Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays!

I know I've been quiet - we had our Yule this past weekend, and I'll be visiting family for Christmas, so I won't be posting until next week or so. Everything is fine, just busy.

Take care, and Happy Holidays to all!

Monday, December 14, 2009

An Apple a Day.....

I've just finished working my way through all the apples we picked. We got 20 pints unsweetened applesauce from the Fujis - they didn't need anything added to make delicious sauce! The Granny Smiths were used for dried apples slices and canned apple pie filling, plus apple crisp for desert a few nights. Dehydrating apples make the house smell wonderful.

And even after all this time, I have 6 apples to keep for eating fresh. Yum.

Trying to peel the apple in one curl sounds like taking things to a small extreme. After peeling 30lbs of apples, I've noticed it actually makes a lot of sense - I'm less likely to cut myself, I loose less apple flesh with the peel, and the apple looks better when I'm done. Plus it's just fun to try!

Final results:

  • 3 apple pies
  • dozen fresh apple snacks
  • 18 pints Fuji applesauce, unsweetened
  • 8 liters dried apple slices (estimate, might be 9)
  • 13 Qts. Apple Pie Filling
  • 4 Pts. Apple Pie Filling
  • 4 Qts. Apple Slices in medium syrup
  • Wednesday, December 9, 2009

    A Yuletide Meme

    1.) Have you started your Christmas shopping? Yes.

    2.) Tell me about one of your special traditions. We've started making a gingerbread house every year. I like to serve cinnamon rolls on Yule morning, and might look into stollen for that instead (make ahead! yay!)

    3.) When do you put up your tree? The day after Thanksgiving with the rest of the Yule decorations, at least so far.

    4.) Are you a Black Friday shopper? No, I put up Yule decorations that day.

    5.) Do you travel at Christmas or stay home? We stay HOME. After one holiday visiting 5 houses - well, that won't happen again.

    6.) What is your funniest Christmas memory?

    7.) What is your favorite Christmas movie of all time? The full length How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The half-hour version is banned.

    8.) Do you do your own Christmas baking? What’s your favorite treat? Yes. Favorite treat so far is my nutty Sugar Plums, for which I've never seen the recipe. Honey and spices and nuts (no fruit) rolled in cocoa or powered sugar, and taste better after a few weeks to let the flavors meld. Yum.

    9.) Fake or Real Tree? Fake, due to fire codes. I strongly prefer real ones, and generally get a live wreath to hang inside, plus 'tree-scent' candles to get the scents.

    10.) What day (as a Mom) does the actual panic set in to get it all done? It doesn't.

    11.) Are you still wrapping presents on Christmas Eve? Only a couple, often for stockings.

    12.) What is your favorite family fun time at Christmas? All the yummy food :) Hanging out with loved ones.

    13.) What Christmas craft do you like the best? You mean I have to pick just one?

    14.) Christmas music? Yes or No. And if yes, What is your favorite song? In small doses, yes. Favorite songs - Adeste Fideles, in Latin; and Let it Snow, by Bing Crosby.

    15.) When do you plan to finish all your shopping? A week before Yule, as we're traveling for the Christmas and Yule is several days earlier.

    Any blogger is welcome to participate in this meme, even if you haven’t been tagged yet. Just simply copy and paste the questions into your blog, and then answer them. Then tag 5 or more of your favorite blogs, and leave them a comment telling them they’ve been tagged. I wasn't tagged; just playing along - care to join me?

    When you post your blog, please spread some Christmas cheer, and leave a link back to Heather’s Top Ten Christmas Blog, and the blog that you were tagged by.

    Sunday, November 29, 2009

    Independance Day - Nov. 29

    It's been a quiet week. Thanksgiving was about half local, half easy food. Still had piles, even for just the two of us.

    1. Plant something
    – nothing.

    2. Harvest something – Nothing.

    3. Preserve something – Drying brussels sprouts, lemon slices, shredded cabbage, turnip greens.

    4. Reduce waste – Regular recycling and eating of leftovers. Still playing heater-chicken; days have been in 50-60'F range.

    5. Preparation and Storage –Does decluttering count?

    6. Build Community Food Systems – nothing

    7. Eat the Food – Apple pie, roast chicken, pumpkin pie, turnip greens with bacon, mashed potatoes & rutabagas that I remember from childhood.

    8. Crafting – Cross-stitch, arguing with sock yarn again. I mean, working on knitting socks :)

    Sunday, November 22, 2009

    Independance Day - Nov. 23

    1. Plant something – nothing.

    2. Harvest something – Nothing.

    3. Preserve something – Canned 60lbs of apples, in sauce, canned apple pie filling, and 4 qts apples in medium syrup to play with. Have 20lbs left that I plan on dehydrating this week.

    4. Reduce waste – Regular recycling and eating of leftovers. Still playing heater-chicken.

    5. Preparation and Storage –I found a "mini" glass oil lamp at the thrift store, brand new. Bought 3-liter sealing glass jars for storage of dry items - I needed more.

    6. Build Community Food Systems – Farmer's market.

    7. Eat the Food – Apple pie, roast chicken.

    8. Crafting – Finished niece's purse. Dropped off some sewing at sempstress, which is a general help. Started a new cross-stitch pattern.

    A Good Day's Work

    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    Independance Day - Nov. 15

    1. Plant something – nothing.

    2. Harvest something – Nothing.

    3. Preserve something – Dried turnip greens, tomatoes, and lots of apples.

    4. Reduce waste – Regular recycling and eating of leftovers. Still playing heater-chicken.

    5. Preparation and Storage – Bought more canning jars, because I ran out. Bought 3-liter sealing glass jars for storage of dry items.

    6. Build Community Food Systems – Farmer's market had to close (the nor'easter was coming) but I managed to get there early enough. Two coworkers came with me for the first time. Yay!

    7. Eat the FoodApple brown betty. Brussels sprouts with Kielbasa and red onion (yum!). Stuffed cabbage leaves. Lettuce-and-tomato sandwiches. Regular eating from pantry. Using the farmer market as primary store.

    8. Crafting – Finished 2 items from sewing bag (repairs). Did some work on niece's purse - nearly done!.

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Prep Check

    A nor'easter hit my area this week - yesterday & last night were the worst of it. While we haven't lost power, I'm still counting it as a prep check - at least for my nerves!

    We woke up yesterday to the wind and rain hitting the building, and wind-lashed trees. The weather worsened as the day passed. I filled extra jugs with water, in case they were needed. I made sure chores were caught up, and cooked dinner early. The power flickered, so I lit candles and the oil lamp in case it went out. Then we turned on the scanner to see what we could hear - lots of trees down, roads flooded; they had to put up a second set of barriers in at least one place because the first set floated off. A scanner is a wonderful thing to have during a storm or other emergency.

    The worst is now over. My only real concern last night was cooking if the power went out. We had water, food, light, plenty of non-electric things to do, and it wasn't cold.

    Assessment: I need to find a non-electric way to cook during storms, and get a bit more in the way of oil lamps and supplies for them.

    So far, so good!

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Storage Comparision: Turnips

    The turnips on top are local, organic ones from the farmers market.

    The ones on the bottom are from the local grocer - bought a week after the others. All are kept in the same place.

    I'll take the fresher, smaller ones, thank you...

    A Learning Year

    This is my first year storing local food for the winter. We should be OK on strawberry jams & jellies -there are about 2 dozen in the pantry, plus the raspberry jam. I've canned 12 pints applesauce, and have the same to do again, plus 40lbs of granny smith apples to dry & can. We have home-canned chicken & beef broth, beef stew, Hobbit Stew, and bread & butter pickles.

    A lot of food has been dried: tomatoes, potatoes, turnips, turnip greens, bananas, watermelon, peppers, celery - if I can dry it I'm trying it! We have a box of winter squash stored as well.

    I plan on learning to make sourdough bread, and keep the starter going.

