Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Let the countdown begin!

Today, I harvested another 5 gallons of carrots. I am going to make another 7 quarts of pickled carrots and can some more up for soup carrots. I went down to the basement to gather the needed jars and realized that I have only 18 quarts left for the season.

This is the first time that I have filled every canning jar.

Well, they are not all filled yet. But we are going to pick some apples this week so I will have another 7 quarts of applesauce, and at least a half dozen quarts of apple pie filling. We are going cranberry picking this week. So I anticipate the last of the 5 pint jars to be filled with cranberry sauce.

I used any jars that were chipped for keeping dehydrated stuffs. I still have the last of the onions and leeks to dehydrated. So I will be scrounging around for some kinda containers for those.

Brother can you spare a jar?

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, The 22nd week

The frost has bitten and the garden is in a sorry state of affairs. There are carrots that still need to be picked. There is a new garden to plan and perennials to transplant, garlic to put in the ground. There is a very long to do list.

Inside there is a mental exercises being played. We live in a 1,000 square foot house. The new home is 786 square house. Eventually, we will add a room or two. But in the meantime, we have to decide what we will need to be comfortable without being crowded. Oh, and the pantry space is half what we have now. I am pondering creating furniture constructed from jars of homemade jam;)

I look at this coming change with some...some... trepidation. Not so much for the lack of amenities but for the paring down of worldly goods. Some of this widdling down is going to be good. Right now there are boxes and boxes of STUFF that I started packing when we knew that we would be moving. We have lived very comfortable with out it all. But some of those boxes are full of books. ( okay most of those boxes are full of books). I will have to go back and sort out the books we can not live without. This will be hard for me. We spent a night at the new home this past week and spent the evening reading to each other. So I will want some books that will be nice to share together as a family. Cookbooks, knitting books, how to books, kids books. And of course for the escapist literature that every doomer should indulge in at times, I will get a new library card.

We will need games, some dvd's to play on the laptop, art's and craft's supplies to keep our preschool creative juices flowing, photographs, hubby's tools, wee one's toys, Teen's toys and books. Oh and yarn:) And I want to bring my sewing machine....

I've been researching small design and so far the best approach I read so far comes from The Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka. Now granted our new home is sorta in between the Not So Big House and the Tiny House movement, but I think that the essence of Sanaka's approach is what we need to be thinking of. Every inch of the space has to be functional but the whole space should also be comfortable and reflect our lifestyle. Crowded and cluttered is the concern but I think that if we can pare down and think about what we really need and store what we have in a way that is comfortable we should be okay. I also have been prepping the troops for the new mantra in our new home," A place for everything and everything in it's place." Oh and my favorite, "Clean as you go"

Plant: Nope

Harvested: Winter squash, last of the zucchini, leeks, kale,

Preserved: Broccoli Soup, shredded zucchini, veggie stock

prepped: batteries for the flashlights,

waste not: I gave all the really small butternut squash to my neighbor for his pigs.

local foods: not much in this category

eat the food: we are eating mostly from food storage this week.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Christmas 2009

WARNING!!!! The following post is NOT for family consumption. There are spoilers on this post.

So, I joined Crunchy Chicken's Buy Hand Christmas Challenge. I try to make most of my Christmas presents every year. I am not always successful AND I usually spend a good part of the month of December with cramped fingers and a stressed air about me.

This does not really connote a sense of giving to me.

A few years ago I read an editorial in Interweave Knits about why the editor tried to knit for Christmas. Her reasoning was that anyone could take their credit card for a walk through the mall, but to knit a gift takes a level of thoughtfulness that can not be bought. I know that when I am knitting something for someone I really care about; I am not just thinking about what color or texture of yarn would be the most satisfying to the recipient, but I am also thinking about that person while I am knitting it. I think about how warm they will be. Sometimes a strand of hair gets knitted into the fabric, sometimes my cat Lily weaves her own affection into the object. It is a sort of magic that occurs during the process.

