Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Independence Day Challenge

Well, how is the economy treating you?  

We are doing okay.  For now. 

Hubby came home from work; last week and the week before,  with news that both schools that he teaches at are freezing their budgets.  One school thought they may have to have layoffs. 

We had lost some income earlier in the year, so we have learned to adapt.  We planted a big garden and preserved most of its bounty. We paid off a few small debts. We have stocked up on some bulk food to stretch the grocery dollar. We grow our own meat and we don't eat it but once or twice a week.   We drive one car and we are more intentional in its use.  We are getting by and do not want for much . So far, so good.

But a layoff would be a problem for us.  

This is a really a really smart woman.

This is the really good book that she wrote.

I've been reading Sharon Astyk's blog for about a year now.  I decided to join her Independence Days Challenge when oil was over 100.00 a barrel last spring. I decided to join when the price of the flour I buy, in 25lb bags, went from 13.00 to 21.00 in one month.

I still do the IDC challenge, now, to provide insurance if hubby should find himself under employed in the next year.  And I do it for this little obscure index.

I also do it because it is actually a good way to see how incorporating elements of simplicity into one's life ( cooking from scratch, eating local and organic, living with the rhythms of the seasons, finding a good deal at a thrift store) can ease the uncertainty in these uncertain times.

It has been about a month since my last IDC posting.  So there is quite a bit to report.

Plant something:  Nothing to plant. But we are getting seed catalogs.  Yeehaa!!!

Harvested: There are jerusalem artichokes  in the ground but we had an ice storm last week and can not get to them.  They will be there for us in the spring.

Preserved:  I got some late season apples at one of the last regular farmers market so I made more applesauce.  Hubby helped a friend harvest her flock of rams.  She gave us half a mutton for his efforts.

Local food systems:  We are buying eggs from local farmers until our new chicks start laying. Bought local goat cheese for Thanksgiving at the farmers market.

Managed Reserves:  I keep an eye on the winter squash every week.  If there are any soft spots I either make soup or bread  with the squash.  I may have to learn to can it soon because, if I have too many squash turning at once, I won't want to waste it. I keep an eye on the home canned food; making sure that we are not eating all of one thing at a time.  This is really hard because we have all become pickled carrot fiends.  Finished putting the garden to bed.  

Prepped:  I found 2 pairs of winter boots on freecycle.  New trays for the dehydrator and a neighbor gave us another dehydrator. The same neighbor gave us a case of baking soda that was damaged at the grocery store. It smells like it may have had laundry soap spilled on it so we will use it for cleaning.

reduced waste: finished putting the compost bins to bed for the season.  I should have a good amount to start the season with. I am enjoying the thrills of freecycle.  I haven't killed my worms yet. But they are taking up a lot of space in the bathroom so I  am going to move them down to the basement.

cooked something new: I have tried several new squash recipes.  We have too many squash. I learned how to make baking powder.  2 parts creme of tartar to one part baking soda.

learned something new: I learned how to make homemade playdough.   I am making most of my gifts for Christmas this year and I learned that I need to give myself  more time.

Pay it forward:  We have been helping out our church's food pantry.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Winter Weather on the Way

Well, it looks like we are really expecting some winter weather. We have had a couple of small snow storms with maybe an inch or two; followed by rain. But this coming storm sounds like it could cause some trouble.  

With the threat of an ice storm or significant snow accumulation there are certain things we do around here to make sure that we are prepared.

First,  we check that all oil lamps are full and wicks are trimmed, flashlights have good batteries, radio has batteries.

Second, in the event of an ice storm, we make sure that any thing outside that we may need to use ( shovels,  firewood, hay) is under cover or easily accessible.

Third, is there plenty of bottled water  for cooking,  washing and animals? Our good neighbor has a hand pump we can use to water our animals in the event that we should lose power.  Do we have enough buckets?

Fourth, I'll make a big pot of soup so that meals will be easy to prepare and clean up after.

Fifth, a last load of laundry, just in case.

Sixth, I will move any meat in the kitchen refridgerator to the freezers in the garage just to make sure that the meat will keep.  Even if we lose power, the freezers will stay colder out in an unheated building than if they were in the house.

Well, gotta get to work....

furry goodness

I am a cat lady.  I grew up in the house of a cat lady. I have not crossed that thin line between cat lady and crazy  cat lady; but given the right circumstances, I think there is the potential. In a way, I am every bit the stereotype of a cat lady.  I have a vast collection of books and work in a bookstore. There is nothing sweeter than knitting with a cuppa tea and a cat in your lap. I wear glasses.  Oh, and you can betcha that I have been overheard having long in depth conversations with my fur people.

What is it about cats?  Well, unlike dogs, cats don't have a codependent need to please.  They are independent , soft, compact critters with their own personalities.   They lay about like scatter rugs.  In a way, the perfect home decor.

Alas, we have a rule in this house. One dog= Two cats.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Frugal Quickie

So, yeah, its December and my goal this holiday season was to make all my Christmas Presents. There are 3 small persons I have on my list this year that will be receiving some wooly knitted goodness but I wanted to also put a little something more kid friendly in the package.

So Teen and I did this today.

We bought cheap, on sale flour and creme of tarter which came to about 7.00.  I went to the dollar store and found small containers; 1 package with 10 small containers was 1.oo. Two bags of cookie cutters with 6 cookie cutters in each came to 2.00....total 10.00.

We divided the playdough into three clumps and colored with food coloring.

Each child will get 3 cookie cutters and  3 containers and a special wee one who will get 4.   There was extra playdough and cookie cutters left over so I am going to give some to a good neighbor's grand kids.

Teen had a great time with it and it really was fun to make!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A poem, ( still trying to figure out a title)

My immortality lies

     in the scent of baby shampoo I inhale
     as I lay my head upon my 2 year olds toe- head fuzz,
     in the etch-a-sketch mustache
     of my fifteen year old boy...man?

My great works, my masterpieces.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Breathing Time...

 This has been a busy week..hurrumph.

 On Sunday we went to church where I left with the commitment to make 2 Pumpkin pies to make for our Stone Soup Sunday; a fundraiser for our church's  low income heating fund.

 On Monday, hubby went hunting, harvested a couple of trees from the woods and put a couple of t1-11 panels up on the barn. So I held down the fort here. 

Tuesday we were up at 5:15 to bring hubby half way to work so he could ride his bike the rest of the way (15miles).  We do this on the days that I need the car.  We are a 1 car family. On  Tuesday I went into town to pick up Teen from his art class and run errands.

 On Wednesday, we were up early again.  Later that day Teen, Wee One and I went to church to help set up for Stone Soup and meet with our new Minister to discuss Religious Ed program. I then drove in the other direction to pick up hubby from work.  This one car thing is supposed to save us money, right?

 Because the wee one was up at 5:00 for 2 days in a row, he thought he would try for  third day...sigh. So Thursday was a cranky day for a certain  2 year old I love. Thursday was also a catch up day at home.  The home takes a real hit when no one is home.  How does that happen?

Today, Friday, I have committed myself to finish the socks I have promised some one.  Last sock of the last pair.  I have to make bread. Feed the worms. Bake 3 pie pumpkins so I can make those church pies tomorrow.  Think about Thanksgiving dinner and make a list of anything we may need.  There won't be much because most of everything we are cooking we grew ourselves.  Except the Turkey. I'm struggling with this one for some reason. Oh ,I know the reason.  The free range local turkey is 4.50 a pound and the only turkeys available are at least 14lbs. 61.20 for a turkey compared to the CAFO turkey at 10.00.That's a tough one.  We will have pumpkin pie from scratch; potatoes, squash, green beans from the garden;cranberry sauce made from cranberries foraged from a local wild bog, homemade crackers and bread,  homemade pickled things ,local goat cheese, local blueberry wine and apple cider.  I thought about just cooking a roast from our pig but geesh..is it Thanksgiving without turkey? Sure it is. It is about gratitude after all.  But ...Is it Thanksgiving weekend without turkey sandwiches,  turkey potpie, turkey stew? I've done the local turkey for past Thanksgivings but things are a little tighter this year and that just seems like a luxury  this year.

Tomorrow is Saturday and it is my day to get away. MOM TIME!!  woohoo!!  It has been awhile.

I plan to leave early and go to the last farmers market of the season.  There will be monthly farmers market for those farmers who sell meat and cheese.  This is the last regular scheduled farmers market.  I went last week and got a bushel of apples for 8.00.  This week I want to pick up a couple of bags of onions.  We've eaten all the ones we grew for ourselves. ( note to self, plant more onions).  I will pick up the goat cheese for Thanksgiving tomorrow.

Then I have to go to the library to drop some books off and photo copy something for a friend.

Then  I will spend a glorious morning in the sunroom  of my favorite yarn shop knitting Christmas presents and gossiping with the women who knit there.

After that I might run up to the goodwill and try to find some fitted sheets for the teens bed. The one on there now looks more like it could be a fishing net.

Then I will go home and have late lunch and make pies for Sunday.

