Still Sacred

Easy Crockpot Lentil Soup

Easy Crockpot Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup is a staple in my  home during the winter.  I toss all the ingredients into the crockpot and GGSD (go get stuff done).  I am rewarded with a hearty, flavorful soup that takes very little effort.  Usually I like to add at least one starchy vegetable or grain to the basic recipe.  Sometimes I like it savory and other times spicy. There are suggestions for additions and variations at the end of the recipe.

Basic Lentil Soup Recipe

2 cups dried lentils

1 medium onion, diced

4 carrots, peeled and diced

4 cups vegetable broth (or animal broth – see easy soup stock recipe)

1 14oz can of diced tomatoes ( 1 pint home canned tomatoes)

1 tablespoon dried thyme

3-4 garlic cloves, minced

1 bay leaf

3-4 cups water

Cooking instructions

Put everything in the crockpot.  I cook on high two hours then turn to low for 5-6 hours – but that’s my crockpot.  During the final hour, check lentils for tenderness.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

For the crockpot pictured, I added chili flakes, barley and black olives.  The possibilities are endless.

Additions

These are all individual additions that you might consider – not all of them together.

  • 3/4 barley during the last hour of cooking
  • diced potatoes
  • can of garbanzo bean
  • 1/2 cup diced black olives
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • Substitute any dried herb in place of thyme that you prefer
  • Add cumin and curry powder for a Mediterranean flavor – this is great with the garbanzo beans
  • Fill your serving bowl with fresh baby spinach, ladle hot soup on top of the spinach.  Let this sit for 30 seconds, then stir.  This is fantastic!

Share what you like to add in the comments.

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Easy Soup Stock using nut milk bag

Easy Soup Stock using nut milk bag

I love to make soup, especially with delicious, homemade stock. Maybe you’re thinking – what’s so hard about throwing a bunch of stuff into a pot and letting it simmer? Nothing, it’s the process after the cooking that is tedious and time consuming. If you have never used a nut milk bag, it is going to change your life. Making soup stock just got so much easier.

What is a nut milk bag?

Soup stock nut bag with turkey breast inside
Soup stock nut bag

A nut milk bag is a fabric pouch that is traditionally used to strain raw nut milk. I recently discovered that they are perfect to throw all of your soup stock ingredients into and simmer away. I use tightly woven, unbleached, organic cotton bags. The ones I have can easily hold a whole chicken carcass or as shown on the left, a whole turkey breast. For a whole turkey, I use one bag for the main body and the another for the legs, thighs, wings and neck. And they are reusable, so one investment of about $5 should last a lifetime.

The Soup Stock Process

I put all of the ingredients into a nut bag. You can include any roasted bones, vegetables and seasonings that you would normally use to make stock. This works great without any animal bones as well. I like to keep it simple. For my everyday chicken stock, I put in the carcass from one roasted chicken, a few whole pepper corns and a bay leaf (1). Tie up the bag and toss it into a pot filled with water (2). Bring the water to a boil and then lower the temperature to simmer. I like to simmer all day if possible.

After the stock has simmered, that’s when the magic happens. I just pull out the bag (3), turn it inside out to dump the contents in the trash or compost (4). That’s it! No fishing bones or veggie bits out of scalding liquid or straining until every last peppercorn is found. Just pull the bag out and I’m done.

The stock can then go into the frig overnight or straight to processing.

Easy soup stock process using a nut milk bag

Clean up

I leave the bag inside out and give it a quick hand scrub with regular dish soap. Leave the nut bag in a bowl of soapy water so it doesn’t dry out and become stained. I toss it in with the hot water laundry the next time I do a load. My bags are 100% cotton, so I hang them to dry. Turn it right side out and it’s ready for the next use.

Processing the finished soup stock

I tend to do two types of stock batches. Either a small batch in the crockpot which yields about 2 quarts or a large batch in the stock pot which yields about 7 quarts.

For small batches in a crockpot stock – once cooking is completed, then I will refrigerate overnight and skim the fat off. I like to use half for a soup right away and freeze the other half in a plastic freezer bag. I always freeze 4 cups ( one quart) so that there is no confusion when I pull stock out of the freezer.

