A September Garden Update

What a gorgeous first day of September – just warm enough to jump in the pond, but not so hot that we had to hide indoors. The garden is full of bounty and our meals consist of pieced together bits of harvest – corn on the cob, a tomato basil salad, fresh ripe melons, and green beans.

I’ll take you on a tour of my late summer garden in just a moment, but first I want to give a great big shout out to all of Homestead Honey’s sponsors, including:

Moon in the Window – A delightful Etsy shop featuring children’s harvesting and cooking aprons, hand-bound books, reusable sandwich bags, a PDF pattern to make gardening totes for children, and more!

Lavender’s Blue Homeschool – A resource for peaceful parenting and holistic homeschooling, now offering a complete First Grade Waldorf-inspired curriculum, as well as a kindergarten curriculum!

The Aquaponic Source – Providing learning materials, products, and leadership to empower people to grow their own fish and vegetables in their homes and schools

The Dental Essentials -A nutritional supplement that has been specially formulated to reduce cavities. (Use coupon code Homestead for 15% off!)

TEND Magazine – A quarterly, downloadable magazine, designed to nourish a mindful life. (Use coupon code HOMEHON10 for 10% off!)

Ollie and Stella Children’s Outfitters – Featuring super high-quality DucKsday outdoorwear for kids

Gypsy Forest - Natural goods for home and play

The Sitting Tree – Handmade goods, for a free-spirited life

Randi Jo Fabrications – Soft goods for bicyclers

Are you a small business owner? I am currently accepting new sponsors for Homestead Honey, and would for you to consider joining me! Please take a look at my Media Kit on my Sponsorship page, and contact me to get started!

* * * * * * * *

 Now, let’s take a stroll through the garden…

Upper garden in early September | Homestead Honey

Remember the upper garden space that we created new this spring?  Some crops have done fantastically in this tilled garden – melons, peppers, okra, and sweet potatoes are growing and thriving. Sadly, the corn, beans, and squash did not fare as well. I suspect that this garden needs quite a bit more organic matter, and I’ll be adding this with a cover crop and additional manure and compost amendments.

Everettt harvests in the lower garden | Homestead Honey

The lower garden is a jungle of vegetables and flowers and herbs. You can see the cattle panel trellises have worked wonderfully for cherry tomatoes and cucumbers. I have been so impressed by a cucumber variety called Delikatesse, from Baker Creed Seed Company. This is a dual purpose cuke that just keeps producing!

Newly made sheet mulched garden bed | Homestead Honey

We expanded the garden fencing this spring, leaving space to create new beds. This is a newly built lasagna or sheet mulched bed, which I’m treating essentially as a compost pile.  Cardboard was layered, followed by decomposed straw. We continually add food scraps and garden matter, as well as manure. Getting this bed built now means that it will be perfectly ready for planting in the spring.

Ella's fall bed | Homestead Honey

Ella’s garden bed is a perfect example of successional sowing.  This bed started out with an early spring crop of fava beans, sunflowers, and potatoes.  As we harvested plants, new ones went in their place. We sowed a late crop of zucchini in late July to be sure that we had back-up plants in case squash bugs killed others.  Recently, Ella sowed lettuce, mesclun, radish, and purslane, and we filled in with a few kale transplants.

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A few pin up shots of some of my favorite plants.  This cabbage (I believe it’s Perfection Drumhead from Baker Creek) has far surpassed my expectations, especially with the cabbage worm problem I seem to be having – I handpick easily 100 per day.  And the cayenne peppers!  We’ve already put a half-gallon jar of them in a brine to ferment for hot sauce making, and I plan to dry the rest to use throughout the winter.

Flowers, brassicas and more! |Homestead Honey

Flowers, bunching onions, new kolhrabi, and turnips combine in a bed, which is typical of how I love to garden.  In the background you can see the waning sunflowers which have given us such delight as goldfinch habitat and feed.

Now it’s your turn – what is growing in your garden!  Share a link or just comment below!

 

Less Is More: The Tiny House Movement

Hello!  It’s been a very busy time on our homestead. While we spend hour after hour working on the interior of our tiny house – moving our bed and kitchen and all our furniture out of doors so we can plaster and install a pantry and wood flooring – I thought I’d quickly pop in to share this great infographic that was generously shared with me by the folks at CustomMade.com.  I’ll be back in a day or two to share the gorgeous custom homestead pantry that Brian built for us!

