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.