For large batches in a stock pot – once cooking is completed, I pressure can six quart jars and save one in frig for immediate use. You could also freeze the stock if you have enough room in your freezer. I like to have some canned and some frozen for a variety of cooking options.

Soup Recipes

Enjoy some of my favorite soup recipes.

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Intentional Path

Intentional Path

Repost from January 2020 with minor edits – still feels relevant.

As this new year begins, I know many of you have set goals and resolutions for yourselves.  I want to share one of my intentions for the year with you.  As I head into my second fourth full year on my 33-acre homestead, I feel certain there are many new discoveries awaiting me.  My intention this year is to become a more conscious homesteader, to be an advocate for the land, and to notice what is scared in the nature that surrounds me.  My blogs this year will focus on what I find on this intentional path.

Conscious Homesteader

Recently, I left the hustle and bustle of the big city and consciously decided to carve out a new life.  For me, homesteading means seeking a lifestyle that is centered around being more self-sufficient.  The intentional path I set was never meant to be done in one fell swoop, but to slowly and steadily incorporate ways to become independent and less reliant on commercial sources for food and goods.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still head to the super market for my avocados.

Land Advocate

I live on 33 acres that are mostly wild.  As a suburban dweller most of my life, at times it is overwhelming to think of the size of it.  The land has been  neglected for many years.  Some trees are sick, the river bank is eroding, the fallen timber is piling up, and the thickets are overgrown.  With the help of experts, I hope to learn how to nurture the land, protect its natural resources, and create a thriving home for the wildlife.

Hold Sacred

I remember walking this land for the first time.  The word I used then and the word I use now to describe it is magical.  I never want to forget that all that surrounds me is sacred.  I want to hold this last intention fully in my heart and take time to embrace all that this means.

Intentional Path

Come stroll with me down my intentional path.  I invite you to join me on this journey, that no matter how intentional, will likely take me places that I never imagined.


Join the Journey by Still Sacred

Free Spiritual Resources – click here to Join the Journey.

Still Sacred Facebook Group, where you can communicate with others that have also decided to explore spirituality in the everyday moments of life with gratitude and humor.  Come join us!

Thanks for joining me on the journey…

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Welcome Back

Welcome Back

Many months ago I stopped writing my blog.  I had one all ready to go, but it seemed cavalier to post about projects on the homestead with everything that was happening in the world – so I just hit the trashcan button instead.

As I look back over that time, nothing much changed on the homestead.  We didn’t run out of food, toilet paper, medicine or [my personal favorite] peanut butter M&Ms.   I continued to walk my dog, feed my chickens, weed my garden. store what I grew and consciously prepare the best I could for uncertain times.  My daily routine was impacted very little.  I went to my “essential worker” job (non medical) with several minutes shaved off the commute and worked around the homestead the rest of the time.  The one big thing that changed was that I stopped writing – and my head was filled with words with no place to go.  My head is still filled with words.

So I’m ready to unpause and march forward.  I hope you will welcome me back.  My intention is to become a more conscious homesteader, to be an advocate for the land, and to notice what is scared in the nature that surrounds me. I invite you to join me on the journey to rediscovering the joys, successes and failures that are part of life. Maybe we’ll have some laughs along the way.

Here’s a link to Intentional Path – part too 🙂

 

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Stress Relief

Stress Relief

In the midst of the pandemic, I find myself feeling overwhelmed and a bit helpless at times.  I want to offer some things that are helping to give me some measure of stress relief.  I offer to you the suggestion to turn off the 24/7 news coverage and practice a bit of self care during these tough times. It is important to maintain our physical, mental and spiritual health, especially now.

Calming the Mind

I find that daily prayer and meditation are are great way to calm my mind.  I especially like the breathe prayer.  My mom sent me a link to a quick 5 minute meditation. I have this video loaded on my phone and take it out to a comfy chair on my porch to start my day. If you aren’t able to go outside, doing this meditation by an open window is a great option.

