Saturday, January 31, 2009


The boys buried in snow gear. Teen is holding one of our ladies.  We hope to have eggs from them starting in  February.  
Leroy Brown Goat and his homies the Barred Rocks
Button on the left, Zipper on the right, SplogeBob WoolyPants in the center and Emily in the Back enjoy some morning hay in the barn. SplogeBob is the newest member of the flock. He is a romney/ corrieadale mix.  Such a sweet boy. We call Zipper Rama-lama and Button gets called Ewe Girl sometimes.  They are Dorset/ Southdowns.  Emily is a Shetland.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


This face says it all!  We got about a foot of snow AND warmer temps. The sun was shining. It was a beautiful day diggin' out.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

To Do list... Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning?  Well, yes, I am sorta doing the spring cleaning because there will be no time to do the spring cleaning when spring arrives.  Who wants to be indoors when the weather gets Ugh.  

But things pile up, cupboards get cluttered, clothes get outgrown, spiders spin in drafts, dust gathers. The rest of the year is busy with the garden, canning, and holidays.  This is the work of now.  

Taking care of these chores now, makes the summer to do list easier to figure out.  Do we need to build that shelf in the kitchen?  Do we think about building the addition this year or do we take care of another project instead? When we get rid  of the dead dryer in the bathroom do we put a cabinet in its spot or do we put a shelf?

To do:

Clean off the top of the refridgerator, clean the inside of the fridge and freezer.

Organize the cupboards in the bathroom.

Move knitting machines and accessories into spare room off the workshop. Set up knitting studio.

Make bread, yogurt, cook up some winter squash.

Find a way to keep the kitchen counter by the back door from become a catchall for EVERYTHING.  Ugh clutter ...

Finish painting the freecycle dresser I found for the teen and put on the handles.

Sew window quilts for the back door and front door.

Make a bulk food order for buying club.

Well, that seems more than enough to keep me busy.

Monday, January 26, 2009


Okay, maybe the need isn't so great that it requires capital letters and exclamation points but I really do need to knit with other women. One of my New Year's Resolutions was to take more time for myself. One way that I was able to to do this was to join a local knitting group at our local library. 2 hours a week, on a Monday evening, 5 minutes down the road.

Up until this group started, I had been sneaking away on rare occasions to my favorite yarn shop ( insert shameless plug here), but that required a 45 minute drive and a balancing act between what needed to be done around here, hubby's availability to hold the fort down here and my need to have sometime for myself. My favorite yarn shop has a lovely sun room and a great group of women who congregate there. I can drool over yummy fiber, have a good cup of coffee and work on whatever project I am in the middle of, uninterrupted.

Fiber Fellowship.  Knitting with other women, I can get inspiration for the next project. Such as this lovely scarf.  We share our hopes, joys, and concerns and more than enough laughter.

There used to be a time in my life when I was living the writing life. Nearly 20 years from those earnest poems of my teen years to the full bodied poems of a life lived.  I had a regular writing routine, I labored over poems while waiting for the right words to fall from the pen. I belonged to writers groups.  I used a lot of paper.  I frequented poetry readings and submitted poems for publication.  I actually had some local success with the whole endeavor. 

 And day it just stopped.  Writers block? Maybe.  But I also reached a point where I didn't feel the driving need to write.  At one time I heard a story on NPR about Harper Lee and Henry Roth.  Writers who had one great novel and that was it.  The essence of the story was that even though they only wrote one novel they were creative people at heart and had found other outlets for their creative drive.

 Writing can be very solitary. Unlike knitting, it is hard to see how your poem fits a loved one. If the color is flattering or if ;while your hands were moving, you were daydreaming about the prospect of the next pattern, yarn and color you would like to work with.   

So, I create still, I weave still. Wool not words....

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Happy BirthDay Tristan!

Sweet sixteen? Is it sweet sixteen if you are a boy? Dude? This is the teen and his art work; now showing at the Maine Discovery Museum in Bangor. The photo above was some of his photography. It is so great to watch him  come into himself and discover what he enjoys.  Ahh earnest youth!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Close to home

I am feeling an uneasy sadness today that is hard to put my finger on. 