    I'm still putting up, for as long as the local market is open. I'm not sure how long our stores will last, but it's a learning year.

    for a full pantry list, scroll all the way down the page

    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Apple Harvest

    118 pounds of Granny Smith and Fuji apples from a local orchard

    Sunday, November 8, 2009

    Independance Day - Nov. 8

    1. Plant something – nothing.

    2. Harvest something – Nothing.

    3. Preserve something – Dried turnip roots, turnip greens, tomatoes, and broccoli flowers & stems. Canned 12 pints of local, homemade applesauce :)

    4. Reduce waste – Regular recycling and eating of leftovers. Still playing heater-chicken. Discovered 'waste heat' from canning can heat our living room.

    5. Preparation and Storage – bought 2 more trays for the dehydrator.

    6. Build Community Food Systems – went to local apple orchard with DD, picked & bought 115lbs of apples for canning & drying. Also went to farmers market.

    7. Eat the Food – Regular eating from pantry. Using the farmer market as primary store.

    8. Crafting – Nothing; I've been in the kitchen!

    Friday, November 6, 2009

    A Handmade Yule

    Buy Hand for the Holidays Challenge - 2009

    I plan on making a fair bit of my gifts this Yule. I like to make gifts that are used. My shelves are quite full of knicknacks, and no one needs more clutter. Things like Gifts-in-a-Jar are great - it's like saying "Have a night off from cooking dinner!" or "Enjoy special hot chocolate while it snows" and such sweet things. I've picked up two recipe books for these, and I have links below as well.

    Here's my list so far:
    • Purse for Dear Niece
    • Lemon Hand Scrub for various relatives
    • Cider Jelly for various relatives
    • Basket of homemade jellys for Grandfather (which he loves)
    • Basket of home-dried diced peppers for mother
    • Not sure what else, yet...
    Although I do knit and crochet, except for what's already started I'm not sure I'll be able to make more yarny gifts. And, granted, there are only a few people that get those ... I'm more generous with food than knitwear :)

    Gift-in-a-Jar links:
    Cookies in a Jar
    Painted Desert Chili - makes a lot of chili, tastes great, looks almost too pretty to eat. Yes, it got rave reviews as a gift!
    Gifts in a Jar Recipes (several sections!)
    Gifts in a Jar - LOTS of recipes!

    with many thanks to Ravelers who have posted them!

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009


    I thought I'd add a quick post on the links I've added under Resources, and why they're listed.

    American Livestock Breeds Conservancy -

    "The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy is a nonprofit membership organization working to protect over 150 breeds of livestock and poultry from extinction. Included are asses, cattle, goats, horses, sheep, pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys."

    I believe that the old heritage breeds are breeds good for homesteaders, and they and their genetic diversity should be preserved. By looking at their site, I learn more about the old breeds. As a shopper I can ask farmers about the breeds they are raising, and at least know what they mean if they say they raise Randall cattle. I'll know that the turkeys will be delectable if they say they have Bourbon Reds. I'll know, setting up a homestead, that I'd like to preserve the old breeds, and find them to raise on my land.

    Listening to Katrina
    "On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina became the largest natural disaster in United States history. After the levees failed, it became the largest man-made disaster in United States history. This blog is a chronicle of what happened to myself and my family during those events. It is also a documentation of lessons learned from a survival and recovery viewpoint."

    Written by someone who bugged out before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, LA. He covers bug-out plans (including 60-second plans) and bug-in plans. He covers what he did, what helped, what didn't, what he suggests after having used the plan. I've been referred several times to his site as a good source for information.

    Local Harvest

    "The best organic food is what's grown closest to you. Use our website to find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies. "

    If you can't find what you want locally, try this site. Angora yarn? Beeswax? Soap? Crafts? You may also be able to sell your products here, in addition to Etsy and other such sites.

    National Center for Home Preservation
    University of Georgia, USA

    My go-to site to answer questions and find basic recipes for home canning. It also has sections for freezing, drying, smoking, fermenting, and storing all that yummy goodness.

    Slow Food USA

    "Slow Food USA seeks to create dramatic and lasting change in the food system. We reconnect Americans with the people, traditions, plants, animals, fertile soils and waters that produce our food. We inspire a transformation in food policy, production practices and market forces so that they ensure equity, sustainability and pleasure in the food we eat."

    You can't go wrong with that. Slow Food also has a Ark of Taste - a catalog of 200 foods in danger of extinction - from breads, herbs, and wines to taffy. The Bourbon Red turkey is on the Ark of Taste.

    Sustainable Table
    "Sustainable Table celebrates local sustainable food, educates consumers on food-related issues and works to build community through food."

    Information on recipes, shopping, issues, news, and community. Nice layout and graphics, and has a blog. If you want to know where to start, look here.

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    Cooking Turnip Greens

    I made these because my fiance likes them, and I feel very bad giving him canned greens when I make so much else from scratch.

    Greens are also a great source of nutrients, easy to grow, and inexpensive. They are a cool-weather crop, and so may help extend your growing season.

    Here is the recipe I tried:

    Turnip greens
    3 slices bacon
    1. Put bacon in a medium pot, and fill pot half-way with water. Bring to boil, and boil for about 20 minutes.
    2. While bacon is boiling, rinse turnip greens well. I removed most of the stems and sliced them into roughly 1-inch strips.
    3. Add greens to pot. Cook until they are as tender as you would like. Scoop out greens, draining water from them, and serve
    4. If you dice the bacon you can serve them together. I didn't do this; they're back in the fridge with the little we didn't eat.
    We both enjoyed this and I plan on cooking it again soon. The greens are tender without being 'cooked into submission,' and the seasoning from the local bacon was wonderful.

    sneak peak

    Sunday, November 1, 2009

    Independance Day - Nov 2

    1. Plant something – nothing.

    2. Harvest something – Nothing.

    3. Preserve something – Still have local turnips that need drying. Dried some tomatoes from the farmer's market before they could go bad, and ate the rest.

    4. Reduce waste – Regular recycling and eating of leftovers. Still playing heater-chicken.

    5. Preparation and Storage –bought a total of 3 5# bags of flour, stocking for winter. It's been a rough harvest season I think. To get more I'll need another place to put it. Also worked on our 60-second plan.

    6. Build Community Food Systems – went to farmers market. Bought tomatoes for a coworker. At the grocers I tried to buy 'local' foods as well - their definition is within 6 hours by truck, so about 300 miles? Better than 2,000!

    7. Eat the Food – Regular eating from pantry. Using the farmer market as primary store. Getting brave, trying to cook turnip greens for DFH who loves them - new recipe for me! DFH loved them, and I enjoyed them as well. I can't touch the canned stuff so I wasn't sure I would eat these. Fresh broccoli for dinner. Eating egg salad sandwiches for lunch - eggs are local, lunch meat isn't. Made french toast for dinner, to eat older bread. Daughter was delighted!

    8. Crafting – I made half of niece's gift - a crocheted and felted flower-purse. I have one side ready, and need to crochet the other half.

    Friday, October 30, 2009

    Making Banana Chips

    I started with 7 pounds of fresh bananas. This picture is where we started; below are the results.

    All I did was purchase quick-sell 'brown' bananas at the store. Brought them home, sliced for drying or smashing (the bowl).

    I now have 1.5 quarts dried banana chips - wonderful sweet snacks - and enough smashed bananas for a round of banana breakfast muffins. Add in the second batch to dry (I had enough to fill the trays twice) and it was 2.5 quarts dried and two batches of muffins. Not bad for $3 and some patience!

    Thursday, October 29, 2009

    Farmers Mini-Market

    This week's market was very nearly rained out. Overnight rain, market canceled, market un-canceled at the request of a vendor (yay!). So what you see, is all one organic vendor this week:

    Clockwise from top left corner: Turnip greens, broccoli, radish greens attached to the radishes on the other side; green beans, turnips, 3 bags of tomatoes.


    Sunday, October 25, 2009

    Homemade Beauty

    I make what I can of my beauty products. Currently, I make and use my own body scrub, hair gel, shampoo/conditioner, salve, and moisturizer.

    Since I've started making my own hair care products, my hair needs less attention and looks healthier. It dries faster and styles easier. It's soft, shiny, bouncy, and healthy.