Hubby has promised a chicken dinner for Saturday night. Yum!

Friday, November 14, 2008

A day in the life of the Independence Days Challenge

5:45 My slumber is is prodded to wakefulness by the squeaky cry of "Boobie, boobie". I am able to sneak another 5 minutes before snuggling on the couch with Wee one.  This shall go into local foods system.

6:10 Hubby comes in from chopping wood and heads into the shower.  Wee one is done with nursing and has discovered the pile of picture books from our trip to the Library yesterday.  I spend a few minutes reading to him as I wait for the water to boil for coffee; free trade that we get from our church.  Pour coffee through one cuppa filter for hubby in travel mug.  Pour second cup for myself in my mug that hubby gave me for our anniversary; made by local artisan.

6:30 Kiss Hubby goodbye as he heads to work.  His school provides breakfast to the staff.  Make breakfast for the rest of the gang.  Local eggs ( because our old chickens have stopped laying and our young chickens have yet to lay).  Homemade pumpkin bread toasted.

7:00 Everyone is gathered around the table eating breakfast.  I knit a few more rounds on the socks I am making out of Peace Fleece, a lovely merino/wool blend made in Maine.

7:30 Log on and read my favorite blogs. Two Frog Home had a link to Lizzy Lane Farm where there is a recipe for making homemade dish soap.  I have been pondering this for a while now. So I went to Wholesale Supplies Plus and ordered the liquid glycerin.   This would go under Prepped.

8:00  Took care of my morning beauty regimen.  Comb Hair, Brush Teeth, Rinse Face.   Wrestle a two year old out of his Pjs with the promise , "Yes, Tonight you get to wear your pjs again". Brush wee one's teeth.  Fold laundry from drying racks and empty load of laundry washed last night and hang back on the racks.  Okay, confession time.  I was using our dryer for the heavier items and sheets during the winter.  With the intention of getting rid of the dryer.  Fate has played her hand and our dryer is dead thus taking car of that appliance for us.  But now I have a dead dryer in my bathroom eating up precious space :(.  So I have sort  of reduced waste here, but still have no idea what to do with the dead dryer that would be earth friendly. Made beds, put laundry away.

9:00  Took the wee one out with me to stack the wood hubby split.   Wee one helps mama by bringing the light logs over to the stack.  He also helps me to collect any kindling and tinder that resulted from the chopping. We put this in empty feed bags and store in the back shed.  It begins raining so we head inside.  The homeschooled teen is feeding the livestock.

10:00 I set the wee one up in his highchair with some playdough and cookie cutters while I clean up after breakfast.  i must remember to look up the recipe for creme of tarter playdough. I want to give some to the small people in my life for Christmas. I prepare another batch of Kombucha. I am still trying to get this right. I have let it ferment too long  sometimes but I now have several mothers so I can get  several batches going.   Unintended Intelligence?  Managing reserves.  Teen is in his room reading a Library booksale book,  The Deep by Peter Benchly.    Wee one is done playing with playdough and sets up a nest of board books around the dog bed. He becomes very sad that Bear Lost his little red ball in the book he was looking at.   Time out for crisis management and hugs.

11:00 Time for wee one's nap.  3 stories and song while he is rocked results in a cherubic wee one  asleep.

11:30 Teen and I sit down to read aloud the Book EMBER by Jeanne Duprau.  A friend from church lent it to us.  I am going to do a book review on it for the bookstore.  We both agreed that it is off to a good start.  

12:00 Teen and I have lunch.  Last of the split pea soup ( split peas, stock and meat provided by the garden,  left over pig bone and meat bits, apples from local orchard, garlic, carrots, potato, spinach, onion, thyme,sage, parsley from our garden)  Also last of the homemade mac and cheese.

12:30 Teen gets working on his math work while wee one naps.  I plan the afternoon: make bread, find a recipe for bean veggie burgers to use up black beans and rice in Fridge , feed worms ( I will wait for wee one to help me with this), vacuum the rug, work on those socks, tidy kitchen.  But first a cup of herbal tea.

1:00 Wee one wakes from his nap.  Nurses, briefly, and sits down to lunch.  Cheesy noodles with fleck of spinach which he is able to pick around.  I read 2 stories and his big brother reads two books.  Feed worms with help of wee one.   He rips the white paper; that now does not have to be saved for recycling but will be repurposed as worm bedding.  Reducing waste.

2:00 clean kitchen. ho hum  Hubby started a fire in the stove this morning.  I let it burn down. Little chilly so put on an extra layer.  It was fairly mild outside today...and rainy. Managed reserves. Made a veggie, garlic bread using garlic and dried kale from the garden and local honey. Wee one just bombs around for a while emptying little basket and bins of toys.  Teen retreats to his room to read the book, Science.

3:00 I wrote a list of items that I want to bulk order next week.  25lbs of kidney beans from the Great Northern Bean company ( Maine Co.)  Local old fashion  general/ feed store is selling canola in gallon bottles for 15.99.  It is cold pressed and kosher and less expensive per quart than the stuff we usually use.  It's a balance. I should ask about molasses when I call the order into the store that orders this stuff for me.  Prepped. Debated the merits of picking up one's toys with a 2 year old.  Gave the wee one a snack of dried apple chips from this years preserving efforts. Filled little bins and baskets that were emptied of their toys.  Teen feeds the livestock.  I vacuum the livingroom rug.  It sounds so much better to say I am managing my reserves instead doing chores:)

4:00 punch the bread down and divide into loaves.  Made a cuppa tea and sat down with knitting for a few minutes.  Teen put dishes away and awaits arrival of kitty litter to clean cat box.

5:00 Husband comes home bearing a smooch, kitty litter, the mail. The first seed catalogue for 2009 arrived today from a Maine Company, Pinetree Garden Seeds.  It seems like they have a good variety of heirloom breeds. Oh goody, good reading tonight, and a fair amount of daydreaming about next years garden. Prepping. Well, and not really planting anything but hopes of planting.Dinner tonight will be black bean and rice veggie burgers with shredded carrot and corn from the garden, canned salsa from this summers garden, local sour cream and cheese. Homemade tortilla. This goes under cook something new. I ended up using egg to hold it all together.I didn't use catsup but salsa and  I didn't use the tempeh crisps.  

6:oo Finished cooking dinner.  Everyone enjoyed it and went for seconds.  Cleaned up after dinner and settled in for an evening with my family. Phew! A good and full day.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Independence Day Challenge

Okay, do I dare to scroll down to the bottom of the page and see if I completed everything on the to-do list?


I think it is best to revel in what has been done, than to beat up on myself about what I did not get done.

Planted:  rye grass in a pot for the kitties to have as greenery this winter. Although this is not really for our human consumption ,it does keep the kitties from eating house plants and then chucking them up.  So I look at this as house work mitigation.

harvested: spinach and kale. Still.

preserved: 7 quarts of beets

prepped: extra hydrogen peroxide. I like to keep a goodly supply of this on hand.  Hubby works with a lot of tools and has had minor injuries. But his last summer he had a serious injury that required 13 stitches.  I used nearly a whole bottle of peroxide to cleanse the wound before I rushed him to the ER. Stocked extra toothbrushes and TP.  We are pretty well stocked with  goods but this is a good time of year to think about taking advantage of loss  leaders.  Flour, sugar and other baking needs are on sale soon.   We are  just at the beginning of hard times and stocking up on basics is a hedge against inflation.

managed reserves:  turned compost piles but I still need to make one more pile before the snow flies.  I managed to mine the piles of clutter that have gather over the last few weeks and I have implemented several anti- clutter methods that I hope the troops can work with.  Cleaned out teen's drawers and thinned out the outgrown clothing.

local foods:  Well, we've been doing a really good job of eating from our stored food that hubby just buys milk, cheese and butter. However, the food cupboard that our church sponsors has run low of funds so we purchased extra soap, shampoo and toothpaste for the cupboard.  Our neighbor is getting eggshells from a local breakfast joint to give to his chickens and floats us an extra bucket whenever he gets the chance .  ( informal economy baby!!)

OOoohhhh Inspiration:  New Category for the IDC challenge....Informal Economy.

reduced waste:  working those compost bins, feeding those worms.  I will take the out grown teen clothes and save the good quality ones for the wee one. I will give the rest to the local thrift shop.

Learned something new:  I learned how to post pictures on the blog post.

Cooks something new: It was hubby's birthday today and I baked a cake from scratch. It tasted yummy.  I admit, I have been a big fan of the box cake mix and tub o' frosting.  So I was taking a chance that it would turn out okay ...and it did!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Make Do Magic

I am a goddess.  You may not know that by looking at me.  The rings under my eyes and the gray hairs slipping from my braid do not betray my extraordinary powers.  But my unassuming appearance is the mark of every great goddess of myth who ever walked the earth.  My powers have the ability to bring joy to a toddler at times of peril.

Let me share just one small feat.  

