Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I just wanna say.....


I started this blog over a year ago. I remember when I decided to start the blog. I was standing in our gully surrounded by the buzz of mosquitos and picking the wild raspberries that have over taken this low spot. It was just one of those moments ...the sun shining, my improvised yogurt container cum berry bucket filling, my enthusiasm for the beauty of the fruit. I felt an inspiration for writing that I hadn't felt in a long time.

I used to write everyday for years. I attended poetry readings and my poems have been published in several small journals. I never finished that English degree. But I love words. Arranging them on the page is play for me.

At one point I just lost the groove. I felt like there was too much navel gazing and all I was finding was lint. I am creative by nature and knitting took over where words left off.

My call to this small parcel of land reawakened writing for me. I have children and finding time for the kind of writing I used to engage in is difficult. But I still write.

Now, I want to address you folks that have decided to follow me, you readers who check in here to see how much food I have put up, you folks that leave comments of encouragement and support. I want to say ThankYou!

I meant to do a giveaway in July around the 1 year blogaversary but life was just a little crazy then.

So I would like to announce a giveaway in three parts.

First Item is a this Book. It is a great introductory primer on living green.

Second item is a collection of my favorite recipes collected on recipe cards. Many of the recipes are simple food, tasty and healthy.

The final item is either something knitted by me such as a hat or mittens or if you would rather knit it yourself I have some lovely Peace Fleece to share.

So here are the specifics: Leave a comment, or message me on facebook ( if you are a friend) by next Tuesday at 8pm ( after the polls close). I will announce winners on Wednesday.

Good Luck!

And again thankyou for reading my blog!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, 26th week

All the leaves have fallen from the trees. And most of them are now mulching my garden. We are still eating kale, rutabaga, parsnips and jerusalem artichokes, a smattering of beet greens from the garden.

Our days have settled into a nice rhythm, with the emphasis being on routine. We wake early, have breakfast, take care of our appointed chores and then tackle any small project we have planned for the day. This may be preparing a sewing project to be sewn when wee one naps, it may be a small craft project that the wee one and I tackle together, it may be one final canning job or any needed baking for the day. Wee one naps and I settle in with some knitting needles. When he wakes from his nap he hangs out with teen while teen takes care of animals and brings in firewood and I clean the kitchen and prepare dinner. Teen cleans up from dinner while I get wee one ready for bed. After bedtime stories and songs, Teen and I enjoy a movie on Netflix and I spend the evening knitting. Bedtime includes a re-reading of the Dark is Rising Series. I read this to the teen years ago and I am enjoying again.

But we miss Hubby.

Weekends have become hectic. Hubby comes home on Friday night. A good dinner awaits him. Saturdays are filled with either getting the teen to Portland for his photography class, or work at crossing off the many things on the to-do list. Sunday we either go to church or have something else fill our day. In the afternoon, I work to get food prepared for hubby to take for the week. I want to make sure that he eats well while he is gone for the week. It also saves us money as he does not have to buy a bunch of "bachelor food" like pizza, mac and cheese and ramen. He leaves with fresh bread, jars of homemade soup, leftovers from our dinners of the weekend and a small treat. Hubby leaves on Sunday night.

Plant: nothing

Harvest: Rutabaga, kale, parsnip, beet greens.

Preserve: nothing but I have some more apples that need to be sauced.

Manage reserves/ prepped: finished knitting wee one's sweater (hope to have pictures this weekend) , raked leaves and used them to mulch the garden, have been working on Handmade Christmas presents, I am contemplating the church Christmas craft fair and will have to get to work on some stuff for that soon. Hubby helped a friend put down their pigs for some bacon that we will get by the end of the week. Went to Marden's, a local salvage store, and found fabric for Halloween Costumes. I found elastic for .25 a yard and picked up a couple of yards.

Local Food: good neighbor gave us some bacon and ham from his pig. I found out about a local beef farmer and we will be filling the freezer with some of their meat., local eggs from local feed store.

Eat the food: Thai spice squash soup. Brown Rice Pilaf with Kale. Baked beans with local bacon, shoulder roast from last years pig, garden peas. Made my first batch of Ginger Beer.

Waste not:more of the usual

Friday, October 23, 2009

Eating the Food

Hubby is bringing home dinner tonight. Sadly, dinner is burritos. What makes burritos sad? Well, our friend Chuck has a burrito shop in Farmington. It has been a life dream of his to have a small business. His menu is simple; burritos or quesadillas, your choices of fillings. I am very partial to the chicken burritos. He has a funky little shop, a great groove to the place, every thing is a "green" as can be managed for food service but there is some serious green missing in the till. So, he is closing the shop before he has too big a hole to dig out of. So sadly, this will be the last burritos from his shop that hubby will bring home.

In the meanwhile, I have a soup simmering on the stove. Tomorrow will be a rainy day and this soup will be our dinner tomorrow night. Which kinda had me thinkin'...

Katie over at Two Frog Home has a personal challenge she has given herself. She will be eating only from food storage, with the only food purchases made consisting of perishables. We were able to manage something similar last year. There were many weeks when we only bought eggs, milk, butter and cheese. We will try to accomplish this again this year.We don't have a pig to fill the freezer this year but the Farmer's Market convenes once a month so we will buy our meat there once a month. Food storage management involves eating the food and replenishing it. After all what is the point of putting up all this food if we are not going to eat it?