    My shampoo is simple baking soda, scrubbed gently into my scalp and left for about 5 minutes before rinsing out. I only use the baking soda when I need it, as it can lighten hair (it did mine!) The conditioner is 4 Tbsp cider vinegar in 32 ounces water, poured over my hair and rinsed out. And no, you can't smell it later. A bit of the gel on the ends, when my hair is still wet, seems nearly to heal damaged ends.

    The first few weeks are more challenging ... commercial shampoos strip your hair, so your scalp over-produces the natural oils. Once you stop using commercial shampoos it takes your scalp a bit to adjust and *stop* overproducing them.

    Related Links

    Nature Moms: The No Shampoo Alternative: directions, and more detailed reasons why it's good

    Life Less Plastic: The No-Shampoo Revolution: She talks about going no-poo, and there's lots of reader feedback as well.

    Ravelry: No-Poo thread (free membership needed, knitting/weaving/crochet/ spinning site)

    Independance Day - Oct 25

    1. Plant something – nothing.

    2. Harvest something – Nothing.

    3. Preserve something – Drying banana chips as we speak. Will soon be making banana bread with the pieces pretty enough to eat but not to dry. Have local turnips that need drying as well.

    4. Reduce waste – Regular recycling and eating of leftovers. Still playing heater-chicken, made much easier by the fact we just had a week of 70's and it hasn't gone below 50's during the day yet. I guess being in an apartment helps; thermostat say's it's 70's in here.

    5. Preparation and Storage – re-did most of the craft stash storage. I now know where things are LOL.

    6. Build Community Food Systems – went to farmers market.

    7. Eat the Food – Regular eating from pantry. Using the farmer market as primary store. Still trying to figure out how to store 4 months of food for when they're closed for winter. Fresh broccoli for dinner. Eating one chicken a week and looking for leftover recipes. Eating egg salad sandwiches for lunch - eggs are local, lunch meat isn't.

    8. Crafting – First sock for class is just past the heel. I haven't done other crafts this week.

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Independance Day Oct. 19

    1. Plant something – nothing.

    2. Harvest something – Nothing.

    3. Preserve something – Made strawberry jam, and strawberry and apple fruit leathers. All fully approved as Yum! Dehydrated and froze basil.

    4. Reduce waste – Regular recycling and eating of leftovers.

    5. Preparation and Storage – re-did closet and second pantry, and storage.

    6. Build Community Food Systems – Sent my cousin home with strawberry jam, promised to bring some to Grampa at Yule. Utility work was done on market day, so they saw all the yummies I bought. And, I got to walk to the market in the morning.

    7. Eat the Food – Regular eating from pantry. Using the farmer market as primary store. Trying to figure out how to store 4 months of food for when they're closed for winter. EEK!

    8. Crafting – First sock for class is at the heel. I've learned I can knit an inch an hour on these :) Also my new spindle got here, so I've done a bit of spinning. The class is priority, but the wool is so yummy... This is what I'm spinning, hand-dyed Blue Faced Leicester wool:

    Friday, October 16, 2009

    More Jam!

    Nice sale at the grocers - buy 2 pints strawberries, get 3 free. My DD has been eating a half-pint a week of the strawberry jams, even without my help, so I'm thinking more would be good. I have never seen her eat jam so much, and so eagerly.

    So - I bought 6 pints of berries. About 1 pint was lost taking off tops and such. I've just now finished processing it all, and from those 5 pints I have about a cup of jam foam to put in yogurt (if I get to it fast enough, like tonight), 8 half-pints low-sugar jam, two half-trays of fruit leathers, and a bit of jam in the fridge for the morning.

    My dehydrator book has recipes for fruit leather. I made strawberries with a bit of sugar, and cornstarch for thickener; strawberries with sugar-free organic applesauce for thickener; and straight applesauce. I use the sugar-free organic because I simply like the taste the best. When these are dry we'll taste-test them and see what we think. I'll let you know the results then; and if we like them I will make more.

    Thursday, October 15, 2009

    The beauty of less

    Even normal household things can amaze me with how little we really need. We have a kitchen table that is 4 foot across - all we really need is one about 2 feet square. Does that explain why half the table is always buried under books?

    We replaced our dishes. Our dinner plates have gone from 11" across to 8", and the bowls hold just two cups when full (yes, I measured) instead of at least 3 cups. It's good for portion sizing, and - bonus - fits in the cabinets better. The picture shows the new plate sitting within the old one. I really enjoyed the snowflake pattern, but since I never saw them I'll just keep some of the mugs in that pattern. The 8" plates have been working perfectly.

    When I put out the Fall decorations (while clearing out the storage unit, very convenient) I noticed that just a few things - candle-holders and fabric leaves on the fireplace, pumpkins on shelves - were enough to create the look I wanted. I might get a new tablecloth, in ruby or gold, to set things off as well. But that will be it, and it will be enough.

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    Independance Day Update

    1. Plant something – nothing.

    2. Harvest something – Nothing.

    3. Preserve something – Bought strawberries (out of season, I know) to make more jam. My child is inhaling it! Next year - making LOTS of pints of jam!

    4. Reduce waste – Regular recycling and eating of leftovers.

    5. Preparation and Storage – trying to catch up :) did re-arrange cupboards for better space use.

    6. Build Community Food Systems –nada

    7. Eat the Food – Regular eating from pantry. Trying to stay away from stores.

    8. Crafting – Just socks for class. All I have time for.

    Friday, October 9, 2009

    A Local Dinner

    Local beef stew I canned, with the Italian flatbread from the farmer's market.

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009


    I'm one that rarely goes to the doctor. I have one that knows me- I've been going to her for many years and refuse to switch doctors to keep the insurance happy. I go for my yearly visit, and only rarely otherwise.

    My first defense is my kitchen- the things that we eat, that keep us healthy enough to stave off most of the little illnesses. This is part of why I'm building a from-scratch pantry (more on that in another post), and eating as local and seasonal as we can. It's also part of why I prefer organic as often as I can get it - I realize USDA organic certification has some problems, but I do know it means no GMOs and a more natural way of farming. I believe those things result in a more nutritious plant, thus more nutritious food.

    Second defense is cleanliness. We wash dishes by hand, as the dishwasher has shown it can't clean properly - and we noticed less colds after that change. I have sanitizer by all the sinks (to be used IN ADDITION to hand-washing, not instead of!) If someone has a cold, I start changing all hand-towels daily, and disinfecting handles and the like just before bed. I don't want to let cold germs breed all night! I make sure to get sections of wall that are often touched, as well. (ex: light switches, and the place you always put your hand to push open the door).

    The third defense is treating symptoms as soon as possible. Rest is one of my treatments - as soon as I realize I'm starting to catch something, I spend the day at home in bed. I eat well, and maybe eat some homemade soup. *poof* the cold is gone! (alright, not quite *poof* but definitely gone.)

    With these simple steps, we went from several small colds and a couple of larger ones, to one small cold, in two winters. And yes, we have a child in public school.

    Related posts elsewhere:

    Bulls-eye Medicine: about re-localizing medicine, among other things.

    Improve Your Diet Now: from the Preparedness Pro.

    A Brief History of Health and Medicine - makes for an interesting read.

    How to Avoid GM Foods - a Wiki article

    Tuesday, October 6, 2009

    Harvest Fresh

    Click through, and it's desktop sized. All local foods: winter squash, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil.

    Monday, October 5, 2009

    Hobbit Stew

    .. better know as Mushroom Stew.

    I had to adjust the recipes I had found, since I needed one without dairy and without the sherry or whatever it was. This made 3 pints of Soup, and I had a half-pint of broth remaining. Also, this will taste better after freezing or as leftovers.

    16 oz each regular mushrooms (can mix in some portabellas if desired)
    5 cups venison, beef, or veggie broth*
    1 large onion, diced
    3 cloves garlic, diced
    4 Tbsp butter
    Rosemary sprig
    salt & pepper

    Dice the mushrooms, onions, and garlic.

    Melt butter in large saucepan on med-high heat. Add onions and garlic, sweat them for about 8 minutes, keeping the temp low so as not to brown things.

    Add diced mushrooms, stir well to coat. Sweat for 10 minutes. Add a bit of water or more butter if needed.

    Add broth and rosemary sprig. Simmer on low for 1 hour.
    Taste and season as desired with salt & pepper. Remove rosemary sprig & serve.