This past summer my family and I volunteered for a community garden that donates many pounds of fresh organic veggies to low income seniors.  The wee one ( our mythic hero) would ride in his chariot from door to door as we dispensed our goods. As we return to the garden to bring the reusable bags back to the garden shed, the wee one would stop and flirt with some of some of the senior sirens that sit on their park bench to watch the sun set.

One evening while I was finishing up, teen took the wee one to visit these veggie vamps.  One bestowed upon him  a yellow, plastic, remote control car without the remote control.  Such treasure!  Such manna! such plastic....*

Such plastic soon broke when the body broke from the carriage. The tragedy and sorrow  of one truck obsessed 2 year old knew no bounds that day.  All day, we pondered how we could fix it and when would dad get home to "goo" it. 

And then  divine powers of inspiration intervened and a magic roll of duct tape appeared .....

* yeah, I know, plastic. If given the choice I use nice wood toys but this was so big and Yellow and I have saved it from the landfill.  Later when hubby got home, he pointed out that the carriage was on backwards and that most cars wheels don't steer from behind.  He, however, is a mere mortal :)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I am seriously going to do everything on the to- do list this week....seriously

     Well, I need to make this to do list because I have no idea what I need to do.  I have a vague idea (the incredible amount of clutter on the counter is a good place to start) but I've been so busy lately that things have piled up....( housework deferred?).  I have found myself with the unexpected pleasure of just taking care of the regular everyday stuff like housework, unfinished crafts, ritual cooking, end of season garden chores.  There is no wood to stack, no food to preserve (except those beets!), no knitting for a craft fair, no work at the bookstore for a couple of weeks.  I get to think about getting ready for the holidays,  spending time with my kids, maybe a date with my hubby, craft my Christmas presents.  I have a busy end of November ahead of me.  I am giving a sermon at our UU church, I have a craft fair the beginning of December and the bookstore will probably want me for some holiday shifts.  The teen begins a leadership program and the Junior Maine Guide program so there will be more time in the family taxi.  But for the next couple of weeks... I get to catch up and I am reveling in the idea! Okay, I admit it, I am weird.

To do:
Can some of those beets and find some recipes to use the rest.

Manage my reserves.  I must check my winter squash and make sure that there are no soft spots. I will also check the canned goods and plan the menu for the week using preserved food.  We have done pretty well with this but meals have not been very inspired lately.

Sew PJs.  I have several pairs of pj bottoms I want to give as Christmas presents.  They are cut out I just have to sew them.

Finish special order of knitted socks.

Tend the compost bins.  Bin number one  has finished compost that I need to side dress the hops and grapes with before I mulch them. Bin number two needs to be turned into bin number one. Bin number three need to be turned into bin number two.  And I need to make a new pile in bin number three with the last of the raked leaves, garden waste  and mucked stalls.

Top to bottom  house cleaning.  You know the spider webs that have wrapped around the aloe plant and caught those last diehard fruit flies. The dried soybeans when hubby was shelling them and spilled them and keep showing up every time you sweep the floor. The pile of summer clothes that have yet to find their way into the box in the closet ( we may still have an Indian summer..yeah sure...).  Wash the shower curtain because It  can stand on its own and may have voting rights if you don't stick it in the washer soon.

Hang the curtains that you did wash.  The neighbors really don't want to see your business.

Well, that is one thing per day for a week.  That should do it.  I hope.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Independence Day Challenge a little late

Busy Busy Busy....I look forward to January.  I love hibernation.  It is when I get the house organized and deep cleaned.  It is when I daydream over seed catalogues, learn something new and read, knit, read, knit and read some more. Snowshoeing, shoveling and slow cooking stews on the woodstove.  But for a while longer I am busy. 

Busy catching up on those things that I could not get to when I was under the weather.  Busy putting the garden to bed.  Busy machine knitting for the few craft fairs I will be doing this holiday season.  Busy with Sunday school and youth group stuff. Sigh...Yes January....

Plant: finished planting the garlic.  Approximately 150 bulbs were planted most of that was from seed I saved from this years crop.  

Harvested:carrots, kale and spinach

preserved: 7 quarts of carrots prepared for soups.

prepped:  I went to the Goodwill and found more canning jars, long underwear for the wee one in a larger size.  Stocked up on olive oil, honey,peanut butter, organic noodles.  I found some cordoroy fabric at the Goodwill that I will use for making myself a skirt and making the wee one some overalls.

managed reserves: working to finish putting the garden to bed.

local food systems:  a neighbor gave us a bushel of organic beets.  I have been sharing them with a few folks and need to figure out what to do with the rest.  I already have all the pickled beets we could eat for a year.  I might can some to serve with roasted root veggies.  Any ideas are welcomed.  Made yogurt and kefir from local milk.

reduced waste:  I am really grooving on the little worms in the bin in my bathroom.  I will not have to corral all the food scraps around the compost bin after the spring thaw.

cooked something new: kefir.  It wasn't a big hit. I might try it again and ferment it for fewer hours.  It was too sour.

learned something new: researched ways of making patch work clothing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Overheard at lunch

So, this was our big day in town.  Teenager had his art class and the wee one had story time at the library. I had to find something new to read.  I found Gene Lodgsdons, The Contrary Farmer. We had to hit the Goodwill to find the finishing touches for Halloween costumes. Teen is going to be a sailor and the wee on is going to be Max from Where the Wild  Things Are.

We stopped at a local coffeeshop for lunch. While sitting there convincing the wee one to eat his yogurt, I overheard this man who has his own heating oil delivery truck.  Just a one man operation.  He was saying that it cost 5,000 dollars to fill his delivery truck. Wow.  The he said, "One year ago I had a 100,000 line of credit with the oil heating oil distributor. Six months ago it was lowered to 50,000, then 25,000.  Now,  I have no line of credit and the distributor  wants cash on delivery. So now, I have to have cash on delivery from my customers.  I can't take checks anymore because if one bounces my business is ruined"

This credit crunch has been on the news for a few weeks now.   Big Banks fall, but so are gas prices. But for how long?   Food prices have not fallen. The connection between the evening news and daily life can seem disconnected sometimes.  Today; however, it is the tenuous connection between being hot and cold, employed or waiting in line at the unemployment office, financial security or financial ruin all distilled in the words of the conversation I heard at lunch today.

Monday, October 20, 2008

seed saving and fermentation

Do you save seeds?  This is the time of year that I take stock of the seed I have saved from this years garden: stiff neck garlic 
                         caribe potato
                         Kennebec potato
                         Onaway potato
                         Carolla potato
                         mercado amaranth
                         oldtimer down the road drybeans 
                         3 varieties of tomato seed all heirloom varieties.

This was my first year saving Tomato seed.  The process was very easy and uses one of my favorite things in the whole entire world...fermentation.  You scoop out the seed from your heirloom variety put in a cup with a little water. Cover the cup with cheese cloth or muslin.  Let the seeds ferment for 2-3 days in a warm spot .  A scum will form on the surface.  The fermentation helps to break down the sack around the seed.  After fermentation is complete, rinse off the seeds and lay them out to dry.  Be sure to keep your labeling consistent through out the process, if you are saving several varieties at a time.  

I consider seed saving  a form of making do.  Why buy the same seeds every year when you can save some from the best produce that you grow? I am still new at it but love that each year the list grows longer. I highly recommend Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth if you are considering saving seed.  It is the bible on the subject.

Speaking of fermentation, a new friend has given me a kombucha mother.  Yesterday was my first time trying kombucha.  It is a yummy drink that has sort of a acidic bite like cider.  It is full of really beneficial microbes.  It is made from sweetened black tea and fermented with a mother.  I made my first batch yesterday so it should be ready next weekend.  Thanks Peggy!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Independence Day Challenge

Well, it has been a week since the steroids were running through my veins.  I am feeling much improved.  Walking again, if still a little slow, and occasionally unsteady. But on the mend.

Things did not get done this week.  Well, that is not exactly true.  I did get a lot of knitting done and a fair amount of pondering occurred.   

I pondered the events leading to the current exacerbation of M.S. symptoms.  Running on empty doesn't work.  I was taking  my health for granted; purely powered by a heavy dose of denial.  Time to start being more intentional.  

I pondered the coming holiday season.  We have been scaling back over the past few years now. Many of the gifts we are giving  we have made and are modest.  The wee one is getting recycled toys and a couple of nice books.  I would tell you what the teen is getting but he reads this blog. Last year we travelled for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  This year we will be home for both with some family visiting for Thanksgiving. We will be participating in our churches Christmas traditions ( solstice and Christmas eve potluck and sing -a-long).  Traditions are what I would really like to focus on with the kids this year.  Time together as a family.  Plenty of homemade bake goods.  Sharing our simple pleasures with friends.  And maybe a trip to Portland during Christmas Break.

I stopped pondering all the girations of the stock market.  I don't have stock.  (unless you count all the jars of applesauce in the cupboard)  I am concerned about what all this means for the Main Street economy.  The state of Maine is considering  freezing funding for education for next year to this years level. With increased costs in energy, insurance and cost of living increases, many school districts are going to be looking to cut costs.  Hubby is a music teacher in  2 public schools.  Music isn't football. 

