My New Fav Gardening Tool – and it’s Made in the USA!

Summer is here in Oklahoma. Meaning it’s 1000 hot! It’s when our outdoor chores are done early in the morning before the blistering breathtaking heat begins to bear down. Spring and early Summer brought rain and more rain. In Oklahoma we never complain about too much rain, but this year we’ve come close. Gully washers blew in while trying to plant my garden. I had such high hopes this year for a good garden but much smaller than the banner garden we had last year. Too Many Projects (I’m ready for Fall!) I’m thankful for such a bountiful harvest that we canned enough for two years!

After the garden was planted, the rain came, then more rain, more weeds, mud too deep to weed and no garden. Does anyone with a blog admit failure? But, when one door closes another one opens. I focused on weeding my neglected flower beds. I was determined to keep ahead of the weeds. But I needed the right tool. I’m a lazy gardener, if there is such a thing, so it had to be easy to use. After some research, I found this wonderful little tool made by Craftsman, made in the U.S.A and sold by Lowes for under $20. An area off my back porch, about 4′ x 10′, was completely overtaken with weeds. I was interrupted several times so it’s hard to give an exact time to clear it, but about 30 minutes. Not bad! To see it in action, click on this link https://youtu.be/_alpK6kOaZ0

I haven’t given up on a garden yet. I’ve never had a Fall garden. By the time canning season is over, I’m done. This might be the year for the Fall garden. I better get busy, early, when it’s cool….er.

Hollywood Comes to the Prairie

Pawhuska, the capital of Osage County, and nearby Fairfax is buzzing with people and activity now that Killers of the Flower Moon The Dark Past of the Osage Comes to Life is finally in movie production. Tourists and snoops (that would be me) have invaded hoping to catch a glimpse of Leonardo DiCaprio. The Mercantile, owned by Ree Drummond a.k.a. Pioneer Woman, is crowded with fans enjoying the fine dining hoping to take a picture with Ree, Ladd or his Dad, Chuck Drummond.

Security is everywhere and movie back drops are hidden from view. John and I discovered a group of men on horses waiting for their scene. This cowboy noticed John’s ball cap with Marine insignia, thanked him for his service and asked what division he served. The cowboy, also a Veteran, served in Afghanistan and Iraq with the Marines. He drove from Utah with his horse and mules to be a part of the production.

The weather was nice for onlookers but probably very hot for women in long dresses, cowboys in vests and chaps, and WW1 veterans in wool uniforms.

Lots of classic cars everywhere in good running condition!

The Railroad Station in Fairfax, no longer in operation, was recreated in Pawhuska.

Some filming action is taking place in Fairfax. This reproduction of a Catholic Church is actually built over the Nazarene Church.

I didn’t see any signs of Leonardo. They’re keeping him well hidden from public view. Filming continues so perhaps I’ll have another chance!

©2016-2021, RaeAnn Stone

Stocking the Pantry; Saving Money

My prepping philosophy is buy foods that we routinely eat and restock the pantry as needed, rather than purchasing the dried meal types or MRE’s. I want food on hand that we will actually eat and enjoy and allow me to take advantage of sales.

I recently wrote in Prepping for Polar Express 2021 about Gossner boxed milk that has a shelf life for one year and tastes like real milk. Keeping the pantry stocked eliminates last minute trips to the store.

I’m very excited about my latest find, Keystone Meats. Canned meats in our house has been limited to tuna, Spam and the occasional chicken. Keystone Meats is a family owned business since WWII. A cattle rancher, Raymond Dorley from Lima, Ohio added a meat packing company to his ranch. Raymond’s son, Dave expanded their operation to a small USDA approved cannery. Their processing facility, butcher shop and cannery is still in Lima, Ohio but their retail market has expanded all over the United States.

They choose lean cuts of meat to can, add just a little sea salt and no water. That’s it! Here is a link to their canning process. https://youtu.be/p40gaCou2Qs

Quality and convenience is great, but is it worth the money? I did a little research. How does Keystone Meats compare to purchasing and cooking it yourself? I first needed to determine an approximate shrinkage rate of the meat after cooking. I went to https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=44103 to get some help. The USDA actually tests this!