    *I’ve only used venison broth. My second choice would be free-range beef broth. YMMV.

    Sunday, October 4, 2009

    Independance Day Update

    1. Plant something – nothing.

    2. Harvest something – Nothing grew :( Well, the Brussels sprouts are happy but no seeds came up. I've moved the chocolate mint into the house; it keeps shrinking over the years and I'm hoping this will help.

    3. Preserve something – Dried mashed potato flakes, from fresh potatoes.

    4. Reduce waste – Regular recycling and eating of leftovers. Trying to have more planned-overs than left-overs. Large load to thrift store ( see below)

    5. Preparation and Storage – for unrelated reasons, went completely through the storage unit. Tossed about 5 trash bags of items that couldn't be saved, and donated 2 large items & another car load. While I do have a tad more to put out there, we are now using half of a unit that was packed to the gills. Also, re-organized freezer. I can find stuff now! Yay!

    6. Build Community Food Systems – Bought apple cider and apple butter at a local fair. Also farmers market. Picked up items for three co-workers. Tempting worked!

    7. Eat the Food – Root stew. For 3 days, and yet it wasn't leftovers. One night main dish, second night with chicken& stuffing, third night with sausage - nice flavor combo, there.
    ETA: Homemade jam in my yogurt, nearly every day. Yum!

    8. Crafting – Started a sachet bag for the sock class, due Saturday. I can have new yarn for the class socks :) Storage baskets are the slow project, and still being worked on. However, my crochet is getting better because of this project.

    But I don’t ~want~ to cook tonight!

    So what do you do, if you also don’t want to buy processed foods? I know you can cook ahead and freeze, say, casseroles and the like, and I do use this for some meals. Thing is, my freezer is small – all I have is the one above the fridge. With ice, breads, frozen fruits and meats, the freezer stays full. Also, I don’t like depending on the freezer – we live in hurricane country, and a Category 1 or 2 storm can leave us without power for a week or two. Cooking will be hard; freezing, impossible.

    Dehydrating and Canning

    I can dehydrate mashed potatoes, and freeze homemade gravy – they can be ready in about 10 minutes. Soups can be assembled from dried ingredients in advance (everything except the meats!) and cooked in the slowcooker or on the stove for until hot & juicy. Broths and meatier soups can be canned, as well as meatballs and unseasoned chicken or beef chunks. That meat can be used as the basis for other items – BBQ, chicken salad, to add to soups, etc. – just heat well before eating!

    Dump & Heat Dinner ideas:
    Soups: chicken, beef, mushroom, lentils, etc.
    Meatball sandwiches
    BBQ sandwiches

    Anyone have more ideas? I do tend to cook a lot of soups...

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009

    Happiness belongs to the self-sufficient
    – Aristotle

    Monday, September 28, 2009

    Independance Day Update

    1. Plant something – nothing.

    2. Harvest something – Nothing ready yet.

    3. Preserve something – Dried basil and hashbrowns. Canned mushroom-venison stew. (aka Hobbit stew?)

    4. Reduce waste – Regular recycling and eating of leftovers. Trying to have more planned-overs than left-overs.

    5. Preparation and Storage – Went over pantry storage again- I'm determined to be able to fit more groceries in here!

    6. Build Community Food Systems – Farmers market. Picked up items for one co-worker. Tempted all of them with samples of the breads sold there.

    7. Eat the Food – Tried a new type of squash.

    8. Crafting – Finished the Twisted Scarf. Storage baskets are the slow project.

    I blinked and the week was gone. I thought we did more than this....

    Sunday, September 27, 2009

    Autumn Quiet ?

    There is so much I want to do this fall, and I’ve no idea how I’ll find the time.

    I want to preserve more for winter – root vegetables dried to chunks and flakes for cooking; making dried soup recipes for slow-cooking on lazy winter days. I want to knit socks, and a comfy sweater with that wonderful wool I found; I want to knit the sontag with the yarn I will spin from the wool roving I have. I want to stitch up some of the clothes I’ve thought of, and crochet snuggle-beds for the kitties. I want to become familiar with my loom and learn it’s song.

    I want to work on the cross-stitch projects I have, and embroider pillows for us; I want to make an “Irish Maple Leaf” quilt for our bed; to make another fabric lunch sack and more fabric napkins.

    I want to reduce the Pile of stuff that I have stored (and it is me, not him, that has all of this stuff). And I want to do it this winter, as we get into the storage for winter decorations, and we’re digging through it anyway – I want to pull it all out and have half as much, if that, going back in. Some of the items we already know are leaving and it’s just a matter of getting to them, so that they can be given away (including two of the largest!).

    Hopefully this weekend we can start to get into the Pile and start filtering. The sock-knitting class starts soon, too. And once I get the drop spindle, I can start spinning the roving for the sontag.

    Fall is here, winter is coming. Time for drawing close to the hearth, and working winter’s crafts while we talk and enjoy the company of those we love.

    Tuesday, September 22, 2009

    Independance Day update

    1. Plant something – nothing.

    2. Harvest something – Nothing.

    3. Preserve something – Basil frozen.

    4. Reduce waste – Regular recycling and eating of leftovers. Saved dead batteries from work, to be correctly disposed of later.

    5. Preparation and Storage – Found taper candles, 98c. for 15. Yay!

    6. Build Community Food Systems – Farmers market. Still encouraging coworkers to buy from there, including offering to pick up for them.

    7. Eat the Food – Ate the last of the venison from the freezer, and saved the broth for my mushroom soup. This week's menu will alternate meat & non-meat nights, as we learn to cut back our meats. Slow-roasted a local chicken in the cast-iron dutch oven; delicious!

    8. Crafting – Still crocheting storage baskets. Also, picked up yummy sock yarns and a pair of circular needles. I started a coin bag on those - it's part of the practice for the knitting socks class I'm now taking, which starts in October. I haven't done cross-stitch in weeks, I need to visit that again as well.

    Saturday, September 19, 2009

    For Love of Basil

    Basil is one of my favorite herbs to cook with, both fresh & dried. There is a taste difference between the two, and I'd like to share with you how I preserve the flavor of fresh basil for winter dishes.

    You will need:
    -Fresh basil
    -Olive oil (I use extra virgin cold pressed)
    -mortar & pestle, or an alternative
    -an ice cube tray
    -a Tablespoon measure

    -- Pinch off the fresh basil leaves. You don't want flowers or their buds, just the fresh leaves. Rinse them off in water and pat dry.

    Fresh basil in pestle-- Rip them into small pieces (or cut or dice). Place in a small bowl - I'm using my mortar & pestle here. Dribble some olive oil on them, and crush the leaves into the oil. You don't need to create a pulp but rather want to bruise the leaves into the oil.

    -- Using a tablespoon, measure the crushed basil into ice cube trays. I do one tablespoon per cube for ease of measuring later. Pour a bit more oil onto them, and tuck all the green down under the surface of the oil. Put into the freezer.

    -- The next day, check them. They should be completely frozen. You can add another layer of oil on the top, and freeze again, if you feel it would be helpful or there is green sticking up - you want to protect the basil.
    Frozen Basil
    --Whenever you are making something and want the flavor of fresh basil, toss in a cube or two. It makes even canned spaghetti sauce taste much better, & doesn't need to be thawed in advance. I try to put some up every winter.

    Friday, September 18, 2009

    Market Day 9/16

    Fall is here, and the vendors are changing. Still I found fresh basil, pumpkin-chocolate-chip muffins, more blackberry butter, whole wheat bread, a small Hubbard squash, goats milk soap & mouisterizer, and potoates. I do notice that the potatoes are getting larger as the season gets later - these are from the same organic farm I've been getting potatoes from.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    small acreage

    85% of the world’s farms are small farms, smaller than 5 hectares

    from Casaubon's Book (blog)

    5 hectares is 12.35 acres. I've heard that called micro-farming before, like it's a rare thing. But at the same time, it's amazing how much potential there is in a small acreage. Please read the article the quote is from. Good information, and great for getting one thinking.

