I have wildly diverse interests. Typically this first reveals itself to the casual observer by the range of reading material I have around at any given time. Becky has grown accustomed to seeing me with a stack of books (ok, usually more than one stack!) on everything from woodworking, to baking artisanal breads, to fermenting, to understanding opera, to learning Italian, to jewelry making, to house building techniques, to Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep and Chickens (you just never know when this information will come in handy!). There might even be a seed catalogue (or 10) in the pile too!
On occasion I need to resort to audiobooks to save time because it’s just not possible for me to read that fast. Years ago I tried to learn speed reading to help in this area, but I just got bogged down in reading the how-to book.
Having a wide range of interests directly relates to your skill sets, and in turn, to saving money. The skills I have gathered over the years reflects in a large cost savings. It’s the idea of self-sufficiency that many of us pursue. I love being self-sufficient. Sometimes I surprise myself when switching from one project to the next in a short period of time. One day I’m building our new deck, and the next day I’m baking bread. On another day I find myself walking around a craft store buying supplies to make earrings as a Christmas present for Becky, then repairing a broken appliance. I love the diversity of my interests. And when I say ‘interests’, think ‘skills’.
Reading and watching homesteading blogs and videos, one thing that really stands out for me is the vast array of skills homesteaders have. I think it’s amazing. It’s something we all have in common.
I took some time recently to reflect back on how much money Becky and I have saved over the years by doing things ourselves. It’s definitely hard to come up with an accurate number, but it was fun to think back over some of the projects we have done and just how much we didn’t spend because we did it ourselves.
I’ve built decks, renovated our basement (although it took much longer than some of us at the homestead would have wished), installed dishwashers, worked on plumbing projects, put in new breaker switches into our main electrical panel, etc. etc. All of these things cost money if you have to pay someone else to do it, and often the quality of work is not always the best.
Just recently the door latch on our dishwasher (affectionately known as the Relationship Saver) broke. And it broke in the shut position. Ok, I thought to myself, if I can get it open then I can take it apart and see whats going on. I tried and tried but just couldn’t get it open. The next day before having to resort to calling a repair company I gave it one last…..whack…..jackpot!!!!
Google, Youtube, a quick visit to the manufacturers website, and a short time later I returned from the appliance parts store. New door latch assembly in hand. Another job done.
Labor costs can be the most expensive item when you build or fix something. Having a repair person come out to fix our dishwasher would have probably cost $100 in our area just for him to show up. I would guess the labor on our deck would have been around $1500-$2000. The labor on renovating our basement… Probably $5000.
So, overall, having a wide range of interests and an equally wide range of skills can be absolutely crucial in the homestead in order to save valuable money, and be self-sufficient.
This is what makes living on the homestead easier, and cheaper. It’s saved us a lot of money over the years.
Sure there have been offers to loan me out for an afternoon to build, repair, or bake, but Becky has not accepted any of those offers yet. Maybe the price just needs to go up and she’ll take some of those offers more seriously.
The taste of freshly baked bread is always amazing. Nothing beats the wonderful aromas of baking bread on a cold fall or winter’s day. At least that’s what Becky tells me. Although the smell of still warm from the oven chocolate chip cookies when she comes home from work is rated highly as well.
I can still remember the feeling of coming home from school and my mom having chocolate chip cookies on a plate for me. It’s creates such a warm feeling of home, coziness and love. That’s probably why I like to do it for Becky.
I’ve been baking cookies since I was around 10 years old, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that I eventually found myself working in a small bakery which sold only homemade cookies. Baking bread is something more recent for me. Probably beginning just a few years ago. In the past year we have only purchased bread from a store a few times (usually when I’m feeling lazy).
Bread making is said to be a very accurate science with no messing around with quantities. I would completely agree…..except for the recipe I’ve been using. The basic recipe is from the Joy of Cooking. It’s a white bread recipe which I began substituting whole wheat flour for white bread flour on my second batch. Everything else stayed the same with the exception of 1/4 teaspoon extra yeast.
Subsequent batches saw many things added and the recipe only being used as a quick reference. In the world of baking this usually turns into a disaster. However, after baking many loaves I have never had a failed batch. I’ve added whole wheat flour, dark rye flour, red fife flour, bran, wheat germ, quick oats, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flax meal, spelt flakes, and maca powder. The results…..total awesomeness!!
Why bake your own bread? I do it for several reasons. Mainly because I like to bake, but after that other reasons include: knowing exactly what ingredients are being used; having no preservatives added; flexibility to make exactly what you want; and, some money savings when compared to buying an equal quality artisan store bought bread.
Most reluctance around baking ones own bread comes from a belief that it’s too difficult or time consuming. Not true. If you can follow a recipe, you can bake bread. As for it being time consuming, think about it like doing a load of laundry.
When you do laundry it doesn’t take 90 minutes (30 min wash and 60 min in the dryer). It really only takes a few minutes to load the washer, a few minutes to transfer everything to the dryer, and finally a few minutes to fold everything. Total working time on your part might be 10 minutes or less. The rest of the time you are doing other things. The same is true for bread.
Mix a few ingredients and let it sit while you do other stuff. Mix it again and put it in a loaf pan to sit some more. Go enjoy yourself. Put it in the oven. Set the timer and go do some fun stuff. Remove and enjoy! Simple!!
Here are a few pictures of my bread. The everyday bread which we use for toast, and a new recipe I tried recently for a rustic country loaf. I ate almost half the loaf with butter within a few minutes of coming out of the oven!