So this year I began in February by joining a group on Ravelry ( if you are a knitter you should really check out this site, so many great FREE knitting patterns to be found). Each month there was a knitting assignment. One month was scarves, hats, pairs of something etc. Anyhow, when I started the Big Green Sweater,all that fell by the wayside but I did make a few things for the wee one. At the time, I had plotted out what I would make for those I want to give gifts too. I have most of the materials and I will not have to buy any more yarn for these projects.

Okay confessional, I have a yarn fetish. I have a substantial yarn stash. Some of it I found at the Goodwill, some a very good friend gave to me from his stash, and some I bought with the money I earned at the bookstore and from my sales of crafted items. But I confess, if today was TEOTWAWKI, I would be set for a LOONNNGG while. That being said, I am always able to make something, and I will not have to buy any yarn for gifts this year.

There are couple of quick knit patterns that I want to work on.

First are these Toasties. I've made a couple of pairs. They are really easy to whip up. I can make a pair in a couple of evenings.

I also want to make a few of these dishtowels. I will also make a dish cloths to go with them. If you want to learn to knit, I recommend starting with one of these projects. They are quick. They combine several elements of knitting without overwhelming the learner. You can find the needles and cotton for about 7.00 at some place like Joanne's or some place like that. Or a Local Yarn Shop can set you up with a finer grade of cotton and get you started on the project.
( FYI Wendy, Central Yarn in Portland carries the Sugar and Creme Cotton, they are really great and will get you started, oh and your girls will enjoy it too;)

I was going to make some handpuppets for the little kids in the family.

I hope to make a vest for the Teen and Hubby. These should take about a week each. No sleeves makes this a project that I know I can get done in time.

My nieces will be getting a new sweater each for Christmas.They are toddlers and this also should take just about a week to do.

I also would like to make my FIL a pair of wool socks. The other men folk in my home will get some wool socks. Teen needs a new hat. And hubby wants one of these hats. This hat looks a little tricky and may have to be presented as yarn in a bag that I promise to finish when life slows down after the holidays.

There are a few non-knitted items that I want to make too.

I plan to give some homemade herbal teas as gifts. A friend used to use little muslin bags for serving bulk tea. I have the needed material for making these bags. I will also include a jar of dried mint to go with the bag.

I want to find a recipe for finger paints for the wee one. I also want to make some lacing cards for him.

I will be sewing a wrap for colored pencils for the teen.

I will be putting together a small photo album of the kids for family members from over the last year.

Some folks will be receiving baked goods. I will be able to enlist the help of the menfolk in the house for this project. On the other hand, I may have to do this on my own. They eat more than they pack;)

Finally, I also resolve to not buy any wrapping paper. I found some Christmas tins at the Goodwill that I will use for some things. I also will sew up fabric bags from scraps of fabric I have at home.

okay... If you peeked you should know that I also LOVE handmade gifts as well...

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, The 21th week

Well, I have finished the wicked big sweatah'. I make hats, mittens and sweaters on a Singer knitting machine. I sell these garments at craft fairs and at a artisan coop. A man was looking for a custom made sweater similar to the one his father had. I worked out the design and have hand knitted this 48" sweater. If we can get our camera to work I will take a picture of it.

It is a good thing that the sweater is done because I need to work on a few projects for our next church fundraiser . I've also joined Crunchy Chicken's , Buy Hand for Christmas Challenge. I know, I know...this is now the third challenge that I am participating in. There is Sharon's Challenge and Wendy's challenge. But, I've been working towards a mostly handmade Christmas for the last few years. This year, money will be a little tighter for us. I would be knitting for the season anyway. Most of the projects that I have thought about will be small projects. Later today I will post my list and what sorts of things I will be making with any links that I can share.