What do you think? Could you downsize to a tiny home? 

 

Click to Enlarge Image

Less Is More:The Tiny House Movement

Less Is More:The Tiny House Movement
Infographic by CustomMade

Selecting a Solar Electric System for our Homestead

How we selected a solar electric (photovoltaic) system for our off-grid homestead | Homestead Honey

As many of you know, we’ve been living without electricity in our tiny house for the past year. This has been an incredible experience, and one that has brought clarity to our needs and our wants surrounding electricity. While waiting for the time and money to be available to research, purchase, and install a small-scale solar electric (photovoltaic) system for our homestead, we’ve created strategies to meet our needs for keeping food cold (renting out freezer space at a friend’s home), using the computer (trading house-sitting at another friend’s house), and running power tools (a Honda EU2000i generator).  But all along, our intention has been to have our home powered by solar, and now that plan is turning into reality!

How did we select a solar electric system for our home?

We started this process with very little prior knowledge of photovoltaic systems.  So the first step was educating ourselves. I bought Brian a subscription to Home Power magazine last year for his birthday, we checked related books out of the library (books with titles like “Photovoltaics for Dummies”), and talked to people who had installed their own systems. We knew that we’d have to start small and add on over time, because a large system was simply not in our budget.

The following considerations helped us select a solar electric system:

1) Cost – This was the most important limiting factor in our purchase.  We knew we wanted to invest in quality components so we could expand the system as we are able, but right now our budget is limited to $5,000.

2) Needs vs. Wants – We’ve been living very simply for the past year, and will continue to do so, but there are some electric needs that truly feel like needs, and some that feel like extra luxuries that we’re okay doing without (or have found that we prefer to do without).  The needs are:

  • A chest freezer, both for food preservation, and for freezing ice jugs to put in the coolers that act as our refrigerator.
  • A computer and internet.  As both Brian and I are self-employed, we rely heavily on a computer for business and communication. Besides, I really love writing this blog!
  • Charging hand tools, camera, phone, etc.

3) Technical Support – We thought about hiring a professional to install a system for us, but again, cost was an issue. Since Brian is such a handy sort of guy, we knew he could figure it out, as long as he had resources to ask questions as they arose.

Battery box | Homestead Honey

A sealed, vented box in our mudroom, ready for the batteries.

Purchasing a System

We decided to purchase our system through Backwoods Solar. What we love about Backwoods Solar is that the company is staffed by people who actually use the systems they sell, and when you purchase a system through them, you get phone consultations and technical support as part of the price.  We know that there are DIY ways to have gone about this process less expensively, but the fact of the matter is that we did not feel comfortable piecing it together all alone.  After coming up with our approximate electrical needs (check out this great resource page), Backwoods Solar helped us come up with a system that included:

  • Three 290 Watt Solar Panels
  • Eight Trojan 6V batteries
  • A high quality inverter that will allow us to expand as needed

The system that we purchased will allow us to power a chest freezer, a computer, a few lights, and will allow for a few extra luxuries, such as occasionally using a sewing machine, food processor, or blender.  Our generator can be used as a back-up.

What’s next?

Lots of work getting the house ready for the installation!  Brian is building a box in our mudroom that is sealed and vented to the outdoors, which will hold the batteries.  I expect that the entire installation process will take a few months’ work, and I’ll be sure to share the process here!

 

* By the way, registration for Empowered Eating is in its final stretch!  The course begins on Monday, and we’d LOVE to have you join us.  You can register right here.

Local for Dinner

Late summer has to be my favorite time to eat. Each meal begins with a walk through the garden to see what is ripe and ready.  Cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant feature prominently into daily meals, as do additions from my CSA share. This week I got to take home:

  • Kale, Swiss Chard and Turnip Greens
  • Turnips
  • Eggplant, Potatoes, Tomatoes and Peppers
  • Beans and Peas
  • Sweet Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Garlic and Onions
  • Okra

It’s truly a bounty!  Add to this our own honey (the very last from our 2012 harvest), local sorghum, our chicken eggs, local raw goat milk and Amish butter, and it’s not too difficult to pull together meals that are 99% locally grown.  Last night’s dinner was locally raised pastured pork with sweet peppers and some garden fresh salsa. This morning we enjoyed a broccoli and roasted chile egg frittata for breakfast!