    Thursday, September 10, 2009

    Beauty at Home: Flax Gel

    Beauty at Home

    Much of my 'beauty care' - hair and skin care, 'spa' treatments and the like, are done at home. Very often they being done in the kitchen. So, as part of sharing our homesteading ways, I will occasionally post on the things I do to take care of myself and my family. This is the first. If you have ideas, or anything you'd like me to cover, please let me know!

    Flax Gel

    Flax gel is the mucilaginous or starchy part of the cooked seed. The flax gel was apparently used in the 20's by the flappers, to get those wonderful curls. I have been using this for about 6 months now on a daily basis, and have been very happy with the results.

    2 cups water (4 parts)
    1/2 cup flax seed (1 part)

    Place in pot in stove over medium-low heat, stirring often. When the white foam starts to appear, turn the heat off. Place a strainer over a bowl that will hold 16 oz or so. Pour the contents into the strainer and let it strain, then stir the remaining seed and scrape the bottom of the strainer to get the last bit of gel. Clean up promptly (the gel will need to be soaked off if it dries, but if you do it right away it comes right off). Keep the gel in closed container - I use a jelly jar I like. I get 8 to 12 oz of clear gel per recipe.

    Also, if you cook it too long, the gel will get too thick to separate from the seeds. It took a few batches for me to get this down :) but only takes about 15 minutes to make. The consistency will be about like melted cheese - the picture shows what I mean.

    I tend to keep mine in the fridge. It will last at least two weeks - after that, I run out :) It will start to smell 'off' when it gets old enough. On the counter I've had it last one week to three weeks. I have no idea what caused the difference in time.

    For a leave-in conditioner, it seems to work best when warm (right after you make it) but can be used every time you shower, cold is fine. I also use it every day to style my hair, and it works better than the commercial hair gels I’ve used before. It does seem to re-activate if I dampen my hair with a washcloth or damp fingers.

    Questions are welcome!

    Wednesday, September 9, 2009

    September Market

    The vendors are changing. One is leaving, his fields ready for winter. At least one, possibly two more (that I know of!) are coming. I'm very much looking forward to the second - she has a spinner's flock, with colored wools, breed for wool & meat. Today's finds - several acorn squash, in a rainbow; two pie pumpkins, butternut squash, bitty tomatoes and fresh basil, a loaf of bread.

    Also, I can try the pickles I made. Yay!

    Thursday, September 3, 2009

    Rubber Chicken

    One chicken, three or more meals. Popular enough idea, and yet sometimes I still forget what to do with it. Here's what we've done this week, for two people:

    1. Slow-cooked it all day, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with herbs. Delicious. The honey gives it a very nice golden color that's often hard to get in the slow-cooker.

    2. Zataran's Smothered chicken. Used about 3 cups of shredded chicken. Had just enough leftovers for lunch the next day.

    3. Chicken soup - using the broth it made in the slow-cooker, another 3 cups of shredded chicken, and assorted root vegetables. Put enough in the freezer to feed us another night, as well.

    4. TBD. There's about 2 cups of chicken in the freezer. I didn't even pick the chicken clean; I had just pulled out the easy stuff for saving.

    Other ideas:
    -Heat shredded chicken with BBQ sauce in a skillet, and serve on a bun with green side items.
    -Use for soft tacos, burritos, and the like. I don't make a lot of these so I'm not as sure.
    -Chicken Salad.
    -Chicken & Dumplings


    Wednesday, September 2, 2009

    Fall Market

    Fall is here, it's official. At least, I say it is! Trees are blushing, the weather is cooler (which means 70's, here) and they had Pumpkins at the farmer's market!

    Yes, Fall is my favorite season :)

    Pie Pumpkins, green peppers, free-range farm chicken, hand-milled whole wheat bread, red & blue potatoes, grape tomatoes, red organic onion, fresh basils.

    Independance Day Week 12

    IndepenDANCE because yes, it is a dance, with the seasons, nature, and the people around you.

    1. Plant something – Brussels Sprouts transplants, Radish, Beets, lettuce.

    2. Harvest something – Nothing.

    3. Preserve something – Basil, green peppers, both dried. Pumpkin in freezer.

    4. Reduce waste – Regular recycling and eating of leftovers.

    5. Preparation and Storage – Found taper candles, 98c. for 15. Yay!

    6. Build Community Food Systems – Farmers market.

    7. Eat the Food – Tomatoes. Dried potatoes added to stew (Yum!). cooked and mashed sugar pumpkins, with DD's help, for pie, muffins, and freezer.

    8. Crafting – Crocheting (storage baskets, this time). Spinning. Sewing. Weaving practice. Basic, but still fun!

    Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    Independance Day Week 11

    1. Plant something – nothing yet. Need to clear out the pots.

    2. Harvest something – Nothing.

    3. Preserve something – Watermelon dried. That will be the last one for the year.

    4. Reduce waste – Regular recycling and eating of leftovers.

    5. Preparation and Storage – nothing.

    6. Build Community Food Systems – Farmers market.

    7. Eat the Food – Tomatoes. Running out of ideas for yellow squash & Zucchini.

    8. Crafting – Crocheting. Trying to do more spinning – I have projects in mind that I cannot find the yarn for. Of course, I’m being real specific what I want

    Starting to work through sewing pile – right now it’s a lot of hand-sewing, which slows me down.

    Tuesday, August 25, 2009

    Silly Me

    I keep forgetting I can just post about what we're doing, even the 'normal' stuff. That was a bit of the idea, right? So, here we go.

    One of the local stores had a Big sale on Strawberries, so I made more jam. I've now learned not to make jam from pureed strawberries - you can't tell where the foam stops and the jam starts. I now have foam above the jam, in all the jars. *sigh* Ah well. Lesson learned!

    Nearly all the fabric is washed and ironed. I've got one shirt almost ready to sew, just need to cut out the sleeves. Most of my sewing right now is actually repairs - beads coming off a skirt, fixing small holes before they get bigger. Hopefully I will get to some of that this weekend.

    There are piles of watermelon rind in the fridge. I've also got another watermelon on the table, and the market is tomorrow. I doubt I will process anything tonight, as the fridge is full and I'm tired. So, tomorrow perhaps.

    I did get my stashes a bit better organized. Once we get that last bolt for the treadle the Sphinx is in, I'll be able to shut the table again. The Spinx has been on non-stop display for months, and while she is beautiful, I do also enjoy the 'smoothness' of everything being put away.

    We did try a new recipe tonight - zucchini and yellow squash, half a red sweet bell pepper, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with Italian seasoning, then steamed. Good, if perhaps a bit bland; I'll spice it up more next time (more seasoning may be all it needed; those were big squash!). Very colorful, and lovely on the plate.

    Monday, August 24, 2009

    Independance Day Week 10

    1. Plant something – nothing yet.

    2. Harvest something – Nothing.

    3. Preserve something – Dried watermelon chunks, saving rinds. Bought strawberries on sale; made strawberry jam. Dried fresh basil from farmers market.

    4. Reduce waste – Regular recycling and eating of leftovers.

    5. Preparation and Storage – nothing.

    6. Build Community Food Systems – Farmers market.

    7. Eat the Food – Steamed squash for dinner, sliced cucumbers are now a staple snack. Watermelon. Lots of sliced tomatoes. Ate some of the stew I had canned - delicious! Note to self, 1 qt stew feeds two people.

    8. Crafting – Crocheting socks. Lots of crochet. Starting to work through sewing pile. Doing bit-at-a-time restorations of the treadle base the Sphinx is in.

    Thursday, August 20, 2009

    Watermelons galore...

    I've been seized by a compulsion to buy fresh watermelon every week. Despite the fact that we don't finish it that fast!

    So, what can I do with all that melon?

    I can make Watermelon Juice.

    I can make dried Watermelon - remember Jolly Ranchers? They taste like that - Yum! Also, I'm using the rinds to make Candied Watermelon Rinds. (I can't find that recipe online: I got it from Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Cookbook.)

    What can't be used for those is cubed and snacked on.

    I can also make Watermelon Jelly - I just found this, and haven't tried it yet; the recipe is towards the bottom of the page.