So we work towards independence.  

Planted:  more winter rye

Harvested: kale, spinach

Preserved: applesauce, froze spinach

Prepped: stored 25 lbs of King Arthur Flour, knitting Christmas poncho for niece#1.

Managed reserves: We moved our chicken tractor off the winter squash patch.  This allowed the birds to eat the cucumber beetle larva in the soil, fertilize the soil and till it up before we lay down winter mulch.  We started several hugelkulture this year with mixed results.  I grew potatoes on them. We had great looking plants, few potato beetles, fair harvest and many potatoes eaten by mice.  But when I lifted the brush off the spot where I had put the hugelkulture, the soil was rich loose and wormy.  So for a no tilling method, okay.  Mulched more garden for the winter.  Took inventory of winter squash to check for bad spots.  Will be making butternut squash soup this week.

Local Foods: A new friend gave me a Kombucha mother, kefir grains and organic apples.  Went to farmers market to get a little meat.  We will be butchering piggie next week.  We are researching crops that we can grow to start providing some of our own feed next winter.  Gene Logdson recommends sweet corn that you can grow for humans, finishing livestock on and dry for feed and cornmeal.

Cooked something new: Everything that we had this week was from our own food preservation efforts, local farmers market of stored food.  Made Kombucha with my new mother.

learned something new: nope.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Replenishment soup, 3 posts in one day..Oh my!

Living on a gram of cortico steroids for three days so that I get my jaunty walk back depletes the body.  Calcium is stripped, electrolytes are out of whack.  I am puffy, crabby, restless.

 Last time I was on steroids eight years ago I was on them for 10 days of oral meds.  On the last day, I woke at 5am cleaned out the pantry  labeled, wiped down the shelves and made an 2 crust apple pie by 7am.  Insane.  It goes against my judgement.  When you are sick, you rest. At that time I said no more.  I needed to find a better way. I sought acupuncture, diet changes, knitting as a way to relax, connected to nature, herbal remedies.

But still, M.S. happens.  What I crave most is a bowlful of healthy food.

Replenishment soup:

2 leeks ( the last from the garden) chopped
2 cups carrots chopped ( from garden)
1 celeriac root chopped ( from farmers market)
1 cup dry dill ( to help with stomach unease from steroids)
5 clove garlic chopped ( to help build immunity, steroids suppress immunity)
1 cup chopped tomato ( they were last from the garden ripening on the counter)
1/4 olive oil ...add all this to stew pot and sautee until veggies are just tender

Add 1 quart home canned tomato puree ( vitamin c)
1  1/2 pint of homemade tomato paste(vitamin c)
2 cups soaked garbanzo beans
1  1/2 quart frozen garden corn
add 1/4 cup dulse seaweed flakes ( this is a great source of iron)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast ( great source of B vitamins for a body under stress)
2 quarts of water
 simmer on stove for about 45 minutes to an hour until the beans are cooked soft. 
add 1 quart home grown frozen spinach ( source of calcium and vitamin c)

If there is room in the pot 1 cup barley simmer for about another 20 minute or until barley is cooked. 

serve with bread your hubby made today  and a nice cuppa blueberry tea with raw honey.

I like that everything that goes into the soup was local, part of our food storage, or from our own garden. 


Independence Day Challenge

Well, I am dizzy with the world these days.  How about you? I've been following a couple of blogs that have been working a 21 day challenge.  The first is Wendy at "Home is." and the originator of the challenge Verde at "Justice Deserts".  The challenge was an exercise to see how prepared or how one could get prepared  in 21 days.  The challenge was good because it was good to evaluate areas in the home that I have been working on.  It was good because I took at look at what we have been doing here and  if TSHTF tomorrow we would be okay. We have water, food stored, could manage our own waste, community  that we are connected with, plenty of back up for lighting ( flashlights, oil lamps and oil), we have some seed saved and stored for next season, clothes for the growing folks in several sizes, we have 3 cord of wood and access to more that we will be harvesting this fall.

Ideally, it would be great if we could build a cash reserve for the home.  But car repairs have put a crimp on extras for a while. So, while I can, I have begun a found money  policy in the home.  We have rolled our coinage and stashed it away, there is a small change jar that keeps money found in the bottom of the washing machine, and I am taking any ones and fives that I might have at the end of the day and building a rainy day fund.  Depression era thinking? Yeah sure.  But even though the stock market is up 8% today the long term effect of the last month suggest that we, as a nation, are in for hard times.  A lot of money has been thrown at this disaster. Money that will either come out of our pockets through taxation or inflation.  The banks may have been saved but at the expense the wider economy.  That is you and me.

So thanks to the IDC ,I feel like Verdes 21 days to Collapse challenge , had me pretty well prepared.  So onward and upward.

Planted: winter rye

harvested: soybeans, turnip, spinach, carrots, apples

preserved: apple chips,froze spinach, shelled soybeans for fodder for our chickens this winter.

Managed reserves: turned one pile of compost made another pile, raked leaves for another pile next week, stacked wood, began found money endeavor at home, feeding my little worms in the indoor composter.  They are hard at work.  I hope to have my seed starting mix from these guys.

Prepped: found a comforter for the wee one's bed at the Goodwill.  Maybe now he will stay in his bed at night.  Hubby started another batch of beer.

Local foods:  Went to farmers market.  A neighbor gave us a bucket of apples he picked from a friend's three trees. Some are put aside for the piggie and the rest I will make some more sauce with.  For his kindness ( he is the very generous neighbor who is letting us cut wood on his lot) I gave him a  jug and airlock so he could make some apple wine.  I found some of the one gallon jugs at the Goodwill this summer.

cooked something new:  I made a very yummy pumpkin soup  with leeks, potatoes, corn from our garden and sausage from the farmers market. Homemade oatmeal bread on the side.

learned something new:  I have learned to be humble.  It has been 7 years since my last serious M.S. exacerbation.  This weekend I have been riding the steroid train and riding coach on the couch.  It is easy to forget that I have some limits that others don't; when I have been so strong and healthy for so long.  Ah well...most of the canning is done and all hands are on deck to help me get the garden  ready for winter.  Time to focus on replenishment  and health.

Use it up, wear it out, make it last, making do

I've been thinking about this little adage a lot lately.  As the economy slips into...what? Recession? Depression? I've always been a thrifty person.  I buy second hand clothes, we try to do our own repairs on our car, we buy our cars outright. We are trying to pay down our debt (student loan, mortgage, land payment).

Yes, we use it up, wear it out, make it last and make do.  Making do intrigues me right now.  It is the last part of this adage that I think lends itself to the most creativity. Making do has taken on more meaning for us since our hardware store burnt down. It is not so easy to run downtown to pick up the doohicky to fiddle with the thingamabob. 

So we make do with what we have around here.  When raspberries were in season I realized that carrying berries I needed a berry bucket. Hence one yogurt container with holes punched in the side. I strung old laundry line rope through the holes and made sure to keep the cover on the container so when I slid on my bum down the gully the berries stayed in the bucket.  

Making do, fixing,  repairing, repurposing. This will be the first in a series of posts exploring  how we make do on the homestead.  ( maybe now I can get some picks up with my posts.)

Do you have any little make-do projects that you are proud of?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Independence Day Challenge

I am still doing this challenge. I've been doing it since May?  I think. Why have I been doing it this long and why do I feel that it is important for me to still follow this challenge? Well; because, although many of the items on the list I would be doing anyway, I feel it is important to me to have a discipline around concerns of preparedness.  There have been times when  I had to give up a meal to make sure my older son could have something to eat.  There were times when we had very low heat because I couldn't pay for the electric heat we had. Maine winters can be cold and long. There were times I waited in line for free day old bread at a local church.  If I had known then what I know now we would have had an easier life.

I don't think this was a personal failing. It  isn't that I hadn't worked really hard most of my adult life or that I didn't try to keep my son and myself off of welfare.  For quite a few years we were very independent ( by today's standards).  We paid for our our own health insurance.  We paid our own rent and utilities.  We ate really well.  But life happens.  And sometimes it happens in very hard ways.

Simply enough, I got sick with  Multiple Sclerosis.  So my ability to work hard and my ability to provide for myself  and my son were severely compromised for several years. Fortunately, I learned to slow down and got healthy and ...learned some valuable lessons in self sufficiency.

Now, our nation is walking the footsteps of a financial crisis.  For now, it still seems far away. I can still go to the grocery  store and buy my Factory Farmed chicken and strawberries from Argentina.  I can go to Malwart and buy poorly made shoes from China.  But ...the soles wear out quickly on those shoes.  An economic system that is only based on growth ends up eating itself.  How long can this go on?  Well, it seems to be eating itself now.  I need to wrap my mind around the fact that some day,  I may not be able to find chocolate at the grocery store.  Or someday..the heating fuel of my choice may be too expensive for me to purchase.  Someday, inflation may price me out of the formal economy. So simply enough I take the "wealth" I have now and invest it items I will be using in the future.   If nothing happens, well, then,  we eat what we have, we use what have.  My children's feet will still grow and they will wear the shoes I have put aside for them.  If nothing happens, well, my husband's income is still not going to grow dramatically.  So it makes sense for our family to grow most of our own food, cut our own firewood, and live as frugally as possible so we can live comfortably.

