Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Berry season

Okay, I really should be filling the canner with water so I can sterilize some jars, but whoo boy , summer is here and everything is a little sticky.  But I have these ramblings running around my brain and I need to get them down.

At my home we have a gully with a small foot bridge over it. In that gully are thick brambles of raspberries.  This is ambrosia and manna; especially when one considers that raspberries sell for 5.00 a pint here. So every other day, I take my berry bucket; fashioned from an old yogurt container and a piece of string, and brave the muck of the gully and the hunger of the mosquitos to fill my quart up.

 At this time of year, this one small act becomes a time of meditation and inspiration for me. How can it not be?  The sun shines through leaves, the berries hang like jewels from ladies ears. Excitement builds when the simple act of picking one berry and putting  it in the bucket over and over fills the bucket. A simple pleasure.

 I freeze these berries. They are small and the effort to acquire what I hope will be 7-10 quarts of free food will take several weeks to collect. There will never be enough berries at one time to make a batch of jam or a jug of wine. But they will brighten up muffins and pancakes this coming winter.

The local family farm stand has U-pick raspberries.  They are selling them for 4.00 a quart. So today the boys and I went to pick 6 quarts of the BIGGEST raspberries I have ever seen.  The berries were in the field. Three long tall rows.

Teen was working his way down one side of a row while I worked myself down the other side. The wee one would run between Teen and me, gleaning a berry from our quarts at each pass. When he came to me, he would say, " Tristan gave me a berry."  I would say,"He is a generous brother." This went on  about 10 ten times when finally when it was my time to say "he is a generous brother" the wee one responded," Yes, he is a cantelope brother!"

I have made a batch of Raspberry wine. Soon it will be decanted into a glass gallon jug. Tomorrow  I will make a batch or Raspberry Jelly. I look forward to spreading on toast this winter with the memories of this day and my wee one's very " cantelope brother".

Monday, July 27, 2009

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, The 13th week

Summer continues to be a sorta- kinda season.  No real heat. There are, gratefully, blossoms on the squashes and tomatoes. But, strangely, the pole beans seem stunted. The peas are nearing their end, as is the first planting of broccoli.

As for the house situation; this too, feels like a seasonal limbo.  We have been working real hard to get the place ready to sell. We had the realtor here this weekend. I felt a little ill when she left. We still have a list  of things to do. But major cosmetic projects should be done by the end of this week. However; when we told her what our asking price was, she told us it was high. The reality of the situation is that we can not afford to take a loss on the house. The realtor needs her cut. We will not be able to rent the house. So the very real reality of the situation is that; unless by some miracle the house sells for the price we need in the time frame we hope, Hubby will be renting a room during the week while I keep the home fires burning here.  The one good bit of information the realtor told us is that according to the law we get to take all the food we planted. So those gorgeous brussel sprouts can be harvested for our plate.

This may present some challenges. First and foremost, is my concern about the not-so-friendly neighbors and what mischief they can cause when hubby is no longer a presence here.  Second is  his handy-man presence.  We compliment each others abilities. Mine are domestic and his involve tools. Third, his absence during the week will be hard on the family. I will miss him.

We discuss options. We play around with any number of financial and housing scenarios.  But bottom line is that we will live the life we have right now until we don't. This means that once the house is ready. Once all unnecessary things are packed away. Once the house sparkles. Once all those handyman projects are completed. Then we focus on the coming winter. We need to put up hay, firewood and food.  We will probably supplement our garden with some bulk produce from the farmer's market  and u-pick. We plan to make a large purchase of chicken from a local farmer since we did not grow a pig; several roasters and assorted bits and pieces. One more bulk food purchase to just pad the larder with some sweeteners, oils, dried fruit. If we are here in 2 months then we will fill the propane tanks. And then we have shelter, cars and very small grocery bill of milk, yogurt, butter, cheese and pet food.. Everything else goes in the bank.  

Plant: nothing

Harvested: peas, broccoli,raspberries, yarrow, mint.

Preserved: 4 quarts of broccoli frozen,  4 quarts of peas, 1 quart frozen wild raspberries.

Managed reserves/ prepped: finished packing and cleaning teens room ( can you say ewww...). Cleaned basement.  Weeding and staking tomatoes.