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In addition to creating and eating locally inspired meals, I’ve been preserving the summer’s bounty.  This week, I plan to buy sweet corn from my neighbor and either freeze or can it, can dill pickles, begin drying garden-grown cayenne peppers, blanch and freeze kale from the garden, and figure out a really, really good plan to preserve zucchini!

PreservingCorn

DayinLife6

Eating a seasonally inspired diet is not difficult, but it is great to start with some skills, inspiration, and a strong support network. My upcoming eCourse, Empowered Eating is designed to provide just these tools in a fun and supportive environment, and today I’m giving away a spot in the course!

Empowered Eating eCourse | Homestead Honey

(Want to register right now? Great! The course page is right here.)

 
Simply comment in the blog about what you’d like to learn in the course, and enter below!  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How to Have a Totally Awesome Camping Road Trip with Kids

Hello!  We’re back from our almost three week epic road trip vacation, and I have to say, it was fabulous. So many beautiful places, hours spent with beautiful people, and beautifully focused family time. It was really wonderful to visit our old home of nearly 14 years, but also really wonderful to return to this new home.

When we moved to Missouri almost two years ago, in October of 2012, we also drove across the country. But since it was October and we weren’t sure what kind of weather we would encounter, we didn’t camp, but stayed with friends and in hotels.  This time, we camped 10 out of 18 nights, and with two young and energetic children, ages 3 and 6, just being able to cook and sleep outdoors was a phenomenal balance to the long hours in the car.

So, today I want to share a few of the tricks that made this trip so wonderful (and of course sneak in a few photos of our journey!)

Having a successful camping road trip with kids | Homestead Honey

Travel your Values (but be willing to flex!)

At home, we eat almost an almost exclusively whole foods diet, made from scratch.  We have a few favorite prepared foods, like tortilla chips, ice cream, or crackers, but we try to cook and bake as much as possible.  Continuing to eat this way on our road trip made us all feel comfortable and well-nourished. Immediately before the trip, I stocked up on Farmer’s Market produce that I knew would travel well – green beans, cucumbers, and zucchini, for instance – and also harvested as much as possible from my garden.  We ate delicious meals without having to shop for at least 5 days and saved a lot of money in the process.

Of course, there are times when you’re in the middle of a state with few natural food stores, and the only option for grocery shopping on a Tuesday at 6pm is the Super Walmart. Be gentle on yourself and make the best choices possible from what is available.

Oregon Coast

Take Detours

We literally started this trip with no itinerary – just a vague idea that we wanted to see some relatives in Idaho, and perhaps also explore the Badlands of South Dakota.  Part of the joy of approaching a trip with this much freedom is that it gave us wiggle room to take detours and explore some really amazing places!

For instance, when we were in the Grand Teton National Park, we realized we’d be driving right past a friend’s town.  We were able to spend an hour checking out he and his wife’s amazing Earthship home in progress.

Earthship home in progress | Homestead Honey Entry way to an Earthship home in progress | Homestead Honey

More is not More

Making one more stop, pulling over to check out one more scenic overlook…they are not necessarily going to make your trip better. In fact, we found that the fewer stops we made, the happier we all were. Rather than unbuckle and buckle the kids into their car seats over and over again, we found that taking longer breaks to really play and enjoy our surroundings was so much more relaxing and fun!

Similarly, we packed very lightly for this trip, as we took the Amtrak train home.  To help pass car time for the kids, we brought ONE small bag with a few coloring books, magazines, and books.  We downloaded several Sparkle Stories and had a few books on tape.  The rest of the time the kids drew pictures.  For HOURS they drew!  Even Everett, who does not seem to be drawn to artistic endeavors at home was asking for paper and crayons every day. (By the way, I wish I had a photo of this, but my husband made lap drawing boards out of very thin masonite board and they were amazing for car art!)