Plant: 111 garlic bulbs.  Transplanted rhubarb with the hope it will like its new home better.

Harvested: leeks, turnip, apples, spinach, corn for the pig

Preserved: spinach, dried pears, pear sauce, dried apples, amaranth

prepped: stocked upon baking soda, yogurt cultures, kitty litter ( it was on sale big time this week).  I have started an emergency cash fund for under the "mattress" .  It is never too late for a Rainy day fund.  I am a newbie a vermicomposting and the little guys are thriving.  I am such a proud worm mama.

local foods:  a  friend from church has provided apples from organic trees for folks at church.  plan to dehydrate these,  farmers market twice this past week.

managed reserves:  building a new compost pile from garden waste and the first fallen leaves.  I hope to have at least one more pile made this fall to have a good jump on next years compost. Wrote out an inventory of the home canned food and will post it on the blog.  I will post the frozen foods this week after that is tallied. Working on a list of the last few things I think we need to stock up on  for the winter with regards to dry bulk goods.  My hope is to be at the point where we are just buying butter and milk from a local farmer with occasional purchases of grains, coffee and chocolate. ( yeah ,I know, not very  local but we get them fair trade from our church).

learned something new:  I learned how to felt a hand knitted project.

cook something new:  dehydrated pears and pear sauce....YUM YUM YUM.....if we eat them all now I don' think they can considered preserved but what the heck they are good.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Independence day challenge and a Rant.

  If there were any reason for following the Independence Days challenge;  I would have to say that  the financial crisis and the yoyo economics of this past week ( and today) are enough of a reason.  700 Billion dollars. 700BILLION DOLLARS.  I don't necessarily understand all the reason for how we got to this state of affairs.  I don't pretend to  understand all the ins and outs of economics.  I don't invest in the stockmarket.  I invest in tools, seed, books.
 But I know this, when you by junk and hope for it to turn to gold you are waiting a long time. I know that the bail out plan is just a bandaid ( maybe) and does not address the cause of this crisis. I know that in order to pay 700 billion dollars we are either borrowing the money from another government or the printing presses are smoking. And that means one of two things.First in order to pay the debt, taxes will have to be raised. Or, more money lessens the value of the money and inflation is going to go through the roof.  Hard Times either way.

So, I think that working toward greater self -sufficiency and preparedness may not stop the hard times from coming to my town or home. But it may lessen the impact. 

Plant: no

harvested:  Spinach, beet greens, carrots, radishes, amaranth. sweet annie wormwood.

preserved: pickled carrots, apple sauce,dried apples, tomato puree, tomato paste, shelled dry beans, strung paprika peppers

local foods:  Old timer neighbor gave us 5 gallon bucket of shelling beans, another friend gave us paprika peppers, we have a bushel of pears to process from an organic orchard.  I gave winter squash, potatoes, blueberry jam and garlic for seed to a friend who has to pay for heating oil this winter.  We gave another friend about 20 lbs of potatoes whose work hours have been reduced as a result of the factory  he works for having less business.  Last week was the last week of the delivery for the community garden until next year.

managed reserves: thinned out summer clothes and  brought out winter clothes for kids. Forever rearranging the pantry to fit canned goods, replaced batteries in all the flash lights.

prepped: saved tomato seed, saved dry bean seed,  sorted potato seed for next year, 

reduced waste: turned compost pile number one.

cooked something new: made a sour dough starter from the recipe in Wild Fermentation. Using concord grapes from our own plants as the source of yeast.

learned something new: I learned that I need to learn how to change a flat tire

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Independence day challenge

     It has been a while since I have posted an update to the IDC. Not for lack of intention. Since we returned from Pa Land I have not stopped.  Harvest time.  A beautiful time of year in Maine.  The trees are changing colors.  First frost was this past week. Winter squash graces the sunny windows curing their skins in the sun room. Green tomatoes too. The canning season is nearly done just a few more weeks. 

Planted: garlic

harvested: pie pumpkins, tomatoes,apples, blue hubbard squash, butternut squash, butter cup squash, calendula, mint, oregano, catnip,comfrey, parsley, anise hyssop, sweet annie, spinach.  We went apple picking this past week.  The orchard had plums that will be ready this week. I've never doen anything with them but I am thinking...plum wine or prunes?

preserved: canned tomatoes, applesauce.Dried oregano, catnip, anise hyssop, catnip, mint, comfrey. froze spinach and corn. I brought peaches home from Pa land.  Peaches are hard to grow this far north in Maine. so this will be a real treat this winter.

prepped: stocked up matches, seed, fleece to card, found some snow pants for the wee one and some underwear and a larger size, stacking firewood.  I brought peaches home from Pa land and canned them.  I found worms to put into a worm bin.  

managed reserves: stacked fire wood.  First frost this week, so tender greens were covered and everything else was harvested.  This felt like a short growing season. Constantly rearranging the food in the cupboard and have nearly run out of room with all the home canned gods in there.  I still want to make a bulk order so things will need to go under beds soon!

Reduced waste: piggie is getting all the canning food scraps. A load of out grown kid clothes to the thrift store.

Local Foods:  Attended the Common Ground Country Fair, a celebration of Maine Organic Agriculture.  Went to the local farmstand, and farmers market.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Home at last!!

  I'm home!  Thank Goodness!  I want to kiss the soil in my garden and praise the cobwebs in the corners of my home.  

     Last week we drove 13 hours to south east Pennsylvania to attend my SIL's wedding.   To the say the least, it was a whirlwind trip.  Surreal in many aspects.   Exhausting.   We left at six in the morning. Bought gas just off the interstate for 3.58 a gallon. We watched the gas prices lower as we headed south. While we were gone Lehman failed and Ike took out the coast of Texas.  Gas prices crept higher as we headed home.  It felt like the world had shifted considerably while we were gone.  Meanwhile, we had a taste of the suburban lifestyle.

   I have always thought my self a square peg.  Try as hard as might, I am never going to fit into the round hole.   Down there in Pa land there are sooo  many round holes..  SiL  lives in a housing development of McMansions.  Granite counters, cedar swingsets, central air, multi- car garages, immigrant house cleaners.   Very Expensive homes that have an up close view of the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant. With what they paid for their home, they could have had a lovely home on the coast in Maine with an incredible view of the ....ocean.  The car is the only mode of transportation.  Nothing is walkable.  There are Mcmansions with huge cornfields abutting their yard.  

    I know that homesteading is  full of hard work.  Especially this time of year.  I have spent many hours with my canner.  A frost is threatened for tomorrow night so I am working hard to get everything in.  But I would never trade my life for that life.  I think it must be really hard to keep up with the Joneses.  

 James Kunstler, author of the Long Emergency, has said that the building out of the suburbs over the last 50 years  has been the greatest misallocation of resources.  I have to agree.  We are seeing the result of  that build out now in the price of oil and the sub- prime mess. Sharon Astyk;over at her blog, Causabon's Book, argues that when (not if) hardtimes come as a result of global warming, peak oil or economic collapse many folks will have to adapt in place. My observation is that even though many of these suburbs are built on once fertile farm land that that it is not going to be very easy to put a garden on the 1/2 acre lot.  Many of the homes I saw under construction had their top soil stripped in order to level the land.  My SIL can't get a shrub to grow on her lot because there is so much clay.  We had a lot of clay when we moved in here but we have sheep and chickens that help us to feed the soil. 

    But, maybe I am over reacting.  The world shifted while I was gone but one wouldn't know it in Pa land.  The traffic was still steady , the mall parking lots were full, there were still big SUVs on the road.  There were houses under construction.

Yup.  It is good to be home.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Independence day challenge

     Simple Pleasures.  Yup.  When everything is crazy busy this time of year I take pleasure in simple things.  One thing I am getting great pleasure out of is the squash patch. It was so lush and rambling this year.  When everything else in the garden seem to be a bit of a struggle with rain and creepy crawlies.  The squash patch was the actualization of the vision I had when I planted it.The great thing with the squash now is that as the plants are  fading away they reveal their bounty.  There are so many  butternut squash.  More pie pumpkins that I thought.  And  yummy buttercups that are now sitting in my sunroom window to season their stems.
    Another simple pleasure, a cupboard full of home canning jars.  All those beautiful colors.  Crisp pickles will taste refreshing in January when we are sick of potatoes.   Soups will be a matter of emptying jars.  All the work now will save me work later.  And the sense of accomplishment.  I have had to buy new pint jars for salsa and jams because I have used up all that I had.   There are still many quart jars downstairs but I still have many more foodstuffs to put up.  Apples, Apples and tomatoes and more tomatoes oh and cranberries.  So I am feeling very independent this week.

