Friday, May 29, 2009

Preserving Sanity

As I begin to type this post there are 9 pints of Rhubarb chutney cooling on the counter. Somewhere on this page I will type a "P" and the musical metallic ping will tell me that another jar has sealed  with satisfaction. Sometime, next winter, I will empty that jar over a pork roast and think, " This was the beginning of Spring  canning season being released from its time capsule"

I wax poetic.

On my pantry shelf there are 13 jars of fiddlehead pickles. From last spring.  Last year I canned 14 jars of fiddlehead pickles.  Fiddleheads are baby ferns plucked when newly emerged in spring. A local treat.

Well, a treat for some.  

I have never been able to get past the texture to fully enjoy the mystique  of the fiddlehead. But the menfolk just love them. So, for the last few springs I have experimented with various recipes and methods of preservation.  My unscientific observation is that the person who cooks the fiddleheads is more likely to choose broccoli over frozen fiddleheads.  Further investigations have proven that pickled fiddleheads are famine food.  If there is nothing else on the shelf there will always be pickled fiddleheads.

So as I begin this coming canning season I will no longer give thought to fiddlehead preservation. They will not be dehydrated, pickled, frozen or lacto-fermented (eww). Fossilized maybe?  


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My most reliable form of transportation

I feel full of thoughts.  I will try hard to lay these words down in a logical way. Where to begin?

I feel like this is the year of waking. I have a three year old. He makes himself naked. He uses the potty and he understands you get more sweetness with honey than vinegar. Each day is full of some small wonder from this little person. But there is a big person trying to find herself again. The last three years have been filled with, at first, a total giving of myself to another person after many years of rediscovering that self from my first journey through motherhood. Each day passed by so quickly. Each developmental step that the wee one accomplished was one more step back to center. And, here I am.

But this time around, I am older. 

Turning 40 was a strange year for me. It seemed like, suddenly, I was aware of a mortality that I had only heard about through myth.  Each day, I would look in the mirror and take inventory of each new sag, wrinkle and gray hair. That was youth passing on to something else and I wasn't sure I was ready for it. By the time I reached 41,  I had a mantra, " Is this the life you want to live?" For a while, it worked for me. I made sure that each day I was asking myself this question, I did not spend too much time doing something that was  not true to the person I knew I was.  All the while, the world was falling apart and I was working hard on this experiment in self-sufficiency.  In the end, the self got fogged out a bit by the canner and the rising price of oil.  I think it is almost primordial to worry that your children may not have enough to eat.

And now, I am 42! Gasp! The horror!

No, not really.

But this is what I know is true for me.  I have a vision of how I want to live my life. Much of that vision has to do with my health, both physical and creative. Often,  I think I would like to be physically fit and eating a healthy diet 98% of the time.  I have yet to loose the baby weight. Not a huge deal. It is not that much weight but I never had to worry about it before. When I reach the age of my mother, I don't want to struggle with the family curse of diabetes,high blood pressure and osteoporosis. I watched my grandmother fail.  One broken hip, then one broken leg and she gave up. Everything else caught up with her. 

Don't get me wrong, I KNOW 42 is not old. In fact, I am still in the prime of my life. But how I live now determines how I live later. In terms of feeling like I am living a genuine life and not just running through the paces,  I need to take enough time for myself to connect with that other person that is not just mother and wife.

So I gotta keep moving. The weather has been great for walking. I take the wee one for walks all the time; but,  walking by myself gets the cogs moving in ways that a conversation about squirrels and trucks does not. The teen is going to watch the wee one so I can take this little quiet time each day.  Walking is not a routine the way it was when I lived in Portland, Maine; a very walkable city. 

I need to take more time to just be. There used to be a time when I would sit on  rock and look out over the ocean and breath salt air. No angst, just sunshine, the ring of a far off bell and the occasional squawk of a seagull.  

I am not a religious person. I go to a Unitarian church for community and some spiritual fulfillment.  I like the message.  And the message I try to derive from every day lately is, be true to yourself. 

I've got gnomes in my garden!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, The Fourth week

It has been a busy week.  At this time of year when I wake in the morning, I gauge whether it will be a good day to abandon any indoor chores for the out door work. It is a challenge. It may be a partly cloudy day, but if the air is still it may not be a good day to be out doors. Why?

Black Flies and Mosquitos. If the continual buzzing around the head is not enough to drive me nuts, the itching that follows later that evening will be.

But spring time chores go on...

Planted: Woad, BLack HollyHock for natural dyeing.  Fenugreek, cilantro, more carrots, paprika peppers, early jalapeno peppers, luffa, citronella, willamette hops, horseradish root.