 This morning we went to church. As part of the ceremony we have candles of communion;  where we share joys and concerns with the rest of our community.  I lit a candle for the 90 folks who are going to lose their job in the next week at a local factory.  Another woman lit a candle for her son who just lost his job.  Another woman; a single mother of 2, said she lost her job 6 weeks ago and has 35 dollars to her name.  

The service was sponsored by the Social Justice Committee.  There was a brunch afterward to help raise funds for the church's emergency heating fuel fund.  The fund was able to give 100 gallons of heating fuel to folks in need last year.  This year, we are only able to give 50 gallons; with the hope that these folks in need can get LIHEAP heating assistance. 

I left the house this morning with a bag of non- perishable foods and outgrown sweaters and hats for the food cupboard at church.  Our fund for the food cupboard is empty and we rely on donations ,only, now.

All of this hits close to home.  It is not just that the headlines report another half MILLION jobs lost in December or that billions of dollars are getting sucked up in the black whole of banks' balance sheets.   It is the small stories of how this financial crisis hits closer to home. 

My memories as a child in the seventies during the hard recessions was of standing in line at the surplus food stores.  My mom saved green stamps.  I remember waiting for her to be seen at the welfare office.  We bought our clothes at the Goodwill.  My grandmother made some of our clothes.   But I was young and these experiences had no context.  As a kid I thought that was just the way the adult world worked.  

Later on in the early 90's when the recession hit Maine, there were hard times.  Downtown Portland became the picture of many downtowns.  Empty Storefronts.  But my economic situation was stable.  I had a minimum wage job. I was poor but living with roommates.  Everyone I knew was in the same boat but we always had a few dollars for beer and our look was retro thrift store. We worked in restaurants so we could be fed for free.  

Tech bubble burst.  No problem.  I was struggling but for my own reasons that had nothing to do with Sun Micro Systems or that Dude with the Dell.

These times are different.  My husband is a public employee.  He is a teacher.  This past week the one school that provides our health insurance said that not only have they frozen the budget;but, although they promise jobs for next school year, there will be no promise for the year after.  Another school is trying to avoid mid-year layoffs this  school year.

We grow our garden.  We stock our pantry.  We look after our neighbors in any way we can.  There but for the grace of god (dess)....

Friday, January 16, 2009

Food dehydrating

Emma asked about dehydrating zucchini in Inventory's comments so I thoughtI would discuss what I know about food dehydrating.

A couple of years ago my father-in-law gave us a Ronco food dehydrator. It seemed a very basic model.  5 trays and a heating element.  The trays were made of plastic and not really made well enough for the amount of use that we have given it.

 For the last few years we have used it for drying the following veggies and fruit: strawberries, blueberries, herbs, apples, raspberry and strawberry leaf for tea, zucchini, eggplant,  kale, spinach. 

 I dry the spinach and kale and crumble it into breads, sauce and soup because I have a 2 year old that does not  eat many green foods.  This way I can give him the goodness of the veggies under the guise of a sandwich.  Other veggies can be rehydrated in water or throw them into soup and they will soften.  We eat the fruit dried as a snack or put into granola or bowls of oatmeal.

The trays finally fell apart this past year.  I was able to find 5 more trays of a stronger plastic through Freecycle. A neighbor gave us Sunbeam dehydrator with a fan. So we will be trying more veggies this coming growing season.  Plum tomatoes are on the list.

I have heard that you could dry foods in your car in the summer time when it gets really hot. There are plans on line for making your own solar food dehydrator.  And the Cadillac of dehydrators is Excaliber.  I have used my oven in the past to dry leeks and to start some foods when there was no room in the dehydrator.  If you use an electric oven put the food on trays in the oven on low.If you have a gas oven you can just put the trays in the oven with the door cracked.

You should use fresh just picked veggies, fruit and herbs in order to keep all the healthy goodness in the veggie.  Store the veggies in airtight containers. A book I would recommend is Dry It You'll Like It byGen MacManiman.

I like dehydrating because it is so much less energy and labor intensive than canning.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Much as I would like to say that my quiet winter days are spent knitting around the woodstove( not that there isn't a fair amount of that going on.) there are some days where the management of the homestead takes priority. Keeping an inventory of what food is in the pantry is one of those regular chores that, if left forgotten, could leave one finding vital ingredients missing when you need them most.  It is also important to know if you are eating too much from one area of your food storage than another to avoid any waste.