Planted:  More spinach.  I know, I know this is getting redundant but we love spinach and I would like to eat it fresh for a as long a s possible.

Harvested:  Carrots, potatoes, zucchini, acorns, apples, basil, leeks, squash, corn, spinach

Preserved: broccoli, salsa, tomato paste, dried eggplant, zucchini relish, tomato puree, frozen spinach.

prepped:  I've been pretty lame on this one lately but we've been so busy with the garden and food preservation that I think of that as prepping too.  Oh no wait...stacking firewood, putting up hay for the critters winter feed.

Local foods:  farmers market, local farmstand and neighbor gave us some corn.  I am going away next week and researching if there are any local fruits available that we can't get easily here that I can bring home to preserve.

learned something new:  I cut out the pattern for teenager's christmas pjs.  I am learning how to use treadle sowing machine.

cooked something new:  spinach pancakes, tomato paste, zucchini relish

reduced waste: the usual composting, recycling, sending stuff to the thrift store.

Friday, September 5, 2008

It's a green thing.

     Food is central to my life on the homestead these days.  I grow it. I harvest it.  I preserve it.  I feed my family.  It is important to me that we try to incorporate as many local foods that we can into our diet. By no means are we successful in many areas.  But we try.  There are many reasons that we try to eat local.  First, 1500 mile ceasar salads just don't taste good.   Sure they may look pretty; with their waxed cucumbers, perfectly red,round cherry tomatoes, colorful leafy greens. But is it real?  Produce picked before its time, so it can be ripe for your shopping cart, just cannot compare to the taste of a tomato at the farmers market or garden.  

     The second reason we eat local is because we live in a great state with a strong agricultural tradition.  If we want our economy in this state to remain vital then we need to keep more of our dollars in this state. The region of the state that I live in is struggling.  It is the oldest county in the state, with few major employers.  So if I am giving my dollars to the farmstand down the road I am keeping my dollars in my community where it can pay a farm worker, be spent at the hardware store, get passed on to feed store.

    Another reason we eat local is because we like to know the source of our food.  We like the relationships we have built  with farmers.  There is the farmer and his young apprentice at Snakeroot Farm.  When buying seedlings from him in the spring, he will always dispense some useful information about the plant and its propagation.  When buying the milk from the farmer down the road we find out how his daughter is doing in college.  She wants to be a large animal veternarian.  One farmer that we get hay from  has alpaca and goats.  She is a wealth of information in the care of our own goat. And she has nice fiber!  Eating local builds community.

     One challenge of eating local is learning how to cook with the seasons.  Spring greens, parsnips,jerusalem artichokes and eggs in the spring. Berries, greens, zucchini, tomato in the summer. Squash, potatoes, kale, apples in the fall.  Winter, food put by.  Believe it or not,  but winter is not that hard.  Winter is the time I make soup. So when I am canning or freezing food  this time of year I think about what foods will go well in soups.  I cut my carrots the way I would if I were to put them in a soup.  Then can them.  When I go to make the soup  I just have to pour the whole jar in the pot.  Potatoes can be cooked in a variety of ways. Dry beans figure prominently.  Our freezer is full of pork and chickens we grew.  We grow some greens under cover so during a January thaw we will have fresh greens.  And we  do get some eggs from our girls in the winter.  I have a king's wealth of berries in the freezer.  I dry many herbs for herbal teas. Soon I will be picking apples and cranberries.

     Eating local stretches the creative cooking skills.  This time of year I look forward to cooler temperatures, in another month.  Baked apple stuffs and soups will be on the menu soon.  But it is still warm.  Yesterday was nearly ninety degrees.  It was a busy day of canning salsa , stacking wood. Among the cooking challenges of eating local I also have a toddler to feed.  The little guy has an aversion to eating anything green.  So I am always looking for ways to sneak green foods into his  diet.  I am not always successful.  He now opens any melted cheese sandwich to make sure that I haven't placed finely minced , placed carefully  in the middle  to avoid being seen spinach.  But the succession crop of spinach is in and it looks really great. Taste better. So yesterday I decided to make a spinach pancakes.  He saw them cooking on the griddle. Joyous exclamations of, " pampake! pampake!" filled the kitchen.   Placed in front of him, one bite.  That's all she wrote....

Every one else at the table woofed them down though.   I served them with mashed root veggies and a salad.  Here is the recipe, hope you enjoy them!

Spinach Pancakes

2 eggs
cup and half of milk
4 tablespoons cheddar cheese
2 table spoons olive oil
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt.
cup and half of flour.  can use half wheat and half white
tablespoon dillweed
about two cups of finely chopped spinach

 Mix wet ingredients, add dry mix well and then add spinach.  Cook as you would pancakes.

I'm still working out a topping.  I think a tomato chutney would be nice or applesauce? What do you think?


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Independence Day Challenge

It is a beautiful evening.  It's about 7:15 and the sun is setting.  We are nearing autumn equinox.  Time seems to speed up this time of year.  So much to do, so little time.  Hubby has gone back to work.  The familiar routine has worked its way back into our lives. Tomorrow is Labor Day so time to record my labors.

Planted: more spinach

Harvested: spinach, onions,beets,tomatoes,potatoes, corn,zucchini, basil,pole beans, catnip, acorns.

preserved: tomatoes, kale,pole beans, corn,zucchini,onions.  I have talked with several folks this harvest season that are canning for the first time.  The upcoming heating season is on everyone's mind.  Many folks are looking for a way to be more self reliant as a way to save some money.

Local Food: farmers market, farmstands, and volunteering at community garden.  All of the food I prepared for the potluck was local or out of my garden.

prepped: chopped and stacked firewood, made sure to fill the tank of the car this weekend and filled a couple gerry cans full of gas.  Hurricane Gustav could impact gas prices. We needed to fill the cans for our plow truck.  It feels better to have the cheaper gas in it.  Although at 3.65 cheaper is all relative. The teenager is doing a fine job on his first major carpentry job.  He is rehabing a shack a neighbor gave us into Alpine Dream Chicken Coop.

managed reserves:  The potluck this weekend gave me the excuse to rally the troops to finish a few projects and clean up the yard a bit.  Mowed lawn for the second time this year and used that grass for mulching the paths of the garden and feeding the compost bin. Organized garden tool shed. Tidied cupboard out.  It is a good feeling to have a cupboard full of food that I have put up myself.  Bottled some strawberry rhubarb wine.  Hubby bottled what seems to be a very fine batch blueberry ale.

Reduce waste: Turned compost pile and gathered more materials for making an other pile.  I have made and used 5 piles of compost this year.  With the garden waste, pre- winter animal pen mucking and raked eaves I hope to have at least one more pile made and turned and two more made to winter over for the spring. 
 After stacking the firewood, we need to cover it to keep it dry.  Last year we used a tarp. It worked but then got frozen to the ground and made it hard to get to the wood underneath.  We hope to build a wood shed someday.  It was on this summer's list.  But we needed to build a barn instead.  So , the domestic goddess was taking the day off and the handy woman went to work.  Animal feed now comes in woven plastic bags.  I cut up the sides, cut off the bottom.  I laid them flat and stapled them to scrap barn boards of poor quality at either end of the bags.  The boards give weight so the bags don't have to be weighted down with logs. Four bags will cover about 2/3rds of  a cord of wood.  We haven't thrown the bags away because they just seem to have another purpose besides taking up room in the shed.  We just hadn't figured it out yet.  Sorta harkens back to the old flour sack dresses.  Okay, maybe not as pretty.  

Learned something new:  I learned how to load and use a staple gun.

Cooked something new:  I made a marinara and canned it in my new pressure canner.  I have always just made a tomato puree and added lemon juice.  Then Hot water bathed the tomatoes.  But now I can be exotic and add garlic , onions and oregano.  Wooooo.  Tomorrow...Salsa!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Company is coming

    We've been in this corner of Maine, now, for two years.  The little town I live in boast 2400 souls.  Smallest town I have ever lived in.  I grew up in Salem, Massachusettes.  Moved to Portland Maine and lived there for the better part of my adult life.  So, yup, I'm a city girl. Or, is that was a city girl?  

     In the city you can bring your book, knitting needles or notebook walk down to the coffee shop and be surrounded by people.  If you are reading the latest and greatest topseller, then more than likely you will have a conversation.  

     In the country, if you walk out in the yard, or down the road,  your likely to run into a flock of turkeys, chase sheep around the yard. 

     In the country, if your a square peg it is harder to find other square pegs.

    But there out there.

    And they are coming to our house for a potluck fete this Saturday.

     I look forward to having folks come over because I get to clean the cobwebs from the ceiling, pull the weeds from the garden, hang that curtain rod and curtains that I have meaning to get to for weeks now.  Yup,the domestic diva takes over and she can be really demanding sometimes. I look forward to cooking mostly local food from my foodshed or garden.I look forward to sharing this new life out here with old friends.  I look forward to connecting with the community I have found in the country.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

I am bursting with pride.

