast iron pan:

Now let us talk about how to season a cast iron item.  I typically like to do it by cooking with saturated fats, like bacon for example.  As it turned out, the kids were also grooving on BLT’s for lunch, so it was a win-win all the way around. 


bacon in a cast iron skillet

 The synergy between real lard (not the fake stuff) and cast iron is legendary. 

 lard in a cast iron skillet

 Over time, the cast iron skillet will build up a “seasoning” that coats and protects the pan in a way that no non-stick coating ever could as well as help to transfer heat more evenly throughout the pan.  A good seasoning layer does take time to develop. 

One faster method involves coating the cast iron pan with oil, and baking it upside down in an oven at 350°F for two hours (over a baking sheet because it will drip), recoating the cast iron every 30 minutes with fresh oil. 

Now, I normally agree with everything that Joachim and Schloss say in their great book, The Science of Good Food—except perhaps on this point where they say to use highly unsaturated oils like canola, corn or vegetable (soy) to coat the cast iron.  With that last part I would explicitly disagree as those oils are dangerous in the body over time, and saturated fats like those in animal products are far superior. 


saturated fat at room temperature

Cast iron is pretty forgiving and so after I cook something like bacon or lard and I am trying to season the pan for its first couple of runs, I will just cover the cast iron skillet and set it aside.  Remember, saturated fats are highly stable so unless you cooked something really wonky in there, it will be fine.  You can even cover the cast iron pan and put it in the fridge if that suits.  The key is to keep the oil in contact with the pan for awhile.  The repeated heat cycles is what helps to impregnate the cast iron with the oil; “when the oil heats with the metal, it polymerizes, or forms a dense plastic-like layer that keeps out oxygen and prevents rusting” (Joachim & Schloss, p. 160).



If you have a question about cast iron your want to leave a comment about how it worked for you we would love to hear it. 


Pro Deo et Patria


All photos by Pantry Paratus


Works Cited:

Joachim, D., & Schloss, A. (2008). The science of good food. (p. 160). Toronto: Robert Rose.