This is especially important when considering home canned food.  I have recently planned my seed order for the coming  growing season.  I think the list is complete; but doing an inventory of what we have eaten more of; thus far, will help to gauge whether I should order more of one thing over another.  

This year I put up 24 quarts of tomato puree.  Right now I only have 10 quarts left.  Not bad, considering we really didn't break into them until November.  Most of those jars were used in soups so they were efficiently used; maximizing their meals per jar. But if the goal is greater self sufficiency,  I should strive to increase that number next year.   I will have to consider whether I should buy tomato product when I run out or make do without until next growing season.  Next growing season, I hope to double the number of tomato plants I grow so that the tomato stuffs last longer.  I also plan to dehydrate some plum tomatoes. 

 However, I find that we still have a lot of dried zuchinni. We have just recently started adding it  into soups so I will watch whether I need to put up as much as I did last year.  

Keeping an inventory of staples such as sweeteners, oils, grains and beans is good as well. It will help you to decide whether that item that you bought in a small quantity, at the health food store, would get you a better savings if you could buy it in a larger quantity through a buying club or special order.  That seems to be the case for us with respect to whole wheat pasta and popcorn.  I think we will also start buying blackstrap molasses in larger quantities. We use it enough that the savings of buying it by the gallon is better than the  quart that we get it in now.

The next area that I have to concentrate on is the freezer.  When we butchered our pig we had to put most of the meat in the small freezer that  covered all of the veggies. Now,  there is enough room in the freezer to find everything.  I should look to see that we aren't hitting the berries too hard as they are one of the fruits that is easy to feed the Wee one and they need to last.  I should check to see if the pork is  balanced between small cuts for a meat and potato meals and roasts, hams for bigger meals and soup.  This will help to improve my menu planning.

I don't necessarily have any great "system" for this job.  I keep an initial list of what I canned/froze on the inside door of the pantry and freezer door. I wipe down the shelves and I check that all lids are secure and there is nothing funky growing. This is also a time that I check the potatoes I keep in brown paper bags under the bathroom sink and compost any that have soft spots. This will protect any others from going bad.  I  also check the winter squash for spots and I will cook any that look they might go bad soon.

Well, back to work...

Friday, January 9, 2009

This is Important!

I've been on a bloggin' spree lately. I hope you can keep up.

I found this article at Path to Freedom, Little Homestead in the City.

This is important because food is important.    Many folks are filing for foodstamps for the first time in their lives.  Many food pantries are having a hard time staying stocked with food. Now that the season of giving has past, I worry that less attention will be paid to the great need as those with some try to keep their own pantries filled. Unemployment is growing at a rate as fast as unemployment after WWII.

So it only makes sense that we learn to cook.  

A few years back, I was part of a focus group that was gathered together for the Healthy Maine Initiatives.  We were to judge whether some of  Public Service Announcements  were effective. Before we watched the commercials, we had a discussion about feeding our families.  Many of the women around the table admitted to feeding their kids vast amounts of soda pop everyday.  There was general misconception that healthy cooking, cooking from scratch was expensive.  One woman said, " I only get 150 a month in foodstamps, if I find boxes of mac and cheese for 5 for a dollar that is what my family is going to eat."  And then I said, " I can make a big pot of vegetable soup of under five dollars and it can last a good part of a week. It takes maybe an hour, at the most, once a week. Oatmeal is cheaper than boxed cereal. " I received many looks of disbelief.

My mom was a single mom who worked full time.  For the most part she was a functional cook  who used garlic, salt and pepper and could turn a good porkchop into shoe leather with very little effort.  But she made soup, chili and your classic Campbell's  Soup Cassaroles. She knew how to cook enough to stretch the food budget and keep us healthy and growing.

It was at my grandmother's house  where I understood cooking from scratch.  I would stand at the end of the counter as my grandmother pulled together creme -of- tartar biscuits and cut them with a tin can. I knew the anticipation of a good meal as I savored the smell of a big pot of spaghetti sauce that simmered on the stove top all day long.  I helped my grandfather pull carrots out of the small veggie patch they had in their back yard.  I remember cucumber slicing parties when it was time to can Bread and Butter pickles. I knew where food came from.