Gratitude

As fear and uncertainty creep in, I like to take stock and give myself some positive reminders that there are still many things to be grateful for in my life.  If you are having a hard time finding gratitude, I offer the following posts on gratitude to get you started:  Exploring Gratitude,  Heart of Gratitude or Nurturing Gratitude.

A few things from my gratitude list yesterday included: the sun on my face; food in my pantry; a text from a friend checking in on me; soap to wash my hands; spring flowers starting to bloom; a snuggle from my cat.

Physical Health

I am fortunate that I live in a rural setting where going outside does not present any social distancing issues.  I also have an endless list of chores to chose from to keep me busy – oh maybe I should add that to my gratitude list.  If getting outside isn’t an option, perhaps now is the time to tackle spring cleaning or another indoor project that you have been putting off.  Physical activity is not only good for the body, but also gives your mind a chance to refocus and relax.

Reaching Out

These can be very isolating times.  Even as an introvert, I am beginning to feel the impact of social distancing.  Even though I can’t physically reach out, I have gotten some stress relief by texting/calling neighbors and friends.  Sending a card to someone to hopefully put a bright spot in their day.  For my soul, these kinds of actions are far more impactful than simply posting on social media, but social media is also a good way to stay connected.

Bottom line – be kind to yourself and practice some self care.

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Chicken Coop Evolution

Chicken Coop Evolution

Here is the tale of the evolution of our chicken coop with snippets from my adventures in learning about chickens.  Our property started with a small run-down chicken coop and eventually turned into the Coop Mahal.  A free chicken coop was a great way to start out and find out if I really wanted chickens.  Once I discovered I loved these comical dinosaurs, it was time to make my life easier with the coop of my dreams ( uh, not free).

Humble Beginnings

broken down chicken coopOur homestead came with an average chicken coop that was inSilver laced Wyandotte pullet disrepair.  The roof was a mess, the nesting boxes were falling off, the run was full of weeds and the windows were broken. At least it was equipped with a nice 2-foot barrier of hardware cloth that was buried around the entire perimeter. With a little elbow grease, scrap materials and TLC, I turned it into a  functional chicken coop and run where we raised our first pullets.

That first year, we opted for 8-week old pullets.  Pullets are more expensive than chicks, but the benefit is that they are fully feathered and can go straight outside into a coop with a protected run. We also opted for an 8-week old puppy so they could grow up together.

Raising Chicks

baby chickscoop with some TLCThe second year we decided to raise chicks – who can resist those adorable little chicks?  Day one we had a small problem.  Since I was at work, my daughter picked up the chicks I ordered from the feed store when they arrived.  All three were supposed to be silver-laced Wyandottes, but alas one was brown.  The brown one, I soon discovered was the only one my daughter had named… Beth.  Beth, an unknown breed, remains a part of our flock.

The chicks required a lot of attention and generated more poop that you can even imagine.  Poop in their food; poop in their water; poop all over them. Since we do not have a barn, they were living in a brooder in our basement.  Even their cuteness could not compare with the stench.  I am glad we tried our hand at raising chicks, but I will stick with pullets in the future.

Movin’ on Up

Coop MahalNext it was time to build what is not referred to as our Coop Mahal.  I thought of every single thing I would want in a chicken coop and my husband made it a reality.  I wanted to be able to walk into not just the main run area, but also the interior coop.  The clean out door needed to be exactly the height of my wheel barrel for easy clean out.  I wanted a door that would automatically open and close so that I might be able to sleep in just one morning.  The sleeping in part has not been a reality! And just in case I ever fell out of love with my chicken, I wanted it built to be easily converted into a shed.  Look for a full blog on building this dream chicken coop in the near future.

Tale of Two Coops

Just a coopYesterday, I dismantled the small, original chicken coop from its run.  I also stripped off the exterior laying boxes and boarded that up.  I will eventually relocate what is now simply a free standing coop big enough for about 6-10 chickens to roost in at night.  This will become the home for new pullets as I add them each year so they can develop to full size in an area away from the existing flock.  I found that while the pullets were physically separate from the flock, it seemed to cause a lot of stress for all birds involved to be able to see each other while they matured.