Eat the food: broccoli, peas, 

Local Foods: broccoli and peas from the local farmstand

Reduced waste: many bags of stuff to the thrift store.

I need to add a to-do list this week.

plant: broccoli and spinach and more carrots

clean spare room off of garage in order to store boxes

weed garden and mow lawn

find at least 50 bales of hay from the first cut.

paint back door and spackle and sand front room.

rent jake rake to spread gravel in drive.

find more broccoli at farm stand and start looking for blueberry u-pick.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, The 12th week

We are at the mid point of summer.  Little green tomatoes are appearing on the vine. Each day is filled with some activity that moves us forward to our new destination.

On Friday we drove out to Farmington to look at a couple of homes.  Our goal for our new home is that it should be a little bigger, a fixer upper is fine, we would like a little more land but no less than what we have now, and it should be cheaper.  Alternative financing, such as rent to own or owner financing would cover us until our house sold. We've already looked into having a realtor rent our current house for us, if need be.

Our thinking when we bought our current home was that we did not want to pay more than what we paid in rent at the time. We managed to do that. Our thinking this time is that we would rather put a little more money into paint, flooring and weatherization improvements and have a smaller monthly payment.  Hubby is still a music teacher. Times are still uncertain. If for any reason he should have his hours cut or get laid off, we would be able manage the mortgage and other expenses with patchworked employment.

The first house we looked at had 2 acres, 2 bedroom with a big family room, a couple of old apple trees on the property. The well was shared with another neighbor. It was a foreclosed home. We knocked on a  neighbor's door. He told us that the family before had paid 100,000 for the home and then spent more money on improvements. But there were plenty of other improvements needed to be made. The neighbor also told us there was a sex offender in the neighborhood.  And a friend told us that she had a friend that lived there and had had her home broken into 3 times.  The asking price was 44,000. But Hubby and I both agreed that neighborhood is very important to us. So decided to pass on this house.

The second house we looked at was the gem. It was a cape built in 1944. It is three miles from the center of Kingfield. The woman who owns it has lived in it the whole time. She is in an eldercare facility. It has 6 acres of land. The back part of the land has an old apple orchard. It used to be a honey farm. There are several out buildings and a green house.  The kitchen has a combination gas/wood cookstove. There two rooms upstairs and a big bedroom downstairs. It needs some updates and chimney work. It has a metal roof. It has a dug well.  It is being sold for 49,000. The seller would be willing to do owner financing.  The woman's son-in-law has a house very close to the house for sale. We were able to meet him and he told us a bit more about the house.  He also told us that he has 130 acres; that he used to have sheep. He has a sheep shed  and fenced in pasture that we could use. He also said that we could harvest wood for firewood from his land for free. He told us that we  should make an offer of  40,000 on it because the seller would probably accept it. 

So we are trying to figure out how to frame our offer:)

We also took some time to get connected to the community. We went to the farmer's market, health food store, library and local yarn shop, and pub. Everyone we met was friendly and warm. This is going to be a good move for us.

Plant: Yes, I am still planting, otherwise those empty spots fill with weeds. Carrots, transplanted mullein, planted citronella.

Harvested: mint, basil, oregano, broccoli florets, kale, peas, baby carrots

Preserved: dried mint,oregano, kale. 1 quart frozen peas, one quart of frozen broccoli florets.

Managed reserves/ prepped: Our trip to Western Maine. Our friend and pastor Deborah and her husband Tom came over to help us with some carpentry projects and weeding. Thankyou! More packing, cleaning.

Local foods: I went to the farmer's market in Farmington. I purchased some turnip. I also asked several farmers about  winter CSA because we may leave some of our harvest here and I want to make sure that we have local produce and a full winter larder. 

Reduced waste: I took several big bags to the thrift store. Our neighbor is going to take some metal stuff off our hands and sell it for scrap.  We sold a solar hot water heater that we had acquired.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

1 hour photo

While cleaning and packing and I came across several rolls of film that had not been developed. Remember film? Those quaint little canisters, the smell,  the Kodak time capsules? 

Seems like ages ago when that was the only mode for capturing a moment.  I remember when I was a kid we used to take our film to the little drive by Kodak kiosk that could be found in any shopping center parking lot. It used to take a week or more before we would get our pictures back. It was always exciting to relive those birthday parties or trips to the beach while our mother reminded us not to put our fingers on the prints.

