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?