The next batch, I will simply sneak into the coop in the night once they are fully grown which seems to be about 4-5 months. Chickens are very easy to move when they sleep – nearly paralyzed – and when they wake up they seem fairly accepting of each other.  This is not the case if you introduce in the daytime, but more on that another day.

And yes, dog and chickens get along great!dog and chickens

As always, I love to hear about your adventures in homesteading too…leave me a comment.

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Compost Bin

Compost Bin

The first thing that we added to the homestead was a 3-bay compost bin.  Actually, the first thing we added was a puppy, but that’s another story…back to compost bins.

My 3-bay compost bin was constructed from 10 pallets and 26-inch heavy duty zip ties.  I re-purposed about 12 bricks to elevate the corners of the bins off the ground. I also used six hook and eye latches to make the front pallets removable.

Why Compost?

My philosophy on sustainability includes wasting as little as possible.  The short-term goal was to find a productive way to dispose of kitchen and yard waste, which meant not just tossing it into the landfill. The long-term goal was to provide nutrient dense material for the vegetable garden.  I wanted the design to be easy and cheap – no sense in wasting time, energy or money.  So in keeping with the sustainability philosophy, I looked around the homestead and came up with a design that utilized what I had on hand or could find for free.

Pallets

Pallets are readily available at home improvement, feed and various retail stores.  Always check with the store manager before taking them.  Also, make sure they are marked with “HT” to indicate they were heat treated.  Some are treated with chemicals and that’s not a good choice if you will be using your compost in a vegetable garden.

Getting pallets took a few weeks.  Sorting through pallets is much easier with two people, so bring a friend…preferably one with a pickup truck.  You want to inspect for broken slats, nails or staples that are loose, and the “HT” stamp.  It was also a surprise to me that not all pallets are the same size and configuration. I designed mine with the slates horizontal to the ground, so it was important for me to find pallets that had its support beams configured in this way.

Assembly day

We cleared and leveled an area that was about 4 feet by 12 feet.  That process took longer than the assembly, which took less than an hour.

Place the first two pallets in an L-shape and zip tie in three locations. I built the back the entire back wall of all of the bins, then the end pieces and dividers.  Last, I put on the removable front pieces.  Hopefully, the pictures will help to illuminate this process.  There are tons of videos online if you need more instruction and here’s one video on compost bins I recommend.

The fronts were attached with eye hook latches.  This allows one or all of the front pallets to be removed.  This feature makes it super simple to move composted material to another bin when it reaches the proper state of decomposition.  It also means that a wheel barrow can easily dump or load material from the bins.

Finished product

I am happy to report that this system is working well, and there is completed compost material to add to my vegetable beds this spring.

chickens tending the compost bin

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Lenten Journey

Lenten Journey

What will your Lenten Journey be this year?  As you being the 40 days  that invite you to walk with Jesus and discover a new closeness with God, what will your journey hold?

This season always reminds me of a man who told me that Lent was his favorite holiday.  “What?” I asked with a skeptical eyebrow raised.  He went on to explain that this was the one time a year that he felt free to add spiritual practices to his routine without guilt.  It was a radical concept for me to frame this 40-day period of time as space where I was given permission to add extra prayer or meditation to my life.  I had never thought of Lent in this light.  To me it had been the dreaded season of giving up things like chocolate or wine.

Obviously entering into Lent with a sense of dread does not exactly set a positive tone.  So I invite you to think of these next few weeks as a time full of promise and anticipation.  Remember it’s all leading towards Easter, which offers us the most beautiful promise and everlasting gift.  Let us walk towards that with hope, love and peace.  Let’s set our intention and walk the path with God at our side.

Whether you give something up or add something new to your spiritual routine, there are bound to be ample opportunities to seek God and invite him to join your Lenten Journey.  This is a time to pray, fast, and be of service… I hope it will become your favorite holiday too!

 


Join the Journey by Still Sacred

Free Spiritual Resources – click here to Join the Journey.