Nowadays, we use digital cameras. I have to admit they are very efficient. You snap the picture and instantly know whether you got your finger in the photo.  Instant editing, instant sharing with a simple download to your computer.

Well, anyways, I found the film and had this vague memory that there was a photo of the kinder folk on one of the rolls of them sitting in a pile of autumn leaves.  I did not want those rolls to get lost in the flux of our lives right now and took them down to our local Rite-Aid for developing. 

Used to be that getting your film developed in 24 hour ( give or take delivery time) was quite the convenience. Now you can have your photos developed in an hour. The clerk offered the one hour option to me.

And I declined.

Sometimes it can be okay to wait.  I could have taken the one hour option and had that treasured moment in my hands instantly. The quality would probably not be a nice but there are always reprints.  I could have dropped the photos off, gone to knitting group and picked the photos up afterwards. 

But, this is my a culture we have sped things up too quickly. Drive through anything. Instant credit meant we could have anything instantly whether we could really afford it or not.  I remember of the long lines of parents and children impatiently waiting for the next Harry Potter book at midnight because they could not wait till morning to have it.

If there is one thing I have learned as a homesteader is that this lifestyle functions on a continuum. From the first seed planted in the spring to the last potato dug from the ground there is a process. Food doesn't appear instantly on a shelf. A barn is not magically dropped on the ground. Living within ones means means waiting until you can afford it.  Big green sweaters don't knit themselves overnight. 

So I can wait a few more days for the photo. 

Oh and I had the photo put on a disk so I can download it and share it you'll have to wait with me;)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, The 11th week

The sun has shines...AGAIN! 

STill busy. Still packing. This week we go to Farmington to start looking at houses. With Luck and more hard work we should be able to have our house on the market next week.  Among all this hard work I am still getting my IDC work done too.

Planted: Carrots

Harvested: broccoli florets,  garlic scapes, egyptian onion sets, peas,basil, lettuce, comfrey, cilantro. I am keeping vigil over the wild raspberries and blackberries. they are not red yet but soon...very soon...

Preserved: We had some birds in the freezer. I made canned 10 quarts of stock and we are using the rest of the chicken in dinners this week. 2 quarts of peas for the freezer. Dehydrated cilantro, comfrey and dill. Dehydrated kale. The Preserving Sanity list is getting some length to it.

Eat the food: Salads, peas, garlic scapes.

Local Foods: Went to the farmer's market this week. I found baby zucchini, new potatoes and local chicken parts.  It seems that the farmers do not have nearly as much produce for sale as they did this time last year. The weather has hit them pretty hard this year.

Manage reserves/ prepped: A friend gave us a pair of snow pants for the wee one when he gets a little bigger. Packing and decluttering and cleaning.

Reduced waste: recycling boxes for packing, sending stuff to the thrift store.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What's for supper?

Ugh isn't it the eternal question? Next to, " What is the meaning of life?" comes " What's for supper?" 

I could write a post about menu planning and frugal cooking and sometimes I have it together enough to do that.

But sometimes I am not that organized.

So what is a hungry homesteader to do?

The answer is simple elegant fare that sits right outside in the front yard. 

One of my favorite quick meals to make is poached eggs on veggies.

Tonight the recipe looks like this:

1 cup beet greens chopped
6 scallions
2 tablespoons minced basil
a handful of shelling peas ( cause that is all that was ripe) shelled
3 carrots chopped
a bunch of broccoli florets
one left over chicken drum stick from dinner last night chopped small
olive oil 
6 eggs from our gracious ladies

Sautee veggies until almost done. Break eggs over veggies and cover. When eggs are poached, serve.

Serve with some homemade bread and a glass of milk. 

I like this recipe because I can use whatever veggies are on hand. A perfect seasonal dinner!

And that is what is for supper!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, The 10th week

Busy, Busy , Busy...

We've had still more rain. But we did manage to have some sun for a couple of days.  During that time we spent in the yard trying to get a month's worth of weeding done in one day. Oy! We also did a  crazy amount of laundry. We do not have a dryer and so we need the sunny days to dry our laundry. Haven't been too many good drying days. WE are still on blight watch of the potato patch and tomato plants. I've applied copper and will have to apply more later this week when (supposedly) the weather dries out.  We need Heat and Sun.  