    Watermelons are a good source of:
    1. Potassium
    2. Lycopene
    3. Vitamins A, B6, and C
    I'm off to dice another watermelon :)

    Wednesday, August 19, 2009

    Scents of Basil

    Basil - sweet, lemon, and purple - perfumed the air as I returned with my haul: Cucumbers, zucchini, more squash, an onion, Blackberry Butter for yogurt and sandwiches, hand-milled whole wheat bread (in the center), hodgepodge mini-tomatoes to delight my salads for the week. And of course, watermelons off to the side...

    Tuesday, August 18, 2009

    Balcony Gardening

    I've cleaned the garden, mulched, and re-arranged. I do need to go back out and pull up the collards and cabbage - I lost them to cutworms. I hadn't taken any precautions, now I know better! And they ate them up in less than a week. Next time - toilet paper tubes around stalks, and cornmeal on the soil. Also more crushed eggshell might be a nice deterrent.

    The picture shows the lettuce (since bolted) and a new parsley plant from the nursery. The wood in the front just looks nice and is essentially garden sculpture. Both of the garden stands you see were discards from others.

    So, this summer I got a few salads worth of greens and a bit of chives. The fall planting will be when the heat breaks in September. I hope.

    Related Links:
    Self-Sufficiency Garden: Talks about gardening, including fruit trees, in small spaces like balconies and condo 'yards.' Includes specific varieties to try, and sources for them.
    Journey to Forever: Very useful site. This page has links to more information and books about kitchen gardening in containers, without necessarily costing a great deal.
    What to Plant Now: at Mother Earth News. Shows 8 US regions, and each region has suggestions for sowing (indoors or out) or transplanting, for March to September.
    How Much Veg to Plant: at Grow Organic Food. Summarizes how much to grow to feed a family of two adults and three children, in regular garden rows, with suggestions for how much to harvest for each meal. The information can easily be used for most situations, I would think.

    Sunday, August 16, 2009

    Market Haul

    Red bell peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, chocolate mint fudge, locally made Rose essential oil. The background is an apron I bought at another farm market a few months ago. The Watermelon isn't showing, but yes I have one!

    Friday, August 14, 2009

    Independance Day Week 9

    1. Plant something – nothing; too hot.

    2. Harvest something – Nothing.

    3. Preserve something – Dried watermelon chunks, saving rinds. Drying red peppers for gift.

    4. Reduce waste – Regular recycling and eating of leftovers.

    5. Preparation and Storage – re-organized pantry for better use of space.

    6. Build Community Food Systems – Farmers market. Convinced an acquaintance that I can't do food storage for her, but will help her learn. I think I've got her half-talked into a dehydrator.

    7. Eat the Food – Steamed squash for dinner, sliced cucumbers are now a staple snack. Watermelon. Lots of sliced tomatoes.

    8. Crafting – Crocheting socks.

    Tuesday, August 11, 2009

    Treadle Sewing

    1927 Singer 127 SphinxTreadles are wonderful - they move at a speed easier to control than the electrics, and make very neat stitches. My treadles are a 1907 Singer 66-1 Lotus and a 1934 Singer 127 with Sphinx decals (pictured). I'm also looking for a handcrank - as it won't be attached to a table like the others, that will be my portable machine.

    The Lotus and the Sphinx are both in tables. When they are not in use, they can be folded down inside the table, which can be used as a hall table or desk. The one below holds the Lotus. I don't have any good pictures of mine; McKenna has some here at her site.

    1907 Singer 66-1 Lotus TableSewing on the treadles is just relaxing. I enjoy listening to the sound of the treadle, and the vibrating shuttle on the Sphinx (she kind of 'chatters' as she sews). The machines are extremely durable - the maintenance is 'oil where indicated' at the given time frame, rather than 'bring in to maintenance shop every six to 12 months.' There are 100+ year old treadles still being used (and one is mine!), which is evidence enough of the quality that is built into them.

    As far as attachments - they don't use the newer ones (something about the design means the new ones don't work), so you won't have, say, a zipper attachment. There are plenty, though; I have a half-dozen attachments for my Lotus and I'm missing a few. Sewing on the Sphinx, I must admit I really haven't missed them. Even the zipper went on fine.


    TreadleOn - the best one-stop reference for caring for your treadle, or restoring it.

    The Treadle Lady - good information, and she does a wonderful job of conveying her joy in these machines.


    Singer 66 - Basic operation of the treadle machine, just showing you the machine as she's treadling.

    Antique Sewing Machine Display - She's sewing on one, and the video also shows several others on display. A wide variety of machines, one pre-Civil War. Very interesting!

    Monday, August 10, 2009

    Independance Day: Week 8

    1. Plant something – nothing; too hot. I think everything hits survival mode when it hits 100' and humid.

    2. Harvest something – Nothing (see above).

    3. Preserve something – Dried watermelon chunks - tastes like Watermelon Jolly Ranchers. Saving the rinds to make more Candied Watermelon Rinds (very popular!). Dried the last of the green peppers - I think this should last the winter. Canned 7 pints chicken.

    4. Reduce waste – Regular recycling and eating of leftovers.

    5. Preparation and Storage – Replaced old dehydrator with a new one that is larger and has all the desired features (clear top, temp selection, on/off switch, easy access to accessories & good reputation)

    6. Build Community Food Systems – Farmers market. Working on dried foods from local foodshed for Yule gifts.

    7. Eat the Food – Steamed squash for dinner, sliced cucumbers are now a staple snack. Watermelon. Lots of sliced tomatoes.

    8. Crafting – Made a linen tank top. Another is cut, needs sewn; realized I need more fabric for the others. Planning a quilt for us.

    Friday, August 7, 2009

    Tomato Comparison

    Just for fun, since I was only able to do this with two varieties. I wanted more, but they're out of season till fall (at least, at the farm I'm buying these from). The original idea was to try the old and heirloom varieties and compare them, and see which ones I might like to grow. Someday, when I have enough sun :)

    Click on the pictures to see them larger.

    Omar Tomato

    Old family heirloom from Lebanon. This photo ( and the other one) was taken after about a week on my counter, and it's sliced in half to show the structure inside.

    Plenty of flesh inside, nice flavor, great general purpose tomato. I did have to toss 2 of them due to rot while I had them. Of course, had I used the fridge, I wouldn't have had so much problem with that. Nice, but I'm not overly impressed.

    Old Brooks Tomato

    Old variety, not quite heirloom. Good for canning per the descriptions. I used it for a slicing tomato on my sandwiches. Excellent. A sprinkle of basil, and it was so good. No problems with keeping them on the counter for a week, either.

    This one I'll look for, when we have the sun....

    Thursday, August 6, 2009

    Market Haul

    All the green peppers he had left; 6 squash, a couple tomatoes, watermelon.
    The glass jars are from the local thrift. I'll use them for storing dried veggies.

    Monday, August 3, 2009

    Independance Day Challenge- Week 7

    1. Plant something – transplanted a parsley plant from the nursery, put down mulch on all the pots. Balcony looks very nice now. Checked at the nursery, and confirmed it's really too hot to plant anything until September.

    2. Harvest something – Nothing.

    3. Preserve something – Still working on a full stock of green peppers (almost done!).

    4. Reduce waste – Regular recycling and eating of leftovers.

    5. Preparation and Storage – does clearing out 4 boxes of clothing count? One was donated, two boxes were summer clothes I'd forgotten and are being washed & put back in the closet..

    6. Build Community Food Systems – Visited farmers market, bought veggies. Brought co-worker with me, and bought food for another on request.

    7. Eat the Food – Steamed squash for dinner, sliced cucumbers are now a staple snack. Ate venison from the freezer. Tried fried green tomatoes on the family (neutral reviews).

    8. Crafting – Did some clothing repair.

    Wednesday, July 29, 2009

    Market Basket & More

    Omar Heirloom Tomatoes, Squash, Green Tomatoes, a dozen cucumbers and nearly as many green peppers (most peppers aren't in the picture).

    And in the mail:
    The seeds I ordered from Sustainable Seed Co. Quick service, and I like that they encourage you to save seeds. Farmer John includes descriptions from old catalogs on his seeds; really neat!
    The baskets they are one are the ones I picked up over the weekend - the railing planters. They'll get planted in these later in the year.