Still Sacred Facebook Group, where you can communicate with others that have also decided to explore spirituality in the everyday moments of life with gratitude and humor.  Come join us!

Thanks for joining me on the journey…

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Contradictions: Balancing Wants and Needs

Contradictions: Balancing Wants and Needs

As I gaze out over the burning red sky, I am reminded of life’s contradictions.  The sky seems to be on fire even as the temperature continues to drop lower into the 20s.  The flame of the sky portrays warmth and yet the chill of the air in undeniable.  Life is full of things that may at first glance appear to be opposite and yet they coexist (or can) in harmony.  It got me to wondering what else could be brought into balance with God’s grace.

Needs

In this context, a need is something that must be done no matter how much I do not want to do it.  These are the less glamorous  tasks in life. Sometimes these are small things, like taking out the trash, emptying the cat box, scrubbing the toilet or paying bills.  Sometimes they are greater obstacles, like having a hard conversation with a loved one or facing the challenges of caring for someone who is terminally ill.  I like to think that someday I will be spiritually enlightened enough to find delight in these activities…but I am not there yet.

Wants

The list of my wants and desires could fill this whole page, but some fairly consistent ones are spending time with family, working on art projects, walking in the woods and curling up by the fire with a good book.  I could fill my days with these activities, but how would I get the bills paid or feed my family?

Finding Balance

At first glance, how can these contradictory things possibly be brought into balance?  I simply cannot visit a sick friend while I am curled up by the fire.  I cannot pay the bills if I am endlessly working on my art.  But I invite you to look closely and find ways to allow the joy of your wants to spill into the things that need to be done.

Examples of Contradictions in Balance

I have been successful at incorporating some balance into my life full of competing wants and needs.  I offer a few examples to illustrate this:

If I create a piece of art with a sick friend in mind, then I build up my anticipation of visiting them.  The joy from my creation spills over into our visit, and I can relive the fond memories of creating the art as I share it and my time with the friend.

I can start paying my bills early enough in the evening to leave time to curl up with a good book.  The anticipation of the evening by the fire makes the chore of paying the bills pass by more quickly.

Challenge

Make a list of your own wants and needs.  See where you can bring these contradictions into balance to create more happiness in your life.  As always, I love to read your stories of how this is manifesting in your life…so I invite you to share them in the comments section below.

 


Join the Journey by Still Sacred

Free Spiritual Resources – click here to Join the Journey.

Still Sacred Facebook Group, where you can communicate with others that have also decided to explore spirituality in the everyday moments of life with gratitude and humor.  Come join us!

Thanks for joining me on the journey…

 

 

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Gratitude List Check-in

Gratitude List Check-in

What’s on your January gratitude list?  I thought now would be a great time to have a quick check-on.  For a quick refresher on the benefits of a gratitude list, let’s recall my journey:

A few years ago, I was given the assignment to write down 3 things that I was grateful for every day.  I was not too enthusiastic about this challenge.  I didn’t see the point… wasn’t it enough to simply call to mind those things that I was thankful for and meditate on them?  Wasn’t it a bit of overkill to write down these three things each and every day for a month?  What follows is my journey with making a gratitude list and the profound impact it had on my life… check out the entire story at The Heart of Gratitude.

My January Gratitude List

sun on a winter day

the beauty of frost

heat from a roaring fire

laughter of my friends

Share your Gratitude

I invite you to share in the comments your January gratitude list.  Remember, gratitude tends to multiple when you share it!

Other Resources

Need some inspiration to kindle your January gratitude list?  Check out these past blogs:

 

Gratitude List | Heart of Gratitude

Heart of Gratitude

Grab some Gratitude

Nurture Gratitude: Sacred texts

Nurturing Gratitude

 

 

 

 

 

 


Join the Journey by Still Sacred

Free Spiritual Resources – click here to Join the Journey.

Still Sacred Facebook Group, where you can communicate with others that have also decided to explore spirituality in the everyday moments of life with gratitude and humor.  Come join us!

Thanks for joining me on the journey…

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