I have been knitting a custom sweater for a client. The one advantage of the rain is that I do not feel as though I am losing out on the good weather while I while away the hours on a very big green sweater.

Moving plans are moving along. We have several folks interested in our land. We hope to use the proceeds from the sale as a down payment on a new home. We are making lists of things that need to be done at our house to have it ready to put on the market.  But until we have folks interested in the house I will's what I do...

Meanwhile I keep busy...

Plant: I had some empty spots so I planted more tomato plants, and a bee balm. I planted more carrots. I am thinking that if I stays cool I will plant more spinach when the peas are done. 

Harvested: comfrey, yarrow, lettuce, strawberries, peas, basil, beet greens, scallions, garlic scapes, broccoli,

Preserved: 8 1/2 pits strawberry jam, 3 pints dehydrated strawberries, 5 quarts frozen rhubarb,

Eat the food: My little guy is finally eating green foods.  A daily dose of broccoli with a smattering of green pea.  Whoo Hoo! Strawberry short cake, strawberry with our granola, strawberry ...just cause they are there. Local chicken. Plenty of salads.

manage reserves/ prepped: weeding, applying copper to spuds, plenty of packing and deep cleaning.

Local foods: We went strawberry picking. I think we will go back this week to put a few more in the freezer.  The local farm also has pea picking. The peas are slow to ripen here, so I think that a few quarts to supplement what we are growing would be prudent.  

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Candles of Communion

I have been pondering our move recently.  

There is some excitement about our future community. It is younger and more vibrant. It is a college town. There are several bookstores, a farmer's market and many more organic farms. There is a good library. A good natural foods store. We have friends that live nearby.  There are great bike trails and skiing nearby.

There is also some stress and worry. Will we sell the house? Will we be a family divided until we sell the house? There is so much to do to sell the house.  Do we take the sheep if we have to rent? Do we thin the books out? How much is too much yarn stash?

And there is some sorrow. Although we have had some issues with our neighbors and the town we live in, we have also made some great friends and connected with the community in ways we only now realize when we are planning to leave. That may not be accurate...let's see if I can elaborate.

We moved here when the wee one was just 4 months old. We did not know any one. Our nearest friends were an hour away; which was difficult for a new mother with a homeschooling teenager. Winters are very long here and the snow falls deeply. The first 6 months were really difficult. Hubby was a vocalist-for- hire for a local church ;but gave up the gig, so we could attend the local Unitarian Universalist church.  We live in the reddest part of a purple state. This small congregation was a liberal refuge for us. They were concerned with social justice, local foods, and maintaining their aging historical building.

And it was much needed community.

Our first time attending was on Easter Sunday. The opening prelude was a rendition of the song Easter Bonnet sung by Linda and Jim. They had me at, " with all the frills upon it." Coffee hour was delightful and everyone was so pleased that we shared that day with them.. So...we joined the church. Hubby does the music for one service a month and I am the Religious Ed chair for the 4 kids that comprise our young souls. On occasion I stand in the pulpit and share my perspective.

We are a small congregation and an aging one.   But in the time since we joined, the congregation has found a part time minister, we have an RE program , we have hopes for the longevity of the church.  I speak in the first person plural because I am a part of that community and I realized, as I announced the changes our family is making to the congregation, that  although we are doing what is right for our family ( singular) , the larger family depended on us in ways that I never fully understood. I am part of something bigger. I care deeply for it and I will miss it greatly. 

I have never felt like this before for such an institution. I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school.  Fully indoctrinated.  I have attended other UU churches; much larger churches where it was easy to get lost in a crowd and not fully appreciate how one fits into the larger community.

During each service there is a time where members of the congregation can light a candle and share a joy or concern with everyone. It is one of the few rituals of the service. Often, someone will share something they witnessed in nature, a concern they have for the health of a loved one or a milestone that one of their adult children have reached.  I have lit many candles while attending.  But I will light several more over the next couple of months for the gratitude  I have for those kind folks and that sanctuary. I know that there will be others in my life but  this was one of the best.