Amit Enventres

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since Mar 24, 2011
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Recent posts by Amit Enventres

More hacks:

A lot of early spring plants can be seeded in fall, saving you space in your spring rush.

A push broom makes a fine leaf rake and I think it's gentler on things, plus you can use it pushing and pulling.

Put a net over things annoying to leaf rake so you can just lift the net to remove the leaves. Or, use a tarp if your not talking plants.

Always make walk-through trellises a little taller than comfortable so when the vines dip down you don't feel uncomfortable.

Put the shoe rack and jackets and a chair by the door. Include a pair of slip-on shoes. Your less likely to get dirt tracked in.

Hard floors and rugs are easier to clean than carpet. You can use the broom to push the clutter side and then sweep the dirt without doing a full clean-up.

Have kid-usable tools if you have kids so they can help with the tasks, or learn to.

Keep a bucket of water and a pouring cup near house plants that need regular watering. Same thing with humidifiers.

Don't weed plants that aren't causing issues. This includes annuals at the end of the season, unless there's some aesthetic you need to keep and mulch won't do it.

Don't shovel when the ground is hard. Soften it if you have to with water.

Use a cart to move buckets of heavy things instead of brute strength, if possible. The extra energy saved can be used elsewhere.

Prep your supplies and outline the task before doing it so you don't run around looking for things. I almost always garden with a utility belt.

Research new tasks and easier ways to get them done before starting them. I so often find something better than I came up with in my own brain online. 

Wrap all bedding in the bottom sheet to carry to the laundry instead of pulling it apart one- by-one. It can be pulled apart just enough when it goes in the washer.

Have enough rags, socks, pens, and other small loosable items that you can always find one quickly.

A key finder for keys and other loosable items has helped us absent minded ones.

A lock box to our door helps us and our family get in and out without keys. 

A quick release between two often separated keys is useful.

There's a spot in our fence that's set up to be quickly opened without damaging the fence, so I can get big items in and out easier. It's screwed in on inside and tied on the other.

Orient paths so the wind blows them clean of leaves, if possible. Our front path has a slight angle toward the wind direction with no curb on the down-wind side, which gives it a nice auto-leaf blowing.

2 days ago
Lists are great. Sometimes I make them just to get things out of my head so I can focus on other things or see what best would be the work flow or priorities.

Raking hay sounds like an important task that has a high return value in time savings in the case of the stone foundation. Raking hay here would have a negative return value because, besides not having a stone foundation, we have massive amounts of leaves that pile up near the house covering things we don't want covered (walkways, grass. Seedlings, low tinnels, etc.). On the other hand,  planting deciduous trees within wind reach of your house might save you on raking. Putting up netting on areas where I don't want leaves to stay and get tangled in the foliage here might save me time on raking. Very situational.

Timing is huge on homesteading efficiency. Weeding when the weeds are weak saves time in the future.  Planting when the seed is going to be the most vigorous saves time on reseeding and weeding. However, since time is limited, sometimes I need to plant in an awkward time. Or I can't properly attack the weeds when it's ideal to attack them. Then I do this complicated equation of return and value of the task. For instance, plucking thistle is a high return task.  Pulling lawn grass is a low return task. So, I might once-over the garden for high return weeds daily, but only do a sit-and-pull monthly for those with a low return rate. However, if the low return rate weeds are interfering with another high rate task, then they get high priority for removal. This sort of complicated logic drives my hubby insane because my priorities always seem to be in flux.
2 days ago
Vegan and easy... many pies are vegan or easy to make vegan.

If it says shortening or butter, I usually do coconut oil with a splash of sunflower seed oil and a tiny bit of salt.

If it says milk, I choose unsweetened soy or almond milk.

For heavy cream, I can usually either go with whipped egg whites or coconut cream (coconut cream is the creamy stuff inside a refrigerated coconut milk can).

That said,  the easiest vegan pie might just be crushing Oreos to make a crust (or buying a non-dairy cookie crumb crust), then filling it with lightly melted non- dairy icecream, then freezing it.

Fruit pies are not that much harder usually...but they are harder than pooring melted fake icecream into a pre made crust and refreezing it.

2 days ago
Dessert I found can be made cheaply and fancily with either champagne glasses or another small glass thing.

