Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky | November 25, 2014

Manifesting a New Homestead

Manifesting a New Homestead.

Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky | November 23, 2014

Signs of Health and Wealth on our Homestead

Signs of Health and Wealth on our Homestead.

Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky | November 20, 2014

Homesteading as a Lifestyle Choice

Homesteading as a Lifestyle Choice.

Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky | November 18, 2014

Cold Snap on the Homestead -Dealing with Chickens

Cold Snap on the Homestead -Dealing with Chickens.

Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky | November 4, 2014

Letter Regarding Michigan and the Environment

Small House Under a Big Sky:

Do you care about the air, water and soil of our Michigan?

Originally posted on Michigan Land Air Water Defense:


I am very concerned with the path that Michigan has chosen to take in regards to our environment which affects our quality of life and health.  I would like to list a few issues that have made the news in the past few years.  We have accepted Canada’s trash, dumping of petroleum coke in Detroit, poor monitoring of the Enbridge Pipeline leading to the largest inland oil spill in the U. S, allowing runoff into Lake Erie causing “blue green algae” or cyanobacteria, radioactive leaks into Lake Michigan from an energy plant, allowing record setting use  and destruction of fresh water to drill for oil, acceptance of low-level radioactive sludge from Pennsylvania oil and gas drilling (as a result of public outcry, the latest shipment was suspended pending review by the DEQ, but a facility near Belleville is licensed to accept this waste and has done so in the…

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Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky | October 25, 2014

Foraging for Autumn Olives

Small House Under a Big Sky:

This was avery timely post for me. I had been wanting to try my hand at some fruit leathers and the autumn olives are ripe are all around us right now! Donna at the Small House Homestead

Originally posted on Family Yields:

On Thanksgiving weekend each year we forage for Autumn Olives.  They are an invasive species where we live, and can be found in abundance all around our area.  We have particular places we always go, and favourite bushes to pick from.  They can sometimes have a chalky, acrid aftertaste which can be unpleasant, so I am always the taste tester!  The boys love the berries, and we had to stop them from eating what we’d already picked.

This year we did some picking with the kids and my parents, then headed back to their house for a lovely harvest meal of zucchini soup, bread, quinoa salad, and my aunt and uncle’s eggs.  It was a lovely Thanksgiving morning.   My parents were gracious enough to watch the boys while the baby slept so that we could go back out and harvest more.

Last night we cleaned and picked over the berries…

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Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky | September 17, 2014

Scrambled Eggs with Turmeric and Black Pepper

Originally posted on Monamifood:

Scrambled Eggs with Turmeric and Black Pepper

Scrambled Eggs with (fresh) Turmeric and Black Pepper

Turmeric has anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-oxidant benefits. And since turmeric, especially when raw, does not add much flavor, I throw a little bit of turmeric into a lot of different recipes!

And when I add turmeric, I always add freshly ground black pepper. That’s because black pepper facilitates the body’s absorption of turmeric. And you have to absorb the nutrients in food before you can benefit from the nutrients! For more about the importance of combining turmeric and black pepper, see the Q & A with Dr. Andrew Weil.

For practical information about turmeric’s health benefits, and some cautions for people on chemotherapy, see:

For scientific details and research about turmeric, see:

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Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky | September 17, 2014

Driveway Makeover and the Value of Pay as You Go.

Originally posted on The Small House Homestead:

We resealed the Small House’s driveway in early September as part of our homes fall makeover and on-going property maintenance. Our roof was re-shingled about the same time. I just love how fresh and new the roof and our home now looks.

I know that roofing is an expensive homestead project but also know that it is one that is worth the effort and money for our homes values and our comfort. I now breathe a huge sigh of relief knowing I won’t be facing any more leaks this winter.

This is a kind of “replay” on our driveway since we tore out the old one and put down a whole new driveway shortly after we first moved to our homestead in October of 2000. The asphalt needs to be resealed about every 6 years or so.

My first priority after moving here (besides a new water heater and paint) was to build and install my new…

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Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky | April 22, 2014

Rainwater Totes Connected

We were able to get our 275-gallon, food grade, IBC water totes connected to the pole barn roof this week. These two large totes will capture the rain water that might otherwise run off the pole barn roof and into the ground and hold it for use later on in the gardening season. This is an affordable way of collecting and conserving the precious rain water we get here in SW Michigan.

