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.