Harvested: lettuce, chives, scallions, spinach

Preserved: 4 pints 1 half pint rhubarb chutney. We use this on pork chops  and chicken.

Eat the food: spinach and  lettuce salad, chives in mash potatoes, scallions on rice and beans.

Reduced waste and manage reserves:  Sorted out out grown clothes from wee one's drawers. Took inventory of pantry. This year I will not be making fiddlehead pickles. We have only eaten one jar of them this year. I still have a good quantity of applesauce so I will be providing this as snacks to the wee one more often.  Tilled a new spot for more corn and dry beans. I was not planning on doing this much corn or dry bean this year but I recently learned of a friend who lost her library job and I want to have plenty to share for next winter. 

Preparation and storage: I went to the Goodwill and  Yard Sales this week. I found a pair of winter boots for the wee one when he gets a little bigger. I also found some fleece socks for the wee one. I found a couple more canning jars and canisters. I sent in the form to open an account for the bulk wholesaler. 

Local food systems: Not much this week.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Well, I guess I sorta expected this...

So there are moments of parenting where the soles of your feet feel your soul sink into them; when you are confronted with a new challenge, something you never thought you would have to deal with. 

With the teenager it was a series of medical tests to determine why he was not growing at an appropriate rate when he was little.  Thank goodness that he did not have cystic fibrosis.  In the end it was determined that he just had his own pace of growth. Now he is a strapping 5'7" soon -to- be man. He turned out taller than his dad.

Well, we had one of those moments with the wee one this past week.  A rash and some blood with poop caused a visit to the doctor this week. We left with a diagnosis of eczema and probably lactose intolerance or egg sensitivity. There is a history of lactose intolerance on my husband's side of the family, so, I guess this should come as no surprise. But the challenge is providing proper nutrition to a little guy who would choose to eat only eggs and cheese; with an occasional carrot, if he had his way.

Can you say rice milk?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Big 3!

Happy Birthday Buddy!  

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, The Third Week

WEll, phew...where has the week gone? 

Planted: Carrots, Alisa craig onions, more stutgart onions, daisies, lemon balm, red oak leaf lettuce, kennebec and yukon gold potatoes, more peas where ( I think) mice have pilfered the seed:(

Harvested: dandelion greens, dandelion blossoms, chives, scallions, comfrey, eggs, sorrel, jerusalem artichokes

Eat the food: We made dandelion blossom cookies. I substituted honey for our own maple syrup and added a few raisins. Spring chicken soup was on the menu last week.

Preserved: Dried Dandelion greens.  We had the Dandelion wine discussion in our house this year.  We have made it for the last two years. The first year it was really sweet and we had to cut it with soda water. Last year it was not sweet enough so we will add ginger ale.  We really enjoy the fruit wines and may give strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, apples and pears  more room in our pantry this coming year.

Reduced waste/ manage reserves: I emptied two compost bins last week; the wealth of last years efforts. One pile was more finished and I used it to side dress perennials. The other was nearly finished and used this on an area of the garden I plan to sheet mulch and lie dormant for the year. Next year I will plant berries in this spot. I washed some of Rama-lama's fleece and I washed Emily's fleece.  I've been carding it and using it in some projects. Weeding and mulching paths in the garden. We've had some rain so now we are using our rain barrels for watering our animals.

Preparation and storage: I am exploring starting an account with  Associated Buyers have done bulk ordering with other folks who have had accounts but I think I may have some friends at our church that would like to participate in a buying club.  In February, I  put in a large order with a friend and it seems to have saved us a lot of money.  I ordered those food items that we eat a lot of: pasta, peanut butter, cooking oils, dried fruit, molasses, dry beans. I ordered shampoo in a gallon bottle and I think that will last us a long time still.  We ate all the pasta, we are nearly done with the peanut butter, the canola oil is nearly gone. It is a different way of thinking of buying food.  Having all these bulk foods in the house means that there is always something for dinner. I means that when I menu plan, I start from food storage first. We eat healthier because most of the foods we are cooking are whole foods,not processed. And it saves us some good money. Recently I went to the health food store to purchase some coconut for making granola.  It sold for 2.19 a pound but I could get the same coconut for 1.81 a pound. I will probably order it in a 5 lb increment because we only use it on our granola in the summer. But then, I will not have to buy it at the store for the whole summer; which ,in the long run, also  reduces the number of trips into town I will need to make. It is also a hedge against rising prices.

Local Food systems: A neighbor shared some rhubarb with me. I shared some Evening Primrose, mint, jerusalem artichokes with other neighbors. I went to the farmer's market to inquire about  buying half a pig. 400.00$.  It would be cheaper to raise our own. So now we look for a piggie! I found nasturtiums and yarrow at the farmers market. I found mullein at a church plant sale.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The First Farmer's Market of the Season!