MeatShrinkage Raw WeightCan WeightCost Fresh1Cost Can1
2Beef13%1.98lb.28 ounces$12.94$6.98
3Chicken12.8%2.00lb.28 ounces$ 6.80$6.28
4Pork10.1%1.94 lb.28 ounces$5.88$6.28
5Turkey9.3%1.94 lb.28 ounces$4.56$6.28
80% gr. beef20%2.125lb.28 ounces$7.03$6.28

I was surprised at how economical the canned meats are in comparison to buying at the store and cooking at home. This does not take into account savings on electricity for the freezer, gas to the grocery store and cooking fuel. I like that I can have this on hand in case of an emergency, unexpected guests and a quick meal is needed and it saves on freezer space. I love that I know where this product comes from which fits into my Buy USA Plan, I’ve Accepted The Challenge – Will you?

I bought cans of each variety based on the excellent reviews across several sights. The biggest complaint for Amazon and Walmart was receiving dented cans. I have to report that at least Walmart paid attention. It was well wrapped and all cans were fine.

The final test is how does it taste? We enjoy bar-b-que pork sandwiches and it’s a quick fix, so this is where I started. Upon opening the can, I saw a small bit of fat, about 1 teaspoon, indicating the meat used was lean. I drained about 1 cup of natural pork broth which can be saved for soups and gravies. The meat did not have a salty taste as often canned meats do. It was quite good and I’ll probably be able to get about 5-6 nice sandwiches per can. I think next time I will add a little broth back to increase the moistness. I can’t wait to try the chicken, beef, ground beef and turkey. If I need recipe ideas, I can always visit Keystone’s website. https://keystonemeats.com/

We’re planning on doing some rv camping this summer and this will be the perfect thing to take along for quick and simple meals. Oh and I don’t get any payment for this. I just enjoy passing on a new find!

  1. Prices from our local Walmart
  2. Used price of chuck roast for the comparison.
  3. Skinless, boneless breast
  4. Tyson All Natural Ribeye Boneless Loin Roast
  5. Butterball Turkey Breast

Black Gold Discovered!

Not oil, even though I live in the oil rich State of Oklahoma, but almost as good. Recently, I wrote that I wanted to go to a mushroom farm that sells mushroom compost to use in our garden this year. Garden Dreaming I still think it would be a great soil additive, but it would involve a long drive for us. Why do this when in my own backyard, one of the richest sources of fertilizer is free for the taking?

Compared to other manure sources, rabbit manure is rich in Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium.

Manure TypeN Nitrogen % P Phosphorus %K Potassium %
Rabbit2.41.4.6
Cow.6.4.5
Horse.7.3.6
Pig.8.7.5
Chicken1.1.8.5
Sheep.7.3.9
Comparison of Average NPK for Animal Manures1

Some Like it Hot, Some Like it Cold

Many sources online report that rabbit manure can be applied fresh without composting. They call it a “cold manure” because it will not burn your plants. The other animal manures are considered “hot” and must be composted before use in the garden.2Still other sources state that because urine and hay are usually mixed with the rabbit manure, it’s best to go ahead and compost to prevent diseases such as E Coli and Salmonella. You decide. It seems many are using it fresh with good results.

Tea Anyone?

I’ve never made a compost or manure tea but seems like all the bloggers are singing it’s virtues. Supposedly it’s a rich organic fertilizer that helps prevent bad pathogens. I’m a simple kind of gardener (lazy) and the easier the better. Making Compost manure is a more complicated procedure than spreading and tilling in fresh rabbit manure. I won’t go into the steps here as they’re all over the internet. I try to get my information from College Agricultural Departments that actually do studies on these kind of things and it looks like not only can the results be questionable, but even harmful.3

I’ll go the simpler route. If you’ve used rabbit manure or tea, I’d love to hear about your results.