I have been a jane- of- all -trades.  But one of the best jobs I ever had was as a prep cook.  I learned  how to use a chef knife, I learned how to make a sauces,  I made soup from scratch.  I learned to love the process not just the product. When my family sits down to a wholesome meal I know I am giving the best I have.  That is how food equals love.

As a nation we need to learn how to cook like our lives depended on it.   If we can grow our food, all the better. But if all they have at the food pantry is a pound of dry beans and a can of tomato puree we should know that it is manna.


I am a Souper. I make soup. A lot of soup. There are so many great reasons to praise the glories of soup! A budget stretcher! An excellent use of left overs. A quick meal at the end of a long day! A complete meal in one bowl ( or two if you want the seconds)! A balm when one has a cold. A warm welcome after feeding the animals and hauling in firewood. A time stretcher. If the the soup is already made then all I have to do is heat it up thus providing more time to knit around the woodstove. Soup is the best in improvisational cooking. In my opinion there is nothing else that can beat soup in the winter.

One of the benefits of a well stocked pantry is there is always a soup in the cupboard. Keeping a supply of lentils, split peas, kidney beans, bean soup mix, rice and barley will give any soup a filling body. Most of the veggies that we put in our soup comes from our own garden or food preservation efforts. Potatoes, corn, carrots, spinach, winter squash, green beans, garlic and onion, cleriac, apple all add to the rainbow of veggies we should eat every day. Dried herbs from the garden; basil, thyme, oregano, marjaram, dill, sage, parsley, give the soup the flavor and zest. Nutritional yeast will add B vitamins and dulse flakes will give an extra boost of iron.

The key to a good soup begins with the stock. A good veggie stock can be made from carrot, celery, onion and apple, a bundle of herbs wrapped in cheese cloth and salt. Sally Fallon in the book Nourish Traditions recommends adding a little vinegar to meat stocks to help draw out the minerals from the soup cartilage and marrow.

Over the weekend Hubby was feeding the animals when he noticed that a couple of our roosters were sparing. We have been harvesting the chickens on a need to eat basis. So we harvested the 2 roosters. I portioned out the boneless breast and the four legs for the freezer.

I took what was left over and cooked it with carrots, onion and apple. I brought to a boil and simmered for an hour extracting evry little of goodness out of it all. This made a rich stock. Because it is easier to just skin the chickens in the butchering process there was little fat that needed to be skimmed off the top. I added the remainder of a jar of puree tomato and apple sauce. I put jar of carrots; water and all, that I preserved last summer. I quarter turn the carrots, while processing, cold pack and pressure can. Spinach from the freezer, corn from the freezer, peas from the freezer, a lot of garlic, the zest of a leftover half of lemon and its juice, mushrooms, potatoes and dill. I sauteed the spinach,dill mushrooms,garlic and onion together. Put the potatoes in and cook for a while. Then add the rest of the veggies.

I served this with some homemade oatmeal and molasses bread.

The next soup on the menu is a curried squash...yum yum.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Seed Order

In the spirit of keeping with my New Year's Resolutions, I have inventoried my current garden seed and made a list of what I will need for the coming growing season.

What I need to get: carrot seed, rutabaga, onion, corn,pop corn, acorn squash, butternut sqaush, pie pumpkin, large pumpkin for pig feed, bell pepper, hot pepper and greens.

I hit the Fedco tent at the Common Ground Fair this past fall and picked up many packs of seeds on sale. I buy my seed from mostly local seed companies Fedco and Pinetree Garden Seed.  I also like to put in a small order to Seeds of Change.

here is my list for Fedco:

Ashworth organic OP sweet corn ( 72 days)

Golden Bantam organic OP sweet corn (85 days)

Pennsylvania Dutch Butter popcorn (102 days)

Table queen Acorn squash

Ponca baby butternut squash

Long Pie Pumpkin

Connecticut Field pumpkin

Scarlet Nantes carrots

Peacework bell peppers

Early jalepeno pepper

Alisa Craig onion

From Pinetree I ordered:

Toothache plant



Black hollyhock

cleriac large prague

rutabaga Laurentian

onion south port red globe 

rattlesnake pole bean

Jacob's cattle dry bean

Cabbage Brunswick

Hopi red dye amaranth


All varieties are Open pollinated and heirloom to increase my ability to save seed this year.  It is our hope to provide some feed for our animals by our own efforts which is why we are growing 2 varieties of sweet corn and field pumpkin.  I am also working to build a medicinal herb garden and perhaps a garden for natural dyes.  We will be ordering some berries and some pear trees from Fedco as well so we can take advantage of their tree sale in the spring.