Yellowstone NP

Play in Water Every Day

If I had to give one piece of advice for how to have a happier life, it would probably be this: Play in water every single day. My friend Mike has inspired me over and over again by his philosophy: “If I know I can get warm and dry, I will always jump in water.”  Even just hanging out NEXT TO water brings a whole new level of energy to my day, but certainly the best is when you find an amazing alpine lake to plunge into!

Eastern Wyoming reservoir | Homestead Honey in the Black Hills of South Dakota |Homestead Honey

I’m sure there are some seasoned road trip campers out there, so I’d love to hear from you:

What is your best tip for a totally awesome road trip with kids?

9 Reasons Why Local Homestead Friends are Priceless

Today I welcome my friend Erin Kelly, of Blue Yurt Farms. In addition to being amazing homesteaders, Erin and her husband Mike are also skilled web developers who are in the process of creating an amazing online resource called Homesteader Hub. Imagine being able to jump online to find homesteading friends in your area or to network farm-sitters. Homesteader Hub will help with that, and more!

And why are local homesteading friends so important?  Here’s Erin, to tell us why!  Welcome, Erin!

homesteadhoney-feat

Many of us have moved to a homestead lifestyle because we were tired of the rat race. Peace, quiet and privacy are all top of the list for many homesteaders. Yet, there are things that are so much more fun or lots easier when you have a few like-minded people to call on. Not to mention, when emergencies happen on a homestead, it’s a comfort to have someone to call. Someone that knows how to milk a cow, keep a garden functioning or why it’s important to put chickens up at night.

That said, it can be REALLY hard to find a local community of like-minded homestead friends. Sure, there are more online homestead forums and Facebook groups than you can shake a fist at but it’s not always easy to determine who is close to where you live.

Which is why my husband and I are launching a homestead focused Kickstarter project called Homesteader Hub. We are experienced web developers and homesteaders — and can’t wait to create a super user friendly site that you can pop onto from your phone, tablet or computer, find people near you and then pop back off to go milk that goat, pick those tomatoes or just enjoy a quiet moment. There are enough time wasters online, we don’t want to add another.

But what we DO need is a way to bring this amazing nationwide homesteading community together. And that is how the Homesteader Hub idea was born. Together we can do great things!

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So why are local homestead friends awesome? Here are 9 of my reasons, and please share yours in the comments!

1. They understand why you make your own deodorant, feed your chickens fermented feed or bake bread from scratch.

2. When you say you want a dairy animal, they not only get excited for you but try to help you find the right animal using their network.

3. Homestead friends understand that you can’t go on weekend vacation anymore. Quick visits, often involving homestead chores, are expected and enjoyed.

4. Canning, processing, picking are all more fun when you have many hands to help out. Creating a crop mob schedule with your local homestead friends is an amazing tool for your collective homesteads.

5. It’s a relief to have someone local to call when an emergency pops up, and know that they will take care of your homestead as if it were their own.

6. Homesteading can be lonely and overwhelming. Having like-minded folks nearby can allow for homeschooling get togethers, jam making sessions, help raising a small livestock barn and more.

7. Wanting to switch to a different animal feed? Not sure where to buy chickens? Ask your local homesteading friends, two/three/four heads are far better than just one.

8. A support system of like-minded people can make a big difference when you get off the phone with a family member, friend or just someone that doesn’t understand WHY you’re homesteading when you “can just buy that at a store”.

9. Sharing tools, collaboration projects and homestead magic is created when you build a strong local network. There is no limit to what a group of motivated, like-minded folks can create when they put their minds to it!

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Sounds awesome, but don’t know anyone local?

Help us share the Homesteader Hub project far and wide by first sharing this post with friends, family and fellow homesteaders. Then visit the Homesteader Hub Kickstarter project page. Even if you contribute just $2 towards building the site, you’re helping us create a collaborative online space where we can ALL build our own local “hubs” of like-minded homesteaders. The sky is the limit!

Learn more about the Homesteader Hub project here.

And a big thank you to Teri for sharing your online community with us! We absolutely love what you’re doing here.

* * * * * * * *

You can find and follow Homesteader Hub on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram!

 

Welcome, August!

Good morning and happy August!  My family is enjoying a vacation in Oregon, thanks to the generosity and support of our homestead neighbors who are watching our garden, chickens, and ducks.  While on the West Coast, we’re looking forward to some blackberry picking, hiking in the lush green forest, good food, and lots of quality time with dear friends.