1“Bunny honey: Using rabbit manure as a fertilizer.” Dixie Sandborn. Michigan State
University Extension, September 1, 2016.
https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/bunny_honey_using_rabbit_manure_as_a_fertilizer

2 “Animal Manure” Kathy Wolfe, November 13, 2020. https://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/2073/2020/11/Animal-Manure-in-the-Garden.pdf

3https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/good-growing/2019-08-14-compost-tea-miracle-product-or-snake-oil

Spring Has Arrived!

Spring has arrived swimming up the creek behind our property. Sand Bass meet once a year for a week long mating party, hundreds of them. We make sure we crash the party and invite them to our house for a big fish fry.

Southern gal that I am, they have to be fried with homemade tartar sauce, fried potatoes, corn bread and a dollop of pickled green tomatoes on the side. The pickled green tomatoes were canned from the end of last year’s abundant tomato harvest.

I have to get busy cutting up fish filets but thought I would include a couple of recipes:

Southern Fried Fish

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 cup white flour

1 cup corn meal

Lowrys Seasoning Salt to taste

Fish filets

Vegetable Oil – enough to fill about 1 inch in a frying pan

Cast Iron Skillet

  1. Heat oil in cast iron skillet.
  2. Mix white flour and corn meal together in flat bottom dish or gallon size bag.
  3. Rinse fish in water and dredge in flour mixture
  4. Add fish to pan after testing oil with a drop of oil. It should sizzle.
  5. When fish starts to float in oil and is slightly brown, turn with tongs to cook other side.
  6. Remove fish to paper towel lined platter and lightly dust with Lowry’s.

Tartar Sauce

2 cups Miracle Whip

1/4 cup diced onions

1/4 cup chopped dill pickles

Lowry’s to taste – about 1/8th teaspoon

Mix together. Slather on as desired.

Yum!

Buy USA Plan Update – How’s it working for me?

I recently made a commitment to buy products made in the USA I’ve Accepted The Challenge – Will you? Having the internet has made it easier to research, but more time consuming than just going to Walmart or Amazon, finding the best price and reviews, press the button and done, package on it’s way!

I haven’t been successful in every case. In a recent emergency, I just made the purchase because it was a serious health issue. The current Covid pandemic brought the seriousness of lack of USA medical personal protection devices to light. This also extends to thermometers and oxygen meters.

Another problem is–Coffee. I have a serious coffee addiction. To support my habit I buy large 30 ounce cans of whatever is on sale and stock up. Brazil, Vietnam, Columbia and Indonesia are the top 4 coffee producers. There is no “Made in the USA” when it comes to coffee. Fair Trade Coffee is an option that I’m currently researching. Fair Trade Coffee helps support farmers from wildly fluctuating coffee prices to provide a stable price to provide a living wage for the farmer and his family. https://www.fairtradecertified.org/ gives a good explanation of the details. Even my local Walmart has a good collection of Fair Trade Coffees including Newman’s Own, Ethical Bean and Seattle’s Best. Yes, the price is higher than my discount brands but I can drink less and also waste less.

Success

I am thrilled that Dollar Tree has Gossner’s Boxed Milk back in stock. I’m not a fan of powdered milk so this has been my go to prepper’s milk for the last few years. It has a real milk taste and has a year shelf life. Gossner Foods is a family owned business with locations in Utah and Idaho. The boxes come in quart sizes. I can order a case of 12 for $12 online thru Dollar Tree and have it shipped to their store location for free. My order came just in time before our recent snow storm hit. Prepping for Polar Express 2021 What a relief to have on hand when the roads are bad!

These Keen soft toe work shoes are made in the U.S.A. They are more expensive but are very sturdy and well made. John is very hard on shoes working on the ranch, welding, and chopping cedar trees.