Water collection side use jpeg

The totes are connected to the roof by using a 20 ft. length of eve’s trough, some PVC pipe, a few connectors, a couple of valves and some repurposed wood we picked up for free for a base.

We get a fair amount of seasonal rains here in SW Michigan with long periods of drought in between and I have long wished for a way to capture this precious water.

Brown downspout and brown tub

The average annual rainfall in Michigan is typically 33.15 inches which mostly arrive in the spring and in the fall. We, however, live in a pocket that is inland about 17 miles from Lake Michigan and all too often the rain goes up an over us. This means while our neighboring communities get the rainfall, we often do not.

The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting droughty weather patterns in the Midwest this summer and I am happy to be proactive and have some water set aside in the case this does happen. No matter what Mother Nature gives us, this collected water will be used on thirsty vegetables, flowers, shrubs and the like.

While I’ve dreamed about an in the ground cistern and several of the large tubular metal collection system I see in books, $500.00 per unit is beyond our means.

So when I saw these heavy-duty totes advertised for $60.00 each, I knew this might be the way for us to get our rain barrels. Add a 20 ft. length of eve’s trough, some PVC pipe, a few connectors, a couple of valves and some repurposed wood we picked up for free for a base and we have a system that will work for us.

If you are in the market, be sure that you purchase “food grade” totes only for watering for your garden. I am told that some are sold have had fertilizer and other non-food materials in them. Ours have a label on the front that says, “Food Grade Molasses” and “Food Grade Honey.”

Small House / Big Sky Donna

Posted by: Small House Under a Big Sky | April 2, 2014

Free to Frugal Raised Garden Beds

There are so many varied ways to make raised garden beds today, including free to frugal to pricy, that so many options makes my head spin. And just today, I read about another popular one; using heat treated pallet wood (look for the HT stamp on the wood) to build them. Wow, so much amazing creativity out  there.

Here’s that approach I am using for raised beds at the Small House Under a Big Sky:

STONES: Some of my beds are raised using medium sized stone I have collected from farmers’ fields and along the roadsides over the years. They have been filled with soil and bark chips to raise them slightly. This is a rustic cottage garden look that I enjoy.

Birdbed stone raised bed east

I raised our bird feeding bed using field stones, soil and bark chips.

If you follow my blog, http:/smallhouseunderabigsky you know that we had some SERIOUS flooding here on our land in SW Michigan. I lost a lot of my landscaping due to plants sitting under water for months at a time. However, the raised bed area almost all survived! As a result, I’m now a big fan of raised beds for this and for all the other reasons (the soil heats up quicker and stays drier, less bending so easier to plant and harvest and so on.)

They really do not have to be as raised as you might think in order to be effective.

CEDAR: One spring that we were feeling flush, we bought these cedar boards and build two large beds for newly planted strawberries plants. Through the years they have been “nursery beds” for small plants that need to grow more before being transplanted into their permanent places. These cedar edged beds are now being used for butterfly bushes and various perennials.

Cedar raised bed

Two layers of cedar boards are expensive but last a very ling time. These have been in use for 11 years so far.

RAILROAD TIES: These repurposed railroad ties were here on our property when we moved in. We moved them to a sunny location and repurposed them for our use. These are very old (at least 20 years) and most likely no longer carry any creosote but that is something you should watch out for if you desire to use them for food. When the White Oak Gallery was open, they held a colorful cutting garden and now are planted with more butterfly bushes, forsythia plants I have created from cuttings and flowering perennials.


Repurpose railroads ties hold butterfly bushes and other shrubs and perennial plants.

LOGS: last fall I needed to get some temporary beds quickly set up quickly in the fenced in vegetable garden. Ideally I would have liked for my husband to have built me some permanent cedar beds but there wasn’t time. So I went into the woods and to the firewood pile and selected some long logs that had not yet been cut down to fireplace size. I added my homemade compost and leaves and tada….I had some temporary raised beds. I’ll be moving these beds around as I recreate the vegetable garden design and rebuild the chicken house, so temporary was a good idea after all.

Leaf beds nice use

Log sections make a quick and cheap raised bed too.

BRICKS: These brick planters along side of our house driveway were here when we moved in. I would never had built them but since they were already built I am using them for perennials plants to bring color to the front of our home.


Brick planters hold sun loving plants along the roadside in front of our home.

If you want to see a great curated version of raised beds from pallets, go to this Hometalk link for some great ideas

Small House / Big Sky Donna


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