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.