Can a Buy USA plan be done? Yes and No. Some purchases, such as parts for John’s Mahindra tractor (bought used) requires foreign parts. Should we give up? No. If I can achieve a 90% buy USA, and buy used when options are not available or out of our price limit or buy from a country that does not use slavery for the remaining 10%, then I have come a long ways to stop my family’s support of slave labor.

I would like to hear about your successes and failures to Buy Made in the USA.

Prepping for Polar Express 2021

Frigid temperatures (for Oklahoma) have been with us for a week. We’re looking at 10 to 12 inches of snow this weekend with below zero temps. Extended cold weather for weeks is new for us. It was our native Will Rogers who said, “If you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma, wait a minute and it’ll change.”

However, dramatic and severe weather events are expected; deadly tornadoes, daily earthquakes, extended droughts, devastating fires, and the dreaded ice storms. We’ve learned to be prepared for anything. Yes, there is still those who make last minute runs to the grocery store to stock up, even if it’s going to be just a little snow event, which is gone the next day. Because we live in a rural area with a large household, we can’t wait until the last minute.

Heat

Frigid weather with ice, always a possibility, means losing electric is always a concern. In 2011 we lost electric for 14 days. Because we have a gas welder/generator, we kept power without any loss of food. Having a supply of gasoline to run the generator is important if we’re unable to get out on the roads to get more . We have propane heat and a stove that does not require an electric start. We know we’ll stay warm and can eat hot food.

Water

We’re on well water that depends on an electric pump. An automatic heater is kept in our well house to prevent frozen and busted pipes. I would love to have a hand pump but we have a very deep well and it’s not practical. I keep a supply of water stored in our storm cellar for short term outages. We also fill up our large bathtub if it looks like the electric going out is a real possibility. This will get us by for a day but with 9 people, rabbits and chickens, we’ll have to hookup the generator.

Animals

This is the first year I’ve put egg laying chickens in a movable pen that includes a small chicken house. I’ve raised broilers on the pasture but they were only out for less than 5 weeks during early summer. I don’t have a source of heat available to the pen. Their house has a door that we can shut at night and this does help but it means we’re going out to the pasture every morning and night to open and shut the door. Right now it also means several trips to break ice and provide drinkable water. Next year a traditional pen needs to be built before Winter. Laying pellets and scratch is bought in bulk and stored in 50 gallon rubber barrels.

Food

Because we’re a hunting family with land nearby, we’ve been blessed to put venison in the freezer each Fall. I try to stock up on other sources of meat during the year when I find a sale. We’ll also raise a steer or pig occasionally to add to our freezer. This Fall we killed the roosters from our baby chicks we purchased in the Spring. Tougher than hens, the roosters make great chicken and dumplings! We have a good supply of canned fruits and vegetables.

I don’t care for the taste of powdered milk but Gossner Foods Foods produces boxed milk that is shelf stable for at least 6 months. I really like the taste and it prevents last minute runs to the grocery store when we’re out of milk. Dollar Tree sells this in their stores for $1.00 a quart or $12 a case online. I order online and have it delivered to their store for free shipping. During most of the pandemic I was unable to order online. Recently I noticed it was back in stock and purchased 2 cases that I picked up just in time.

Neighbors and Family

Last minute calls were made to our “city family and friends”, who don’t always live by the weather, to make sure they are ready. Many were, some weren’t. Most of our neighbors have been out here for years and are prepared. Some are living pretty thin and need a little more help. We’re a community and try to help each other. Even though my nearest neighbors are a mile or so away from me in all directions, I know them so much better than I knew my next door neighbors in town.

It’s not a totally perfect plan. We get lazy and put things off, but we have the basics in place. Then we trust the Lord for the things we did plan and the things we forgot.

I’ve Accepted The Challenge – Will you?

Saving money to attain the goal of early retirement was a big goal for me, one that I achieved in 2012. My mentors were Amy Dacyczyn , author of The Tightwad Gazette Newsletter and Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin, authors of Your Money or Your Life. Commuting 90 minutes a day to a stressful job and coming home to my second shift was draining away the joy of life.