Well, I still have carrots, squash, some brassicas, plenty of zukes , peppers to harvest from the garden. I also want to get another bunch of apples. There is a wild cranberry bog in our town.I think I will take the kids with me to pick some this week or next. Maybe try cranberry juice, cranberry jelly, dehydrated cranberries.

Plant: nope. The man we are buying the new cabin from has a three year old pile of horse poop he has offfered to us. We are going to try to get up there sometime next week and start prepping a garden space. I will plant my garlic next week.

Harvest: rutabaga, zukes, kale, field pumpkin ( boy are they big and beautiful).

Prepped/ manage reserves: I've been researching Tiny home design. We've been working and planning on things we can do with the new home. We will be going to the Common Ground Fair this weekend and spending a large portion of our time the homesteading/ alternative energy tent. Oh and the FEdco seed tent too!

Local foods: we gave our chickens away to a neighbor so I bought local eggs at the local general goods store.

Eat the food: We've done really well on this. A neighbor brought over a rump roast from the heiffer he grew. I made a roast for dinner one night, served with mash potatoes ( our own home grown) and a kale and apple sautee. The next day I made a beef stew with rutabaga and carrot from our garden.

Waste not: just he usual, composting, eating all of our left overs for lunch, recycling.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


This is a short thankyou to all you kind readers for your encouragement and kind words about our impending change. It is so nice to hear the positive words. My hope for the blog is that our small solar system will allow me to write the posts for this blog and then post them online at the local library. Most libraries in Maine have wireless internet. We definitely plan to document our trials, tribulations and grand successes.


Just breathe...

The season winds down. A slowing clock. Outside the leaves are just dabbed with a hint of aging color. Each night a vigil is held with plastic hovering over early jalapeno peppers and contesca romanesco zuchinni; veggies of warmer climates not accustomed to this short northern summer.

Life is busy. The canners are busy putting the food up that we will rely on for good soups on shorter, much colder days. Each day is a whirlwind full of plans, jobs and chores in the garden, around the wood pile...until...until... equinox, equilbrium...the day light recedes further and further and we find ourselves enveloped in wool.

Autumn, the season of preparation. While we travel through this season we stop for a walk in the woods, a day at the fair, a meal shared with friends, some time around a fire pit. We do this to hold on to the sun. We do this to hold on the heat. We do this to cherish as a fond memory when we find ourselves cozied up around a woodstove in January as a brisk north wind rocks the house with its bitter chill.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, The 20th week

Ok, I will not let the suspense linger any longer... We have found a place to live which will allow us to be be under the same roof by the time the snow flies. It will also mean that we will be living a dream that Hubby and I have shared since our first date. We are going off grid.

We found a small cabin on a hill in Western Maine with a beautiful view, seven acres and a sturdy, aesthetically pleasing cabin with great southern exposure. It is on a town maintained road. There are several farms on the road and a blueberry barren in the neighborhood. The town itself is nice. There are several organic farms within biking distance. It is a little tiny cabin but it will not take much to make it spacious enough for every one. The catch is no water and and no electricity.....

We are exploring some ideas for some power. We found this plug and play solar system that will provide most of what we need. We have several back-up oil lamps and we will probably find some battery lanterns to hang in the kids rooms. Because the house is on top of a hill we will investigate DIY wind power.

As for water, well, we will dig a well in the spring. WE will hook up our water catchment for use until the snow flies. But we will have to haul water for the winter season. Hubby will get this on his way home from work. We will bathe at the University gymnasium that hubby gets a discount at through his school district. REgular exercise would not be a bad thing either! We have a power washer for small loads of laundry and will take care of larger loads at the laundry mat. All this will be upgraded in the spring. I told a friend about this and she had an interesting take on it. She said," It is just a matter of setting up and refining a system."

There is a gas cookstove and we will bring our woodstove with us. The space is very air tight, so we should be all set with the firewood we have put up for the winter already.

We have a friend that does not have a refrigerator and she lives off grid so we will be exploiting her knowledge to its fullest extent.