I work very part time at a children's bookstore. I use this income as "pin" money for my knitting habit.  So a couple of Saturdays a month Hubby gets to spend the day with the wee one. Rumor has it that there may be some canoeing and chicken tractor construction on the schedule.  

On these Saturdays I get up early; don clothing that does not have coffee stains, dirty handprints on the butt and a minimum of wrinkles. I get in the car just as Scott Simon begins Weekend Edition on NPR.  This time of year there may be a few dollars in my pocket for a yard sale on the way. It is a nice drive in. 

May is the month when the farmer's market is open every Saturday. This Saturday will be the first weekend I will be able to go.  I live in a very agricultural region of the state. There are farmstands everywhere. But I have to drive an hour to find a farmer's market. For me the farmer's market is not just a place to find seedlings or goat cheese. It is community. I meet up with friends, strike up conversations with complete strangers about things like cucumber beetles.  There is one farmer who is a walking gardening encyclopedia and will give short tutorials on any seedling you buy from him. The rhythm of the growing season is noted by the coming and going of what the farmer's sell and which farmer's are selling their wares that day.  There is one farmer who sells just seedlings and the apple farmer still has months to go.

This weekend I will ask the pork lady how much she charges for a half a pig.  We are on the fence as to whether we will grow a pig this year.  Hubby may have a a summer teaching position this summer. Teen has a full summer of camps and invitations.  We are trying to gauge whether it is truly cost effective for us.  When we grew our first pig we had a source of slop from a local restaurant.  Last year we spent a lot more money on feed.

I am also on the lookout for a sixpack of nasturtiums for my new planter:)

Do you have a farmer's market near you?  

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Spring Chicken Soup

The teen woke with a upset stomach today. A lighter shade of pale ( or is that green?).

He is feeling better but his illness means a change in menu planning.  Homemade pizza might not go down as well as some chicken soup. So I decided a little chicken soup from the garden, freezer and pantry.

Spring Chicken Soup

1 chicken.  I made stock according to Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. Cover the chicken with  water and some apple cider vinegar to draw out the minerals from the marrow and bones.

1/2 cup of scallions from the garden

1/2 cup of sorrel from the garden. Minced

1 cup corn from the freezer

1 quart jar of carrots from the pantry

5 cloves of garlic minced

1 cup of jerusalem artichokes chopped

1 cup green beans from freezer

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Bone the chicken,  add to stock with artichokes. Drain carrots but put liquid in the soup.  Sautee sorrel, scallions, garlic and carrots. When chokes are tender add remaining ingredients and sauteed veggies. Slat and pepper to taste. simmer for a about 5 minutes.

I served these with a multi-grain homemade cracker.

Garden Tour and a Recycling tale

This is the main garden. It was here when we moved in. There is garlic,early frosty shelling peas, blackseeded simpson lettuce, perennial sorrel, oregano, egyptian walking onion, red onions and stutgart onions, Purple cone flower, moon lily , asparagus, strawberries, jerusalem artichokes on the north end, peppermint, elderberry, tulips, chives, catnip, evening primrose and primula, garlic with spinach planted underneath. I will put acorn squash, zucchini,  pole beans and tomatoes at the farther end when it is time to plant them.
This bed was our first potato patch we started when we moved here.  There is kale, broccoli, rutabaga, leek, onion, cabbage planted in it. I have the floating row covers on the brassicas to prevent flea beetle. On the far end is one of three patches of snap peas and carrots that foloow the whole length of the main garden. Last year those spots were huglekulture with potatoes. There is a new hugleklture on the far side of the garden that I will put an over flow of seed potatoes in.
This is our potato patch this year. Half of it is planted. So far there are  carolla, yukon gold and caribe, saved from seed from last years crop.  We planted yellow finn, a variety we found a the Fedco Tree sale.  WE have Kennebec, a plain white potato we grew from an old bag of store potatoes and a friend gave us a bag of table reds that had grown eyes.  On the other side of the foot bridge we plan to grow popcorn. In between the new potato bed and the old bed is a where we had our corn last year.  It is looking pretty fried. No weeds have grown in the spot where the corn was so I may heavily compost and sheet mulch it and try some fall crops in it later in the year when it has had a chance to come back to life.
This is the  former inside of our dryer. I have painted it red and plan to plant nasturtiums in it. It should be a great humingbird attractor.
It has nice drainage!  It's the little things:)

Hubby salvaged the exterior of the dryer to use as metal to weld to the rusty bits of our car. 