Only 74 days until spring!!!

Monday, January 5, 2009

The perfect food

I think that a good recipe is one where the result can stand alone;  each bite is full of yummy, nutritional goodness.  Soup falls into this category, as can a savory pancake.  A good recipe is one that is basic in ingredients and but can be improvised depending on what you have in the house. In our house a good recipe is one where we can sneak in green food for he toddler under the guise of familiar appearance. A good recipe is one that can last more than one meal.

I received Laurel's Kitchen for Christmas  ( Thankyou BIL Peter). Under the chapter of Heartier Dishes are Potato Poppers:

"1/2 onion 
1 stalk celery diced
1/2 tablespoon oil
11/4 cup mashed potato
1 cup brown rice
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole grain bread crumbs
1/4 cup parmesan

Preheat oven to 350
Saute' onion and celery in oil
Combine all ingredients and form into 1 and 1/2 inch balls.
Place on greased baking sheet ad bake on top rack of oven for 20 minutes, until delicately browned.  Makes 12 balls."

I did not have celery but I did have spinach. I added minced garlic and mushroom to the mixture. I doubled the recipe. This did not hurt the consistency at all. I used homemade tomato paste.  This is a great way to use of left overs of rice or mash potato.  The balls held together really well.

I think next time, instead of using all bread crumbs, I might add wheat germ, nutritional yeast or flax meal for added nutrition. I think you could also spice these up ala hint of Mexico by cooking down some salsa to a thick consistency; instead of tomato paste. Substitute cheddar of jack for the parmesan.

I served this with some Caribbean Black beans and a salad. ( I  know, I know greens are not seasonal now but I just craved some fresh greens).

Friday, January 2, 2009


Happy New Year!

I hope your holidays have been full of cheer!  We had a very nice quiet and simple Christmas. Hubby had the last 2 weeks off from school. Most of the holiday break has been filled with snowshoeing and soup.

I enjoy the idea of New Year's  Resolutions even if they are not continued through out the whole year. Why? Well, I think it is the promise of change. I think that in some small way  you gain some benefit from a New Year's Resolution even if you end up not committing to the whole idea. Even if the lesson learned is to make more attainable goals. For example, last year I resolved to do some sort of exercise every day.  All winter long I either walked or did yoga. When spring came some of the awareness waned but I was busy in the garden and was active. But now I am where I was last winter and will be more conscience of be active every day.

In that vein I have some lofty goals and some simple goals for the next year.

First, I am going to gather all the little pieces that have someone's phone number on them and rewrite the master phone list and update my address book. Simple goal.

Second, I am going to have my seed order to Fedco planned by January 15. Simple goal.

Third, I am going to renew the activity goal.  I am going to do some exercise every day. Moderately difficult goal.  I will try to be active everyday through the winter when it is so easy to stay in a comfy chair by the woodstove. So I will keep the climbing frog going until I have a good habit in place again. Besides, he is fun to look at:)

Fourth, I received the cookbooks Nourishing Traditions and Laurel's Kitchen for Christmas. Both are great cookbooks that will help me to continue my journey towards more wholesome cooking. So I resolve to eat more whole grains by weaning out refined sugars and refined wheat products . I resolve to eat more locally by exploring traditional methods of food preservation such as lacto- fermentation.  This will take diligence during times when life gets busy.  So moderately difficult goal but it just takes planning.

Fifth, The wee one turns three this May. Momma is needing to wake up from the baby years. I resolve to take more time for myself and take care of the self more. This might include time to get a regular hair cut, time out with friends, a quiet walk by myself on those days that might be a little overwhelming. I need to feed the soul more. So this might be difficult at times when Hubby is working extra days this coming semester and it is not so easy to get away from the house. But I am going to try hard because I really need this.

I think that is enough. What about you? Do you have any resolutions?