    Monday, July 27, 2009

    Independance Day Update - week 6

    1. Plant something – nothing yet. Ordered more seeds & organic fertilizer. Picked up two railing planters for the patio. Need to test soil as one pot, at least, was showing signs of soil depletion (everything is potted, after all). That one got re-potted, and is slightly happier already.

    2. Harvest something – Lettuce. Need to start another round, probably in the planters I just got.

    3. Preserve something – Still working on a full stock of green peppers (almost done!). Froze venison broth to use later. Experimenting with drying cucumbers, and preserving watermelon (freeze /dry/candied rind).

    4. Reduce waste – Regular recycling. Ate more leftovers.

    5. Preparation and Storage – Bought Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Cookbook. Drying food looks FUN now, and is being expanded in storage planning.

    6. Build Community Food Systems – Visited farmers market, bought veggies & watermelon. Planning, as requested, dried foods & seasoning mixes for Yule gifts. The dried foods will be as local as possible.

    7. Eat the Food – Steamed squash for dinner. Ate venison from the freezer. Eating watermelon & cucumbers. Tried the candied rinds - yummy!

    8. Crafting – Cross-stitch, stocked yet more needed supplies, starting sewing tops. Used a muslin 'sample' top to check fit - was 3" too short - then adjusted pattern & will make more of them. Spinning yarn nightly, and noticed the difference a balanced spindle makes (huge!).

    Sunday, July 26, 2009

    Pantry Planning

    I tend to cook from the pantry. As part of eating locally, and eating homemade food, I'm attempting to plan for several months worth of food stored - aiming to be able to store what we need between harvests. Jellies, preserves, soups and other convenience meals, meat stock; lots of tomatoes, veggies, and meats. I looked at how we eat, and wrote up a basic plan for canning.

    Then I looked at the available storage. I set aside the previous plan as ‘goals for another year’ and started over – we simply don’t have the space. I am glad I did all that planning, as it gives me a basis for the scaled-back plans. The new focus will be homemade convenience foods – instant-ready or dried ingredients (canned chicken is ready much faster than frozen!), pre-made dinners (the beef stew, for example), and a couple small items I like to have and can’t always find. For example, I really like my mushroom stew but I’m the only one who eats it. By canning some in 8-oz jars, I’ll have single-size servings when I want some. Items like the canned chicken can be refreshed when our stocks are low, and the store has a sale. That will save us space as well as money.

    Even this may stretch our small pantry space, but I can handle the new plans better (35 quarts, a dozen pints, & the jellies) than the old ones (49 quarts and 150 or so pints, plus jellies).

    For veggies, I will be using my knowledge of what’s in season (or could be kept in a root cellar), along with what’s available to purchase. The goal is to cook seasonally as much as possible, rather than using store-canned or shipped-in (out of season) food all the time.

    For both plans, the number of jars is determined by what we'll eat, compared with what fits in the canner. If we're going to use a 28-oz can of diced tomatoes every week (not unusual during the winter), then we'll need 1 quart (about 24oz) per week. For eight months x 4 weeks = 32 quarts. The canner will hold 7 quarts, so 32 divided by 7= 4 (28) to 5 (35) canner loads. I'd rather make more that I expect to need, and if the canner is running anyway it may as well be full. So I'd plan for 35 quarts.

    I'll discuss drying foods in another post.

    New canning plan:
    canned chicken, 7 quarts, refresh as needed
    jellies, 8oz jars, aiming for 24 or so of mixed varieties
    beef soup, 7 quarts, can be varied with additions when served
    broths, chicken/beef/bison, about 8 pints each
    mushroom soup – 1 batch of 8 oz jars
    spaghetti sauce, 6ea. 8oz jars
    seasoned diced tomatoes, 6ea. 8oz jars
    7 quarts meatballs in sauce
    Canned kidney beans, 7 quarts, refresh as needed
    Canned blackeye peas, 7 quarts, refresh as needed
    Preserves, pints, about 4 each strawberry, raspberry, blackberry

    Saturday, July 25, 2009

    Market Day

    I'm a bit late, but it's been busy. Watermelon, zucchini, squash, Old Brooks heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, and a pile of peppers that didn't make it to the picture.

    Tuesday, July 21, 2009

    Window-box Gardens

    I found this article about window-box gardens. It mentions (among other things) that some of the easiest vegetables to grow are lettuce, radishes, beetroot, rainbow chard and rosemary. At our last apartment, I grew basil on the back porch - one pot provided me with a winter's supply. And I use basil a lot; it's one I put in nearly everything.

    On the balcony - the lettuce & collards are still happy, and the cabbage is just starting to form heads. I haven't pulled the beets yet but I've given up on them - still just a leaf or two, and 3" tall. I don't think they like southern summers :) I have one happy branch of mint. I really need to re-pot it, and give it some fresh dirt. Hopefully that will perk it back up.

    I've also got to go wandering through seed catalogs, and see what I can find that I can grow for winter. Swiss chard, radishes, turnips, perhaps another round of cabbage or greens, definitely lettuce. Remember, when planting a balcony garden. one can always buy sampler packets of seed. I did this when I could, and will get a few plantings from each packet.

    Monday, July 20, 2009

    Independance Day Update - Week 5

    1. Plant something – nothing yet.

    2. Harvest something – nothing. Need to either eat the lettuce or start a new crop - still there, still short, hasn't bolted yet.

    3. Preserve something – Still working on a full stock of green peppers. Froze venison broth to use later. Need to learn what else I can dry, as dried foods take up so much less space.

    4. Reduce waste – Regular recycling. Better meal planning.

    5. Preparation and Storage – re-planning what we're canning/drying for winter. The more I learn, the less I want to eat non-organic food (I really don't want to eat anything that's been genetically modified, thanks anyway..) Finding a place to store it all is another matter!

    6. Build Community Food Systems – Visited newest farmers market, bought veggies.

    7. Eat the Food – Steamed squash for dinner. Ate venison from the freezer.

    8. Crafting – Cross-stitch, snippets of sewing.

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009

    Market Day

    Tomatoes, squash, bell peppers for drying, green beans, goat milk soap, more peanuts.

    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    Canning Stew

    I made beef stew over the weekend. The recipe, while very good, stated it would make about 7 quarts. I got 7 quarts plus 8 pints plus Sunday dinner plus another night's dinner. It looks wonderful, and I'm looking forward to having some for dinner on a night I don't want to cook. On the other hand I wasn't planning on canning two days straight - the pressure canner takes a bit. For the pints, they are processed for 75 minutes. At 2.15 the lid went on the canner. At 4.50 I took the canner off the heat to lose pressure, and at 5.30 I put the cans out to cool overnight. One batch, not counting what I did before the lid went on, has taken just over 3 hours. Now that I've timed it, I can add 2 hours + prep to the processing time, and use that to plan the day better.

    Moral: Prep everything, and start early.

    ETA: While making the pickles, I was forcibly reminded to fully read the directions & double check I have all the ingredients & enough jars before starting. Guess who ran out at the last second for jars, spices, & pickling salt?

    Sunday, July 12, 2009

    Independance Day Update, Week 4

    1. Plant something – nothing

    2. Harvest something – nothing.

    3. Preserve something – Canned Bread & Butter pickles. Finished drying red bell peppers, still working on a full stock of green peppers.

    4. Reduce waste – Regular saved fabric scraps & recycled.

    5. Preparation and Storage – found another clamp-shut glass storage container at the thrift store.

    6. Build Community Food Systems – Visited newest farmers market, bought flowers, meat, & veggies.

    7. Eat the Food – Steamed squash for dinner, homemade applesauce, homemade blueberry breakfast bars.

    8. Crafting – Cross-stitch. Finished a bit of spinning, knitted it up into a swatch to see what it would look like, and now I'm planning what to use it for when I do finish spinning it.

    Wednesday, July 8, 2009

    Market Day

    Today was a local Farmer's Market. Peppers for drying and for dinner; bison meat; onions and cucumbers for Bread & Butter Pickles. The yellow squash are already steaming for dinner. The peanuts are yummy snacks, grown locally & processed on her farm.