I make trifles. A layer of leftover cookies or sweet bread covered by a little frozen berry, a jar of homemade apple sauce, or fresh fruit. Then, some home made whip cream or whipped coconut cream. Top it off with  a quick chocolate syrup (cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and oil) or some cinnamon,  allspice, and nutmeg (basic pumpkin pie seasoning). Maybe add in a layer of nuts or sprinkles or chocolate chips.  It doesn't take a lot of anything and it looks totally exquisite.
5 days ago
John,  good point! When I clean around the house I end up walking back and forth with rubbish. If I carry a bag with me I'd save time. Maybe I can carry one for each kid/ adult too to merge in Travis's suggestion.
1 week ago
Travis,  that's an excellent point! Systems analysis for streamlining includes step reduction as well as doing those steps the easiest way, or avoiding the task entirely.
It seems like an oxymoron since homesteading we choose to do a lot of otherwise out-sourced tasks, but I don't do it because I want to do the tasks persay, I just don't like how they are done or how much they cost when out- sourced.

I heard that you can just use garment bags in the wash to keep clothes sorted. With 3 people it wasn't so bad, but now with 4 I think I will try it. Additionally, we have a laundry chute. That saves a step. However, we currently spend a lot of time tossing hard laundry baskets around to get them back to the basement. I think switching to things we can throw down the laundry chute would help get the bins back down faster.

Speaking of step reduction, we're getting rid of carpet. Not just does that mean no vacuum, and less gross, but it also means I can sweep large items in the correct direction or up enmass rather than hand picking up.

Here's a random food hack: icecream+milk in a tall coffee cup + a few pumps up and down with a whisk makes a milk shake. No need to dirty the blender.

Another one is my immersion blender fits in a canning jar (wide mouth or store metal) so I can turn beans to cindensed bean soup or chickpeas to humus without dirtying much.

Back to efficiency of steps: I always leave a vegetable cutting board and knife out ready for use. Same with the rolling pin. Nothing on them is going to result in food poisoning, so I don't bother cycling them through the sink and cupboard.

1 week ago
I recently estimated the hours I work on different things in my life. I'm unhappy with the number of hours I dedicate to house chores. Homesteading means you do spend a lot of time in the home, but I find it a little much, especially during season changes.  Perhaps I will notice a reduction in hours once I get at it longer and things become more rote, but right now,  I wonder if there are any hacks out there that save oogles of time. I'll share what I learned,  but please feel free to add in!

Use a floor sweeper for a quick, quiet clean up.

Use a water tight bushel basket to bus dishes from the table and soak them/prewash.

Have enough dry rack space for your meals.

All colora can usually be washed together.  It's just whites or gross things that can't.

Keep a bathroom caddy of cleaning supplies in the bathroom for quick cleaning.

Use bins for socks, underwear, and other small items instead of folding them.

When cleaning a room,  start on one end and throw the objects (that are throwable) to the general place they belong. After one pass back and forth across the room everything will be put away (unless you own a toddler).

Involve the family. The more they clean the less likely they are to make a huge mess.

Clean from top to bottom so you work with gravity. Let the crumbs fall to the floor you were already going to clean.

Use a squeegee on windows and mirrors to save on time and streaks.

Only buy easily washed, stain resistant, wrinkle proof clothes.

Wear hard labor outfits for messy jobs and nicer clothes at other times.

Use a utility belt and garden knife in the farm and garden.

Weed thistle on sight.

Weed early in spring and late in summer, even though it doesn't affect your garden plants then.

Avoid weeding by buying them with the next bed refill.

Just fertilize. Don't be skimpy. It

Overseed to prevent weeds.

Smash garlic with the broadside of a knife to get the skin off easy before mincing.

Shake skin off garlic and shallots in a large container.

Snow shovels are good at light dirt and wood chip lifting.

Push brooms rake leaves and sweep at the same time.

A 5 gallon bucket of water is handy if you have a lot of house plants.

What I need hacks for is easy quick spring planting in a super intense rotation, putting away laundry,  and cooking. Thanks!

1 week ago
Alicia- Good to know about vitamin break down. No, I haven't done hot water to hot water. I will try that. Also, nutrition wise, does the same thing happen with ash or calcium carbonate? I couldn't get the tannins out much at all with my water at pH neutral and the amount of boiling I had to do because of poor leaching probably also had a totally negative affect on nutrient content. Plus, traditionally hot rocks from a fire which would have ash and maybe minerals such as those found in baking soda and limestone would be thrown in the water with the acorns...I'm kind of on the side of: if that's what it takes to be edible, then that's what I'll do side of things, even if there's some nutrition loss.

Which, btw, I tried a variation on the acorn meat patty recipe in this thread. I used bread crumbs instead of rice. Unfortunately, it didn't work because my acorns were still so bitter. The oil and garlic seemed to highlight the bitterness.
1 week ago
Good ole Wikipedia to the rescue:

"Adding baking soda to the water to raise its pH level will accelerate the process of leaching, as the more alkaline solution can draw out tannic acid from the wood faster than the pH-neutral water.[25]"

Now back to peeling...