The land itself is beautiful. It is fairly open. With seven acres we will be able to get some of our firewood off the land through fall down. There is a stream on the property.

We are doing this through owner financing with very favorable terms. We need time to let our current home and our land sell. We will try to find renters for our home by listing it at the local University. But once everything shakes out....we should own the place outright in 10 years or less.

Hubby and I have both discussed that our feelings about this are mixed with both excitement and understanding of the amount of work that lies ahead of us. We know that it will be challenging this winter. But our family will be under the same roof which should make dealing with any challenge that presents itself easier than our current arrangement. We had investigated very similar situation this past spring but that did not work out and then hubby got the new job. So at first there was a sense of OMG ,do we really want to do this? After all it IS going to be challenging for a while. But then we thought, " Yup, it is going to be challenging, but it is what it is". It is what is would be no matter where we decided to do this. Because we aren't millionaires who can buy the prefect green dream. And we don't want to be. Starting a "homestead" is done in increments. It is a matter of adaptation and refining. It will be a great learning adventure!

I look forward to sharing this journey with you!

Planted: winter rye

Harvested: cabbage, rutabaga, leeks, kale, zukes,

Preserved: corn, dehydrated apples, dehydrated zukes, apple cider vinegar

Managed reserves/ Prepped: 2 dozen canning jars on sale, everything else was at a standstill until we knew what we were going to do about housing.

Reduced waste: a friend gave me her kitchen table. We will use our current table as a desk in the teens bedroom or give it back to my aunt for safe keeping. It is a family table. Saved apple scraps for cider vinegar. We gave some garden scraps to our neighbor who has 4 piggies they are growing.

Local foods: went to local orchard and picked up a case of apples, I joined Wendy's Challenge.

Eat the food: Hubby made Cawl Cannin a potato, leek, local bacon, yummy, yummy soup!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I'm taking up the Challenge!

Yes I am! I am taking up the great challenge Wendy at Surviving the Suburbs will have for the month of October.

Essentially, for one month I will not step foot in a big box store, or chain store that does not serve JUST my region . I will ONLY shop local. I will confess my lapses on Sunday. I will do this because if I shop at a Home Despot then I contribute to the hardship of my local Hardware store in these tough economic times. I will do this because when I shop local, I may pay a little more but I strengthen my community and my local economy. Sometimes, I get better quality which saves me money in the long run.

This is one step in the move to localization that Kunstler and Jeff Rubin say we must do in order to adapt to depletion of resources. I think this is a great challenge for looking at what sorts of things are available from local retailers.

This weeks IDC update will be available later today. We have big news to share also...soo.. I will build the suspense till later today...

Friday, September 11, 2009

FYI Mainers!

I know that I have a few readers from Maine. I just want to pass on that I was at the Hannaford Grocery store today and they had canning jars on sale for 50% off. I usually buy them second hand but for a dozen pints I paid 4.74!


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Apple Season and a time for reflection...

My friend, Anne and I ventured to the Orchard yesterday. It was not open for picking yet; but we were able to score a case of early Mac's . With everything that is on the to-do list my hope is to wind up most of the canning in the next week or so; unless some windfall comes our way.

Each year, another skill or recipe is added to the list of methods I use to fill my larder. Each year, my self sufficiency increases. Last year, I made several batches of wine. Following the recipe to the letter, each preparation was an event. This year wine making confidence has built to a point of aptitude and adventure as I explore the wine making of other fruits and combinations of fruits.

This year I have explored the use of several herbs that have just magically appeared in my garden. Mullein has sprouted up all over. I made some garlic and mullein oil for ear aches for this winter. Yarrow has also had quite a year in the garden. I have a tincture of yarrow for wounds and I have dehydrated some for other purposes. The rose hips are plentiful this year and I will make some jelly with it. It will be saved as special jelly this winter when we need an extra boost of Vitamin C on our toast. For many of these preparations I use two books, The Medicine Maker's Handbook by John Green and Common Herbs for Natural Health by Juliette de Bairacli Levy.