The teenager is homeschooled.  He has been since he was in first grade.  He just completed his freshman year of homeschool highschool this past spring.  One goal he had was to get certified in SCUBA.  This weekend he had his second open water dive and finished his certification.  Congratulations Tristan.  I am so proud of you.  You set yourself a goal.  You followed through and kept at it.  Good work!!!

Independence Day Challenge

     Ahhh... August.  A bittersweet time on the ole' homestead.  Hubby is a music teacher. He went back to school this past week.  So now our weekends will be filled with finishing all the projects on the neverending list. Among those items we still need to do:  put up more firewood, put up hay for the ovine, frame windows and put up side of barn. 

 But it is hard not to feel rushed.  Leaves are already turning.  Apple season is nearly upon us.  We have had some chilly nights and will have to pay attention to night time temperatures.  We had an early frost last August.

Now to pay attention to what has been done:

Planted:  More Spinach

Harvested: beets, onions, tomatoes, herbs, potatoes, blackberries, dry beans, pole beans

Preserved: Tomatoes, beets, blackberries syrup, applesauce

Managed Reserves:  weeded big garden, went on an anniversary date with hubby.

Reduced waste: took recycling to depot, gave new ducks dried out weeds from the garden as bedding .

prepped:  hit a yard sale and found some pants for the little guy.  I had passed on his 18month old pants this past spring.  Then he decided to learn to use the potty and his 24 month pants are too big with out the diaper butt to fill them out.  Still on the look out for snow pants but he has plenty of jackets for the next several winters and a pair of boots for this winter.  Purchased a pressure canner.  Hubby has been harvesting firewood from a neighbors lot once a week.  A few more weeks and we will have enough wood for winter with a little in reserve.  We still have a cord left over from last winter while we wait for this years cut to season.

learned something new:  I have moved beyond pickles and jams.  I am pressure canning  ( I feel so grown up :))

cooked something new:  does canning beets count?


Friday, August 22, 2008

more on the to do list

  The pastor emeritus of our church had a fire at his house we will be going over to the house to help him to clean up after the service.  Our thoughts are with you Alec.  

To do list

The weekend to do list:
 Gotta harvest some HUGE beets in the garden and can some to serve as roasted root veggies this winter.

Plant more spinach in the empty spot where the beets were.

Finish knitting hubby's fingerless hunting mitts.

Get into teen's room take inventory of clothing to see what he may need for winter.

Need to organize larder to make room for more home canned food.

Sunday, take a day of rest.

Frugality as a hip lifestyle choice

   So heres the nitty gritty kinda post that you might find on other blogs.  There are a lot of great blogs out there that provide great tips on saving money. Much of the information that I have gleaned has come from similar sources.  I am going to share the reason why I live frugally.  
     Well, at one point in my life I had to make a choice.  I could keep running on the hamster wheel and keep getting nowhere or I could sit in a corner and chew my cardboard toilet paper tube and take pride in the nest I had built. 

      Actually, I was a sick hamster.  I was diagnosed with MS when I was 29 years old.  I had been living a crazy life in retrospect.  I was working 32 hours on a busy maternity unit, working part time for a caterer, taking classes at the local University and oh, yeah, I was a single mother. There was one day when I woke my son at 5 am to get ready for work, dropped him off at his dad's house who would later take him to day care, where I would pick him up and get him to a babysitter so I could get to my class.  The baby sitter arrived early.  I think I spent about an hour and a half with him all day.   Most of that time trying to get him to someone else who would be taking care of him. It just wasn't worth it. He was 4 at the time.  A very tender age.

    There had to be a better way.  Back of the envelope figuring showed that most of the money I was bringing in went to providing the support I needed to live this hectic life.  Childcare, transportation, convenience foods were high on the list of places where my money was spent.  My housing was relatively inexpensive.  I dropped the school and the parttime job.  The hospital job was good, with great benefits. 

     This allowed me time to bake bread, grow a community garden plot, cook from scratch, read picture books on the front stoop, hang my laundry out to dry, learn to knit, play with legos on the living room floor, have dinner with the little guy every night he was not with his dad, go to the playground, get healthy, join a time dollar network, write poetry, publish a poem or two, spend time with friends, dream.

     In order to do this I had to write a list for the grocery store and stick to it. I had to buy whole ingredients, not food in packages.  I had to buy second hand clothes and thus develop my own personal style and not the off the rack, lack of imagination fashion. I spent good portions of my time at the public library. I watched my electricity use. I lived in a small city and walked whenever possible.  I grew all the veggies we ate in the summer. We ate less meat.  And out of all of this came a life with more meaning and more time with my son.  

Why would I live any differently?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Alas,all good things must come to an end.

     I feel like a wealthy woman.  I feel like a fine chef with the best ingredients.  I feel like I have cheated and have no regrets. Why? 

    I have raspberries growing on our land.  We have two acres with a small gully. On either side of the gully are raspberry bushes.  This has been the first year that I have really taken advantage of them.  Every other day I have been out side, in the skeeter busy muck, with the wellies on, picking raspberries.  I have picked 6 quarts of raspberries.  I froze them because I was afraid that they would mold before I had enough to make jam. I will gloat and remember the summer some time in January as I pour them into pancakes or muffins.

    It was a learning experience.  After the first day I learned that I should wear long pants tall boots , long sleeves, and a hat to keep the inch worms out of my hair. I learned that not all buzzing sounds are from mosquitos the hard way ...ouch!)

    The local farm stand has a u-pick raspberries.  A pint for 2.00 or a quart for 5.00. Ouch.  I am indeed a wealthy woman.  Okay , maybe a little frugal too. Then as if the manna could not taste better I found blackberries.  They have a shaper thorn bite but worth every little jab.

     But the days grow short and other fruits beckon to be harvested and the berries don't fill a cup any longer.

Catching up

I confess, I've been a bad blogger. I guess that happens this time of year. So much life so little time. First I would like to just update the IDC Challenge.

Planted: More spinach and waiting for harvesting of some veggies to clear some land for more planting.

harvested: pole beans, dry beans, the first tomato (ohh, aahh), various herbs, blackberries and the last of the raspberries, caribe potatoes, barley, acorns.

preserved: oh boy is this list long.  Canned: tomatoes, applesauce.  Froze: Broccoli, corn raspberries and blackberries. Dried beans, broccoli leaf.  dill, sage, basil, oregano, mint, comfrey, blueberries. Fermented: blueberry wine and beer.

Managed reserves: Scythed grass.  Side dressed fruit trees. Weeded.

Prepped: Maine Broccoli was a dollar a pound so I bought several pounds and froze 16 quarts of broccoli. Found some canning jars at a yard sale.  We adopted ducks

Reduced waste: Working that compost pile.  I used up some finished compost and built another pile.  Gave canning food scraps to the pig.

Local food systems:  A neighbor, I call the old timer, gave us some windfall apples that I have made some applesauce with.  Another neighbor gave us some blueberries that I made wine with.  I bought canner tomatoes at the farmers market and corn.

Cooked something new: nope

Learned something new:  Yes! I learned that I ,too,  can make a slapdash animal shelter.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Independence Day Challenge

     This is last weeks challenge update.  Life here has been busy.  A friend from the UU church we  attend asked me how my summer was going.  "Busy"  describes the summer in one word.   My friend has been homesteading for well over 30 years.  She told me that she looks forward to winter because; although she loves gardening and lives off  the fruits of her labor, she likes the quiet of winter.  When hubby goes back to teaching school in a few weeks we will have a Barn, a larder full of food and a few cord of wood put up for the winter. Until then we plug away.

Planted:  We have had a few weeks of rain here.  The sun came out for a while on Saturday.  I planted spinach, carrots,beets, radicchio , lettuce, radish.  

Harvested: broccoli florets, garlic, lettuce, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, potatoes, onions, basil, dill, cilantro, mint, oregano, dry beans, polebeans.

Preserved: Pickled carrots, pickled beets, dilly beans, blueberry jam, dried zucchini, herbs, kale and broccoli leaves. Blueberry wine.

Managed reserves: tidied larder, moved the wee one into his own bed (Woo Hoo!!)

Prepped:  I found blankets and sheets at the Goodwill for the wee one's bed. I also found 2 one gallon glass jugs for  making wine.

Reduced waste: decluttering. With all the rain we have had I have been inside more and realized that my house has experienced Summeritis.  The strange syndrome that occurs to otherwise tidy homes when you don't spend too much time inside.  Things and chores pile up.  Still composting.

Local Food:  Going to Farmers market and farm stands.  I volunteer for a community garden that donates organic produce to low income seniors.

Learn something new:  I am learning how to put this bloggy thing together.