The process reminded me of peeling garlic,  so I looked up how to do that fast.  Anyone try this on acorns or cracked acorns? Shake vigorously in a large container.
1 week ago
I pioneer in northern urban permaculture. Although the are many things arguably higher in production per area, annual grains still fill a niche and I therefore experiment with them. My goals are high production and easy. Here's my analysis thus far:

Wheat: Wheat is a challenge at seed. Things like to eat it, and they recognize it. That said, it's one of the few things that grows over winter, so it's worth a try.  Sprouting and deep seeding or covering is pretty much the only way it won't get eaten here. Same thing at maturity. Harvest early and dry inside. Processing though is fairly easy and production per acre is not all that bad. However, it does produce all at once and only produces if it's planted at the right time. It also has no great secondary edible value. You either win or loose. I believe the estimate is somewhere around 1 cup of flour per 20 sqft. It is, however one of the few rising grains.  This is my winter bed filler. Anything that doesn't get greens, carrots, or edible aliums ends up in wheat.

Sorghum: Sorghum has high production per acre, repeated production, and a secondary crop (molasses). It grows fast, germinates readily, and can be planted any time where you are frost free for 2 months. It produces even if you only get one plant to grow.  I haven't had as bad predation issues. It has a tertiary crop of dried flowers. Processing is fairly easy too. Pet the seeds out, grind them. I have gotten about 2 cups seed per 20 sqft, planted spring to fall. I usually plant this out to a bed because of its high production and low maintenance, but because of its aggressiveness I have to watch it doesn't shade out other things.

Buckwheat: Here in a wet climate buckwheat falls over, then the seeds either resprout or get eaten. If you don't mind leaving on the hulls, processing is fast. Theoretically it would have high production and the flowers are noteworthy,  so I am attempting to breed a better buckwheat for here from plants that went rogue. One plant can produce 2T of flour here. So theoretically I could produce well over 2 cups per 20 sqft.

Millet: Millet is another tough starter because it turns out ants and everything else eat the seed as soon as it hits the ground or sprouts from a mature plant. I did fight my way to a handful of seed for next year. It grows fast and can with stand hot and dry very well.  I like this for a fastsummer filler crop that may not need to be showy.

Corn: Corn needs close friends and lots of them to produce. There is disease associated with corn. The stems are a secondary crop as a sweetener. Tertiary crop is the decorative dry corn and stalks. Production is about 1.25 cups seed per 20 sqft. Processing is fairly easy. I do have to compete with the squirrels, but they are mostly after the sweet stems. Also, many of the corn varieties I bought had weak stems and flopped over. I've had to breed a stronger stemmed variety. I'm now working on increasing its productivity. Theoretically I should be getting double the production. I usually plant this to a bed because corn is such a desired grain here with a theoretical triple production to wheat.

Sunflower: Sunflower is delicious to wildlife and they recognize the plant from afar. If you can fight them off it's a delicious grain and the larger varieties provide nice trellising for other crops. They are very eye catching and some varieties are multistemmed. And, the buds and sprouts are edible too. This is a good filler for a late spring summer bed, or really anywhere you may need to stake some late climbers.

Amaranth: Beautiful, easy to process, nutritious,  fast growing, can be planted late, doesn't need large quantities to produce. I estimate about 1 cup seed per 20 sqft, but the grains are so small that it's a dense cup! Wildlife don't seem to recognize it or atleast don't dessimate it the way they do other crops (so far). You can also use them as greens or sprouts, if you want. This is a great filler in any area where you need a plant that can sprout in the heat and dry of summer, and impress the neighbors. 

Quinoa: Quinoa can be pretty, hardy, and is fast growing, but in this climate it's a little tricky. Any moisture on the plants will start the quinoa sprouting before you get to harvest it. However, like amaranth, the wildlife don't gobble it up super fast. It looks exactly like lambs' quarter until it produces a seed head. Then some varieties can be quite showy. It's also one of those with edible leaves, so over-seeding or sprouting provides an additional crop. I have yet to achieve a fully mature quinoa stand because I have put them in harsh sight conditions. However, unlike amaranth and sorghum, when it seeds, it dies. Theoretically, if I extrapolate from what I've seen,  they could produce about  1 cup seed per 20 sqft. This is a good late spring crop or really any frost free time crop where you need something to be quick, but are sick of radishes and arugula.

Barely: A lot like wheat, except you need to spring plant it here and it matures about 3 weeks before wheat. The down side is hulling is pretty much impossible and the flavor is cardboardish. It's traditionally called an animal feed. This is my back-up for failed wheat beds and other early spring crops.

I still haven't explored hulless oats. What other annual grains are out there that I'm missing?