Today I welcome a new Homestead Honey sponsor, Moon in the Window. In their Etsy shop, Moon in the Window offers sweet children’s harvesting and cooking aprons, hand-bound books, reusable sandwich bags, a PDF pattern to make gardening totes for children, and more!  Please take the time to check out their delightful shop.

Moon in the Window

A great big shout out to all of Homestead Honey’s sponsors, including:

Lavender’s Blue Homeschool – A resource for peaceful parenting and holistic homeschooling, now offering a complete First Grade Waldorf-inspired curriculum, as well as a kindergarten curriculum!

The Aquaponic Source – Providing learning materials, products, and leadership to empower people to grow their own fish and vegetables in their homes and schools

The Dental Essentials -A nutritional supplement that has been specially formulated to reduce cavities. (Use coupon code Homestead for 15% off!)

TEND Magazine – A quarterly, downloadable magazine, designed to nourish a mindful life. (Use coupon code HOMEHON10 for 10% off!)

Ollie and Stella Children’s Outfitters – Featuring super high-quality DucKsday outdoorwear for kids

Gypsy Forest - Natural goods for home and play

The Sitting Tree – Handmade goods, for a free-spirited life

Randi Jo Fabrications – Soft goods for bicyclers

* * * * * * * *

Are you a small business owner? I am currently accepting new sponsors for Homestead Honey, and would for you to consider joining me! Please take a look at my Media Kit on my Sponsorship page, and contact me to get started!

 

The Resilient Farm and Homestead Book Review

Every once in a while, I read a book so inspiring that it sets in motion a process of visioning, planning, and action. The Resilient Farm and Homestead by Ben Falk is such a book, one that has me re-imaging extraordinary possibilities for our homestead on a hill.

Imagine a homestead and research farm set on a hillside in Central Vermont. Now picture lush gardens, food and fuel forests, and innovative projects such as small-scale rice paddies, compost hot water heating systems, mushroom cultivation, and perennial food crop and grazing integration. Author Ben Falk’s homestead, Whole Systems Research Farm is such a place, and he takes what he has learned from years of experience on his land, coupled with a professional and academic background in landscape design and permaculture to write this book, a handbook of sorts for sustainable living in an age of uncertainty.

Water pollution, drought, climate change, a depletion of natural resources, a consumer-based economy, the threat of economic collapse – how can modern day farmers and homesteaders best plan for and adapt to these modern challenges? Ben Falk argues that we can best prepare for an uncertain future by creating regenerative and resilient systems that perpetuate themselves over time, and shares strategies and systems that have been effective in revitalizing his own land.

I loved so many things about this book, but to highlight a few:

- A thorough discussion of water and earthworks.  As a homesteader whose only sources of water are a pond and rain water catchment, I found this chapter to be extremely useful and informative.  Falk lays out a number of ways that homesteaders can store, sink, spread, or slow water to make best use of it, when it is most needed. For instance, creating earthworks such as swales, identifying plants and animals that work best in your bioregion, and storing water in farm ponds. (I wrote about our experiences with farm ponds and swales here).

MayOFD5

- The incredible photographs of the Whole Systems Research Farm’s land and buildings. When I’m in need of a little homestead inspiration, I just flip through the photographs of this book. Lush gardens, a series of ponds and rice paddies, incredibly constructed buildings, mature perennial bushes…I could go on and on!  It’s like a permaculture homesteader’s dream.

- The lists of design principles and homestead and self-assessment tools that are contained within the book and its appendices. These include an extensive list of principles of resiliency and regeneration design, a quiz for assessing resiliency, a skill list for emergencies, among others.  In particular, I found the Assessing Resiliency Aptitude Quiz to be surprisingly useful, giving me a new awareness of my strengths and weaknesses.

- The many tools for assessing a site, creating a working master plan, and designing with an ecological approach. I really appreciated how frankly Falk shared what worked and didn’t work on his homestead, and how he might do things differently in the future. While the focus of this book is not exclusively on starting a homestead from scratch, there are so many resources within this book that will be of huge benefit for readers starting on a new piece of land.