Trying to accomplish a goal of cutting family income by more than half, may call for drastic measures. I have no problem shopping in thrift stores. It’s a great way to keep items out of the landfill while providing useful items at a lower price. Making meals at home and eating out less is another way to eat healthier foods and save money. Cooking is back in style during Covid. My husband and I enjoy simple foods so this is not a big loss.

The technique of shopping for the lowest price is where a huge problem can develop. I definitely believe in price shopping for groceries, clothes, electronics, everything! We pay less for computers and electronics than we did 10 years ago. Some of this is due to improved technology, but primarily to outsourced manufacturing to countries with cheap (slave) labor. This is not new news, but we’ve started feeling the real cost when items needed during Covid, prescription drugs and personal protection equipment were no longer available. Our government realized bad economic and trade policy encouraged manufacturers to leave the U.S.A. for cheaper labor.

After WW2, our parents and grandparents answered the call from the U.S. government to plant Victory Gardens due to a transportation shortage. Over 20 million answered that call. Our problem today? We (me) have an addiction to cheap goods made in foreign countries on the backs of slaves. We cry out rightly of the injustice of slavery in America, but we turn a blind eye to the nameless invisible slaves who work 15 to 17 hours a day with little food or income to support our addiction. 1

My challenge is to purchase every item, as much as possible, produced and manufactured in America. This takes research, planning and in some cases, deciding not to buy at all. During Covid, supporting the local neighborhood business is critical to it’s survival.

To research purchases, the following internet sites are a good start:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Food_manufacturers_of_the_United_States

Walmart appears to be making an attempt to go back to it’s Made in America roots started by it’s founder, Sam Walton. It has pledged to purchase 250 billion in American made products by 2023. 2 Walmart appears to have made human rights a priority in their buying of foreign goods and this is encouraging. 3

Local thrift shops that support churches or missions are good alternatives.

As a Christian, I still want to support the poor in other countries. One of the ways I can do this is help free them of sweat shop slavery. Opportunity International is a Christian organization that provides education and micro loans for small business and agriculture. https://opportunity.org/ According to Charity Navigator their program expense ratio is 92.11% which is very good. I’m sure there are other organizations that do the same.

Shopping with good stewardship will be a little more time consuming than find best price, click and buy method, but I will be voting with my dollars saying “No” to worker abuse and “Yes” to supporting our local economy.

Save a Tree-Repurpose a Gift Bag

I always enjoy finding a new frugal hack. No one has ever accused me of being a spendthrift. I’m painting my tired wood kitchen cabinets. They’re solid wood and worth updating. I started this project in warmer weather but have brought the painting inside.

I needed to cover my kitchen table to use as my painting table so I asked John if he had a tarp I could use. He had saved the jumbo bag that his lawn chair came in for Christmas. Perfect! It also did double duty as a kid friendly table cloth! Ok, the table cloth is just for fun, sort of. We are a hunting family. Our six year old grandson said it made the table disappear!

A Different Pioneer Trail

Last Sunday was a beautiful day here in Oklahoma and winter weather was predicted for the following week. I was feeling cooped up and needed a change of scenery.

I recently learned of the Barn Quilt Trail movement in America. A barn quilt is a quilting square painted on a wooden square and hung on a barn or placed on metal stakes and hung in front of a home or business. It’s a way of reclaiming our quilting and artistic heritage as well as promoting our often forgotten rural communities.

Blackwell, OK located in North Central Oklahoma with a population just over 7000 has a Geocache Barn Quilt Trail of over 60 barn quilts. I’m a beginning wannabe quilter so this seemed like the perfect Covid free way to spend the day. John is not into quilting but he loves the outdoors so off we went.

Each of the 50 states were represented on the trail. Many businesses and churches were part of the trail. Even the National Guard Armory had their own barn quilt.

Chances are that your state has a Barn Quilt Trail. It’s a great way to get out of the house!

For more information: http://oklahomaquilttrail.okstate.edu/maps/about-us and http://barnquiltinfo.com/map-US.html