Cooked something new:  Pickled carrots.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Here's to Luke

      We moved out to the country two years ago this month.  We were so excited to have a larger garden and grow most of our food.  We couldn't wait to have chickens and farm fresh eggs.  We were already living a pretty simple lifestyle but we thought we had the fortitude to work a little harder.  Okay ..a lot harder. 
    I don't think when we dreamed of this that sheep were part of the equation. But just like most of my math skills, I ended up with a few more numbers than was figured.  About a year ago we were offered 3 aging shetland sheep. Annie, Emily and Luke.  One wouldn't think that sheep have personalities but they do.  Emily is bold and pushy. Annie has self esteem issues. Luke was the strong silent type.   We have since added Zipper (ram) and Button (ewe).  Two Dorset/ South down sheep . They are lambs and very friendly and open to the world.  Sorta like 4 year olds.
     On Friday morning we noticed that Luke was keeping himself separate from the flock.  Hubby is a musician and had to go Downeast for 2 gigs.  I notice that Luke was coughing.   After I heard the cough I put him in  pen by himself but where he could still see his flock. He had stopped eating.  When hubby got home on Sunday he started calling local farmers to find out what the problem might be. We returned him to pasture.  We gave him an elixer of canola oil/mollasses/ salt to start up his digestive system.  Today we gave him a worm treatment.  This evening I went out to pick blackberries.  I noticed him lying down on his side which was uncommon for him.  He was dead.
  We've lost chickens along the way of this homesteading journey. But they were tough old birds that had stopped laying many eggs.  We've grown a pig and killed and butchered it.  So we have a personal relationship with our food.  Death is part of this.  We grow baby animals; we eat them.  We are not vegetarians.  We used to buy all our meat from the farmers market but when we got the pig last year we told ourselves "If we can't kill it we have no right to eat it." We provide good food and a good life to our animals; far better than any factory farm raised animals.  
  But the Shetlands were different; not really pets, but more than just livestock.  Friendly lawn mowers maybe. Purveyors of good poo for the garden.  Better than a treadmill for providing exercise when they escape their yard. So here's a toast to Luke the Buddha sheep. Slainte!

IDC challenge update tomorrow after I can the pickles.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Rain, Rain, RAIN!

  Two weeks of rain.  Yes! Two weeks of rain and cool temperatures.  We actually had to put on another blanket last night.  Tomatoes don't turn red when there is no sun and cool temperatures.  In fact, the leaves get all fungally, slimey, dead looking.  (Isn't that a delightful image!).  Dry beans are not dry when it rains at the time you would like to harvest them. Sheep get muddy, wooly coats and we have to worry about their feet getting too wet.  Hoof rot is not a nice thing for sheep.  Two year olds get squirrelly when they can not play in their sand box.  The  Teenage boy retreats to his cave making the rare dinner time appearance.   Hubby can't build the barn when it downpours. But I can do the canning without the house over heating.  See.  There is always a bright side.  

Now where did I put those welly boots?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Independence Day Challenge

    Sharon Astyk over at Causabon's  Book began a challenge back in  May that follows the wise  advice of one of my heroes, Carla Emery.  It essentially goes like this; in the spring plant something everyday. Then, when the bounty is ready, preserve something every day.  Sharon has expanded it with consideration for preparing for hard times  for example: economic recession ( or worse), supply disruptions due to rising energy costs and supply concerns, extreme weather events.

 I've been working the challenge since May. As a result I have more food preserved from our garden at this point than I ever have.  With many more crops still waiting to ripen. Sharon has taken a few weeks off from logging folks results. I find that when I can write everything  down it gives me an idea where I am going and what I can work on next.  The challenge was part of the inspiration for starting this blog.

Well here are several weeks worth of IDC...

Planted:  I haven't planted a thing! Ugh I really need to get my fall garden planted.  I have four free beds that I think I will just plant spinach in.  We like spinach  a lot.  I will put most of the spinach under cover when the weather cools with the hope of having a prolonged harvest and  an early spring crop. 

Harvested: Raspberries,blueberries, dill, pole beans, swiss chard, basil, garlic, onions, oregano, mint, comfrey,catnip, cilantro, anise hyssop kale, broccoli florets, broccoli leaves..

Preserved:  froze raspberries.  These grow wild on our property and I pick about a quart every other day.  I worry about them molding while I  get enough for making jam.  So I freeze them.  They will be great in Muffins and pancakes this winter. Dries basil,oregano,catnip,hyssop, mint, dill.  Dried kale, broccoli leaves and zucchini.  Our zucchini got infected by cucumber beetles but there is so much cheap squash out there so we can fill the larder any way.  The wee  thinks that dried zucchini are chips which is great because he has an aversion to green food. Canned dilly beans and bread and butter pickles.  This week...the great blueberry preeration marathon. Hung many heads of garlic up to cure. Put aside the best heads for seed for next year.

Managed reserves: Hubby and I spent a whole day just weeding the garden and smushing potato beetles. Our bed broke so went to second hand store and found a new metal framed bed that hubby painted up nicely.  A neighbor gave us a trundle bed for the wee one and we are waiting for the mattress to be delivered which means ....that my reserves will be better managed because wee one will be out of our bed.

Prepped: Good scores at the Goodwill.  I found 2, glass, one gallon jugs for making wine.  I found some twin sheets for trundle bed and extra blankets.  A large enamel basin that I will use when I harvest the dry beans. I actually had to buy pint canning jars brand new because I've used all the ones I had stored already.  Went to Reny's and stocked up on some herbal teas, olive oil, Raye's mustard ( milled in Eastport, Maine). I read Bill McKibben's book Deep Economy.  Half way through Dmitri Orlov's Reinventing Collapse.

Support local food systems:  I am hitting the local farm stand at least once a week and I go to the farmers market when I am in that neck of the woods. Almost every meal we've had this past week has had locally produced food in it.  From bread baked locally, all of the veggies we are eating, meats from the farmers market and eggs from our ladies.  At least 2-3 meals a week are all locally produced.

Cooked something new: I put up dilly beans for the first time.  Someone had given us some last winter and they were so crisp.  What a treat in January! 

Learned something new: I am learning how to set up a blog.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What to do? What to do?

Oh the forever to do list:
  •   Go back to the pick- your- own blueberry patch...1.00 a quart  compared to the 4.50 a quart place.  Although, when you buy the already-been picked you don't get  stung by yellow jackets or spend  an  hour cleaning them.
  • Still have to plant spinach in the garden for fall harvest.                                             
  • Friendly neighbor gave me some cucumbers that I have to make                                                        some  bread and butter pickles with.
  • Learn how to download pictures for this bloggy thang.
  • Finish knitting baby hat for new niece.
  • make dinner, do laundry, vacuum...yadda, yadda, yadda



     I am one of a family of four. The mother. I have a son who is fifteen; from this point on he shall be know as T-Bird.  I have another son who is 2. He is the Wee one.  There is Hubby and me, Karin.

     We live in Central Maine.  In a small house in a small town. On two acres.  We homestead.  Or in other words we grow potatoes and squish potato beetles, chase 5 sheep around our property, build things that sometimes turn out the way we intend, pull many weeds, dehydrate zucchini and tell the toddler they are chips, turn compost, hunt for eggs under chickens, buy milk from the local farmer for ourselves and our pig, tap maples with snowshoes on, shear sheep in the spring, barter with our neighbors, can, can, and can some more, save rainwater to conserve energy, forage for wild food,  fix the plow truck outside in February , rise early in the morning and most nights have no problem falling asleep. 

We live simply..LOL.

No, Really!


Monday, July 28, 2008


     I've been awake since 5am.  The dawn chorus began with a one lonesome bird calling for his fellow choir members. The dog woke and scratched at the door, whining. Leroy Brown Goat notices some life coming from the house and begins his woesome wail from his shed.   The wee one, just over two years old , had been climbing over me to fine some oobie-doo.  Alas, we are weaning so he found no joy this morning.  So, we rise before the sun has peeked over the horizon. Hubby remains in bed.  It is his turn to sleep in.  I help wee one use the potty. Play  "gucks " (trucks) for a while.  Then make coffee and strawberry muffins. A peaceful morning.

But, I have to admit...I am a NPR addict.  So, Morning Edition is turned on at 6 am.  It is the usual mayhem this morning: suicide bombings in Turkey and Iraq, banks failing, the price of gasoline drops below 4.00.   These are interesting times.  I never thought I would be living through such times? 

I sit at the computer this morning writing this post.  My first of many I hope.  What is this exercise for anyway...blogging?  Well, first, I hope for it to be a chronicle of our life here on our homestead. We are working hard on our small patch of earth.  Second, I hope for this blog to be a record of our understanding of Peak Oil/climate change and what we are doing to adapt to these changing times.  Third, I hope to share the flotsam of life: knitting projects, toddler witticisms, teenager accomplishments, recipes,  local economy and general musings. 

Hubby rises with a declaration," I am awake! Thanks for letting me sleep in." 
I must consider the to do list today:

Finish shelling peas and put them in the freezer

Pick raspberries from our property and freeze them.

Plant spinach for fall harvest.

Bake bread

Harvest basil and make pesto.

Empty dehydrator of kale and dill.

Wait for delivery of materials for building barn

Vacuum Rug..bleh...

Well, onward and upward....