Homestead Ducks | Homestead Honey

I would have loved to see more of a discussion of homestead finances in this book. While I know that one author cannot address all areas of homesteading, my own personal experiences have taught me that every aspect of building a homestead takes energy, whether that be in the form of labor or money.  Creating infrastructure, systems and permanent plantings of food and fuel takes money and time and energy, and I would have loved a glimpse into Falk’s expenses when creating his resilient homestead.

Garden with tool shed

If you’re looking to take your homestead to the next level of self-sufficiency and resilience, I highly recommend The Resilient Farm and Homestead. It is the kind of book you’re going to want to pore over again and again because there is SO much information and inspiration between its covers. 

*Edited 8.14.2014: This book is currently 25% off through September 7th! Click below to be taken to Chelsea Green’s website.
Chelsea Green Publishing - the leading publisher of sustainable living books since 1985.

Empowered Eating eCourse!

Empowered Eating: The Local Foods eCourse Open now for registration | Homestead Honey

A few months ago, I wrote an email to my dear friend Tatiana, of Mama Philosopher, with the subject line, “A very crazy, and possibly very good idea!”

That idea was to combine our expertise – Tatiana wrote her PhD dissertation on the local food movement, and I’m passionate and knowledgeable about homesteading, gardening, and food preservation – into one totally awesome eCourse that dives into the local food movement.

The result is Empowered Eating, a four week course in which participants explore local food issues, participate in a two-week local food challenge, and learn about growing food, sourcing local food, and preserving seasonal abundance, all in a supportive online community.

Living in the local food hotbed of the Willamette Valley of Oregon for over a decade, I became passionate about growing my own food and sourcing it from local farmers with whom I could develop a relationship. I’ve learned so much about adapting my diet to seasonal abundance, nurturing a bountiful garden, buying in bulk from farms, and preserving for the winter months. Empowered Eating is the best of what I’ve learned from hands-on experience, rolled into one inspirational and educational course.

I’m honored to co-teach with Tatiana Abatemarco. Since meeting a few years ago during an online course, Tatiana and I have connected deeply. While we’ve never actually met in person, we share so many similar interests – peaceful parenting, personal growth, Waldorf education, wellness, and local food. Tatiana brings amazing knowledge and a beautiful, thoughtful teaching presence to this course.

Empowered Eating will take place from August 25-September 19. During these four weeks, we will:

  • Explore local food ethics and discover our “why”
  • Create local food sourcing strategies and meal plans for our families
  • Join together in a supportive community as we undertake a two-week Local Food Challenge
  • Learn the basics of growing, preserving, and storing food via photo tutorials and videos
  • Create seasonal meal plans
  • Explore topics such as bioregionalism, lacto-fermentation, wild foraging,
  • and SO much more!

Whether you’re just beginning a local food journey, or wanting support to go deeper, this course will be a mixture of learning, community and fun.

I would be so honored if you would join Tatiana and me for this eCourse. This week, from July 28 until August 4, Homestead Honey readers will receive 50% off the course tuition when you use the discount code Homestead50.

Learn more about Empowered Eating here, and if you have any questions about the course, please email me at teri@homestead-honey.com.

Thank you for your support!
Teri

 

Peach Basil Salsa

fresh peaches

It’s peach season!  While we don’t have peaches from our own trees quite yet, we do have access to great quantities of Missouri and Illinois peaches.  They are bursting with the taste of summer, and we eat them fresh, cooked in cobblers, and in an amazing Peach Basil Salsa.

(I collected some amazing peach recipes last year. You can find that blog post here.  If you’re interested in making peach peel jelly, you can find that post here.)

My Peach Basil Salsa recipe was created with inspiration from a few similar recipes online, and it is perfect on grilled white fish, or as a dip for tortilla chips. If you want, add a hot pepper or two to spice things up, or leave it as is for a sweet and savory flavor.

Peach Basil Salsa recipe | Homestead Honey

4 ripe Peaches, pitted and diced

3 tbsp fresh Basil, minced

1/4 Red Onion, minced

a splash of Balsamic Vinegar (around 1 tsp)

Salt to taste

Optional hot peppers

Combine ingredients and enjoy!

 

Do you have a favorite peach recipe?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments or on Facebook!