Monday, May 11, 2009

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, The Second week

Hmmm...I think this may have been a lazy week.  I don't have a memory of last week being full of many activities of the IDC variety.

The teen was away for the week.  The wee one and I were the dynamic duo: reading many books, taking long walks, washing dishes together ( and then mopping the floor). It was a rainy week and that perennial pest, the black fly has appeared.  There were a few days in the car running errands and keeping appointments. We had company coming so so extra tidying was in order.

okay ...let's see...

Planted:  carrots, cabbage, leeks, elderberry, more onions, yellow finn potatoes, caribe potatoes from saved seed, carolla potatoes from saved seed. Transplanted more herbs and flowers.  I have visions of flowers blooming all over my yard one day. WE have been here a few years now. Each year I add a little more to the edible landscape, and perennial plants.  I had planted an herb garden last year. But, I have decided to disperse them around the garden to serve as pest management. I think the texture of the garden with different heights of green and blooms will be pretty to look at when the garden is full with summer.

Harvested: Spinach, chives, dandelion greens, jerusalem artichokes.

Preserved: dehydrated dandelion greens.

Eat something:  spinach in our sandwiches,chives with some potatoes, fiddleheads gifted by a friend.

Reduce waste/ manage reserves: Just cleaned the house for company...oh and primed one metal chair that I found in the garbage.  Also, worked on another project.  So our dryer died this past winter; which was perfectly fine with us.  It was sorta like a crutch when you have a sprained wrist.  We were using our drying racks and clothesline most of the time anyway.  so no big deal.
Except that it was dead and we had to dispatch of its carcass.  Later today I will post what we have done with the dad dryer. Let's just say there are many great parts to a dryer that can have  a myriad of uses.

Preparation and Storage: I found some clothes in larger sizes for the wee one at the thrift store.

Local Food systems: A neighbor gave us some eggshells that I use in the garden to add phosphorous Hubby brought home fiddleheads from a friend at work. I bartered eggs and blueberry wine for childcare one day.  I shared Jerusalem Artichokes with Wendy at Home Is...;) 

I think I need to make a short to do list this week.

Finish planting potatoes, plant more carrots, rutabaga and onions.

Pick Dandelion Blossoms for wine, make vanilla extract

Inventory pantry and make a list for a bulk order.

Wash fleece of Rama- lama and  Sploge-Bob Wooly Pants

Stock up on some canning lids...they seem to be hard to find...hmmm.

Start mulching the paths of the garden to keep the weeds down.

WEll...that should be enough..

Monday, May 4, 2009

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, The first week.

Well, this has been a busy week! The sun has shined. The weather is warm and my hands are dirty;) The categories are a little different this year.

Plant Something: red onions, broccoli, kale,  lettuce, wormwood, chamomile, rutabaga.

Harvest Something: chives, spinach, dandelion greens

Preserve something: dehydrated dandelion greens for tea.

Eat something: chives and spinach and dandelion salad.
Reduce waste/ manage reserves: I cleaned out the bathroom linen closet/ medicine cabinet. Took stock of cold and flu remedies that were depleted over the winter.  Thinned out the crazy amount of pillow cases that were in there and sent them to the thrift store.   Switch winter clothes for spring and summer clothes and sent any outgrown clothes to the thrift store.  Used compost from a bin on some Huglekulture and the spot where I plan to plant tomatoes. Mucked out sheep stall in barn to use on Potato patch and pumpkin patch.

This is the third week of hardcore menu planning and grocery list diligence.  Now that we our reserves are down on many of the foods we preserved last year, this becomes important for us to do. The eternal question" What's for dinner?" is the last question I want to answer when I have been working all day in the garden. So I make a menu plan for the week, with meals that will provide leftovers for lunch the next day.  I tailor the menu plan to what we have in store here and any good deals in the grocery sales flyers  or veggies in season in the garden/farmers market.  This keeps the grocery bill from creeping higher, keeps food waste at home down, and empties the freezer by June when I unplug it and clan it out before berry season.

Preparation/ storage: I found an awesome metal chair for the yard in the garbage this past week. I am going to sand it and spray paint it. Stocked up on TP and Qtips. I found some nice fabric at a yard sale and I plan to make new curtains for the bathroom with it.  We went to the Fedco Tree sale this past weekend and  found some horseradish  root, seed potatoes,  cranberry and elderberry.  Hubby found Willamette Hops.

Build community food systems: Fedco tree sale.  Fedco is a local seed Co-op  in Clifton, Maine.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

My son the artist.

           Tristan hanging his photos at The Lake Hebron Artisans Coop
                                             Tristan's paintings
              A recent photo by Tristan posted here with his permission

Pretty Awesome!  I am a proud Mom.