With apple season here, I have a long list of things I want to make. New this year is apple pie filling. I think this would be an easy way to throw together a crisp, pie or extra treat on the oatmeal in the morning. I am also going to try making apple cider vinegar from the scraps of cores and peels. This looks like a great recipe. I would add putting a small label with the date on the jar to help keep track of when your vinegar is mature. I will have several jars going over the next few weeks and I want to keep consistency in the making.

All these skills and recipes reflect an older wisdom of the kitchen that has been lost to the microwave and the instant dinner in a box. It is an exciting to learn and practice and hopefully pass the knowledge on.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, The 19th week

The end of summer is nigh...ooh sounds so ominous!

September is a busy month around the homestead. Hubby heads back to work, the back-to school routine is finding its way back into our days, there is a long to-do list, there are heaps of food around and most of our dinners are local and from our own homegrown efforts.

This past weekend I hit up the local farmstand. They are not certified organic but they try to use as few interventions as possible. They always sell in quantities for preserving; which is something I was very aware of the other day while there. As I was inquiring about 40lbs of canner tomatoes, I was aware that there several conversations occurring that centered around recipes for preservation. One woman talked about zucchini relish, another about her pickled cauliflower. One woman's pile of produce grew while she discussed that she had not put up anything yet because she had given up on her garden; but that her Labor day weekend would be spent preserving her purchase of that day. I was gifted dill heads for some dilly beans. Every store in the region has a canning jar display. I know more people are putting food up but I think that food preservation has always been a big part of the culture in these parts.

We are awaiting the final word on the home we hope to rent and we are still awaiting approval from the bank and other agencies for rental of our current home. Financially, it will be a little tight be we should manage to cover all our expenses with enough to still put into savings. But we have done the 2 household thing for a week now and everyone is out of sorts. We need to be together as a family.

In the meantime the work of the season continues. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed with it all. There are 2 dozen ears of corn to process for the freezer, 5 gallons of carrots and 2 more beds to dig up and process, a bag of beets from the farmer's market to pickle. We did not grow a pig this year, so I need to concentrate on some meat for the freezer soon. I go apple picking this week. My hope is to pick 4 pecks. One peck for dehydrating, one for sauce, one for apple pie filling and one for us to eat. I will pick more in October to have for just eating for the rest of the autumn. This year I am going to try making apple cider vinegar from the apple scraps.

Plant: spinach, beets, winter rye

Harvest: carrots, tomatoes ( gotta toss the rest of the blighted plants), zucchini, mint, sage, yarrow, rutabaga, onions, cilantro, early jalapeno peppers, paprika peppers, basil, kale.

Preserve: pickled carrots, diced tomatoes, tomato puree,tomato salsa, dehydrated mint, dehydrated sage, frozen beans, dilly beans, rhubarb frozen.

Local foods: picked up 40lbs tomatoes, 10 pounds of pole beans, 2 dozen ears of corn, dill heads at the local farmstand. A neighbor gave me some kholrabi and rhubarb from her garden.

Manage reserves/prep: restocked sugar and flour, tidied pantry, mowed lawn and mulched the garden...ugh the weeds have taken over...

reduced waste: gave many bags of outgrown clothing to kholrabi neighbor for her grandson. The no money waste plan is working fabulously.

Eat the food: We are eating the last of the roasts from last year's pig. All the veggies we eat are local and from our own garden. Alas we passed our chickens on to a good neighbor. We did not want our free range roosters to get randy with anyone looking at the house and they were eating the seed I had planted in the garden. Their coop was not "show ready" and was dismantled this summer. They had been living in the barn and roaming free. So we will be buying local eggs until we can have birds again. It is strange, they were the first "homesteady" thing we did when we came out here. Now that they are gone, I miss the scavenger hunt for the eggs. It always felt like a gift when I found one in the coop or barn.