    Monday, July 6, 2009

    Non-electric, anyone?

    I have a 'game' I enjoy - how low can I get our daily electric usage, living in an apartment? The items that use the most electric - heat, a/c, water heater, and fridge - are out of our control, beyond setting a thermostat. All the lights have been switched to CFLs (compact fluorescent). Windows are opened whenever weather allows.

    So, what else to do?

  • The microwave is gone - we picked up a convection toaster oven instead. We've gained counter-space (the oven is half the size), and small items get baked in the toaster oven, saving us the cost & heat of using the bigger one. Who needs to heat an oven big enough for a turkey, when you're just making six muffins?

  • We consistently look for versions of items that don't use electric. For example, I have 3 sewing machines. Two of my three are treadles; the third, an old Kenmore, will be converted from electric to handcrank.

  • We're also learning to use oil lamps, and I'm slowly collecting what I need to make candles. Evenings are much more relaxing by the dancing light of a flame.

  • Another good post on this subject is at Better Living Daily.

    Anyone have additional ideas?

    Sunday, July 5, 2009

    Independance Day Update: Week3

    1. Plant something – nothing. Need to look at what I can grow next.

    2. Harvest something – Nothing.

    3. Preserve something – Made local-farm beef broth. Made Beef Stew.

    4. Reduce waste – Used fabric scraps for small project. Regular recycling.

    5. Preparation and Storage – Made local-farm beef broth for canning. Planning what we need for winter, so I can get it at the farm market and preserve it.

    6. Build Community Food Systems – Visited farmers market, bought meat & veggies. I'm planning menus around what I find there. Beef Stew: about half of the ingredients were locally grown/ raised.

    7. Eat the Food – Canned beef stew & beef broth for winter. Trying a new coleslaw recipe with honey and maple syrup instead of sugar. Ate our way through the full fridge.

    8. Crafting – Planned out two new skirts and several tops. Picked up the fabric and notions. It's in the 90's already; I need cooler clothing to wear.

    Sunday, June 28, 2009

    Independance Day Update

    1. Plant something – nothing

    2. Harvest something – Lettuce for my sandwiches.

    3. Preserve something – Drying green bell peppers from the farm market. I'll keep doing this, and dry a few quart bottles worth for the winter. Also dried yellow sweet bells from the supermarket, as there was a really good sale and I like these in my chili recipe.

    4. Reduce waste – Regular saved fabric scraps & recycled.

    5. Preparation and Storage – Bought a nice oil lamp for the kitchen table, to use as needed for non-electric light. Still learning how to use it.

    6. Build Community Food Systems – Visited newest farmers market, bought flowers, meat, & veggies.

    7. Eat the Food – Roasted fresh beets, lettuce, and we're trying a new recipe for Monday's dinner - slow-cooker cabbage rolls. ETA: the cabbage rolls are delicious, and are added to my recipe box.

    8. Crafting – Sewed lunch bag, used cotton fabric & batting. Did a bit of work on the shorts I'm making, as well.

    Dried foods

    I've dried a few things for our pantry, for winter's use. Celery, carrots, mushrooms, and green pepper.

    I dice the veggies, then dry them long enough to snap when bent (about 24 hours for me), and often toss them in soups that spend the day simmering in the slow-cooker for dinner. So much more can be done, but I'm still learning. This is the first year I've done much with it, and I'm enjoying it!
    • Shredded Carrots: 3 cups fresh = 1 cup dried (33%)
    • Diced Carrots: 2 cups fresh = 1/4 cup dried (25%)
    • Celery: 6 cups fresh = 1 cup dried (15%)
    • Green Pepper: 6 cups fresh = 1 cup dried (15%)
    • Mushrooms: 2 cups fresh, diced = 1/4 cup dried (25%)

    Related links:

    National Center for Home Food Preservation: Drying

    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Agriculture: Drying Food

    Tuesday, June 23, 2009

    Independence Day Challenge

    This is my first post on this, as I hadn't heard about it until a couple of weeks ago. I'll try to keep up with it :)

    Original Post: Casaubon's Book: Independence Days Challenge

    Note: I added crafting to my list. For myself, it's part of my independence, that I can make some of the non-food items we need as well.

    1. Plant something – Nothing. All the pots are full, except the one where I planted garlic and lettuce, and then nothing sprouted (think it’s too low to get enough sun)

    2. Harvest something – Fresh salad greens for my daily sandwiches.

    3. Preserve something – Nothing. I’ve been sewing. I do have items in the freezer to make into broth and can as soon as I have enough time.

    4. Reduce waste – Saved sewing scraps to use for other projects. Regular recycling. Using fabric napkins – finally got entire family doing this (need to make more!). Scavenged a nice ‘iron’ corner shelf someone else tossed.

    5. Preparation and Storage – Nothing this week.

    6. Build Community Food Systems – Found just-opened farmer's market next door, talked with the organizer. Plan on asking about volunteering, as well as shopping there. Posted reviews on the 3 other local markets on LocalHarvest.

    7. Eat the Food – Salad greens. Doing better in general about eating fresh veggies at dinner, which is something I’ve been working on for a while.

    8. Crafting – Restarted fuzzy scarf. Cut fabric for shorts, purchased and washed cotton fabric for lunch bag & such. Purchased & washed muslin to use to create patterns from purchased favorite shirts.

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009

    Ideas: Eating Local

    I'm trying to get as much local food as I can this year. To help, I've created my own list of local farms and farmers markets, within a 30-mile driving radius. That makes about a 2-hour drive, round trip - about the most I really want to do. The hundred-mile radius put me into 'full day trip' ranges - especially when I allowed for traffic!

    The nearest farmers markets - there are 3 - are all about the same distance away, in different directions. I went to one the weekend of May 30th and another this past weekend. There was a wide variety there - jewelry, goat milk soap, herb plants, breads & canned goods, hand-blown glass, paintings and hand-painted items, fresh seafood, and pastured meats, in addition to the expected veggies. One is also next to a wonderful yarn shop, and I came home with food plus wool rovings to spin (Icelandic, Swalesdale, and Superfine Merino)and a bone crochet hook for my mother. I'll visit the last one this weekend.

    If you'd like to do something like this for your area, here are some sites I found helpful:

    100 Mile Diet: Local Eating for Global Change

    Local Harvest: Farmers Markets, CSAs, Family Farms. Ordering online is available (fleeces, yarns, soap, baskets, honey, more!)

    Pick Your Where to find Pick-Your-Own Fruit & Veggie Farms

    Slow Food USA: Supporting Good, Clean, and Fair Food. Also supports heritage foods and livestock breeds.

    Also, try searching on your state or town's name (or the names of towns near you) with "farmer market" and see what you find. I used Google maps to estimate travel times and distances to the markets.

    Sunday, May 31, 2009

    Strawberrys galore

    *Tink* *tink* *tink*

    The sounds of a job well done, as the cans cool on the table.

    Over the holiday weekend, I canned 12 8oz jars of Strawberry Jelly, 6 8oz jars of Strawberry Topping, and 4 pint jars of Strawberry Preserves. There is also about 6 cups of sliced frozen berries for smoothies, and we still had some for shortcakes. For the Jelly, 14.5 cups crushed strawberries made enough juice for 3 batches of jelly. I have no idea how many I started with, other than 2 large trays (maybe 18 of those clamshells at the store?).

    I've learned that water-bath canning isn't quite as hard as it seems, and that regular pectin takes a LOT of sugar to set the jellies.I've also discovered things ~not~ to do. Like, say, add the sugar with the pectin instead of later: It keeps the jelly from setting. So, I now have 6 jars of Strawberry Topping (aka, liquid Strawberry Jelly). Two are going to my grandparents - Grandpa will enjoy them!

    Jam, jelly, preserves- Jam is crushed berries, Jelly is berry juice, and Preserves are whole berries in their own juice. The Strawberry Preserves have me thinking of Shortcake in January, the Raspberry Preserves of chocolate-raspberry cake :) Either could also be used for pancake topping. I try and think of what I can do with them as I make them - no point in canning something we won't use, and this will (hopefully) avoid blank moments when I'm looking for things to make!