So, this is what I am thinking....At the beginning of each week I will post our grocery list. This is more in order to keep me honest. Writing a grocery list and sticking to it helps to keep the grocery budget down. It involves planning as opposed shopping on a whim. At the end of the week I will post our menu for the week. I will follow this challenge from November 1st until March 31. It is my hope to share recipes with you. I also hope that you, kind reader, feel free to share recipes in the comments section.

The soup on the stove is a Thai squash soup. I baked 2 buttercup squash in the oven for an hour. Scooped out the innards into my handy dandy food mill, added 1 quart of chicken stock (from preserving sanity) added one can of coconut milk and about a tablespoon of curry paste, salt to taste and about a cup of unsweetened coconut toasted. I will serve this with a brown rice pilaf of ginger, raisins, apples and kale.

So what's for suppa?


I've shared some heartbreaking stories of local farms struggling in this economic climate. I would like to share some good news. My midwife's kids have bought a farm. These unschooled kids are on a great adventure. If you would like to follow along here is their blog, North Branch Farm.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, 25th week

It is cold this morning. It is not quite thirty degrees at 9 am this morning. A fire is burning in the stove. The tea kettle is at the ready now that the wood stove is warm. I feel like baking. It must be autumn.

I went to Portland this past week. It was a nice break from the country but I love following those rolling hills home; counting cows and finding old granny apple trees by the side of the road. Teen is taking a photography class at the Maine College of Art on the weekends so we took him down for the class. Hubby busked in the Old Port and made enough money for our lunch! After picking up the teen we drove down to Kennebunk and stocked up on toothpaste at Tom's of Maine toothpaste outlet. We made a stop at Old Orchard Beach for a taste of salt air.

And then we stopped by Wendy's for a visit. She has a great place! Lively with ducks, chickens,rabbits and girls! If there is any question whether unschooling works, her daughters are proof positive that it does. While there I marveled at a mask her older daughter made out of cardboard and tp tubes. There was a whole discussion about how the tubes simulate ducks vision because of the way the are oriented. Wendy's gardens are still producing. She does a lot with her quarter acre and serves as a great model of what suburban homesteading should look like. Oh and she has a worthy pile of foraged acorns for flour too!

Planted: not much this week but I was hoping for a warm spell to move more stuff around in the garden.

Harvested: beet greens, kale

Preserved: 7 quarts of apple pie filling, 6 pints of pureed carrots, 6 quarts of chicken stock, 3 quarts 1 pint of pureed tomato, 4 quarts of frozen peppers.

local foods: tour de farm

waste not: more of the same. composting, recycling, making cider vinegar from apple scraps

manage reserves/ prepped: stocked up on toothpaste. Bulk food order which included: molasses, olive oil, canola oil, chocolate chips, kidney beans, elderberry cough syrup, tea, peanut butter, pasta.

Eat the Food: Homemade macaroni and cheese, Rice and bean burritos with homemade tortilla, chicken soup with carrot puree, apple custard pie, homemade yogurt.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tour De Farm, Local Food Systems

I had to head to Dover today to drop off parts for our Micro Bus at the mechanic. On the way there I decided to make a tour de farm.

First stop was a local farmer who has a big trailer loaded with buttercup squash for 50 cents a pound. We had a lousy winter squash year here. There was just too much rain and the heat came too late. All July, while hubby was teaching summer school, I would drive by this farm when driving hubby to his car pool friend. The farmer would be out there every morning in the three large patches with his small rotary tiller that he would push through his rows. I admired his dedication. Now I will admire his squash:)

Next stop was Stutzman's Farm. They will be open for another week. This is my favorite farmstand. They had tomatoes and bell peppers. So I picked up just a few more to can up. I am still trying to decide how I will process the peppers. Maybe dehydrate, or maybe freeze.

Next stop was the mechanic.

After that, we went to the Library. I had the wee one with me and he needed a car break and a book about trucks.

After the library we hit the local general store, Bob's. It is something like an old fashion general store. They carry natural foods and animal feed, seed and garden amendments, kitchen gadgets and some home wares. They try to carry local foods and it is where we get eggs now that we have passed our chickens on to someone else. They had end of season seed on sale there for 10 for a 1.00. I picked up a couple dollars worth. I was thinking that we are still having hard times and some extra seed could be shared with friends and neighbors who find themselves with more time than money on their hands.

Next stop was Tudor Farm. They sell heirloom apples. I picked up a couple of pecks to round out the apple processing bonanza I have planned for Friday.

Last stop was Heartland Farm for some milk that I will be making yogurt and soft cheese with. He also sells apples and will sell me a bushel of apples to keep in our cold room for fresh eating.

I love that I found all this food with in 20 miles of my home!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

At Auction

Lewis and Sonja are friends in town who we get our hay from. They used to keep alpaca and dairy goats. This year they scaled down. Their hope was to sell their fiber, and value added goats milk products so that Sonja could stop working at the wood products mill a few towns over. Lewis has some acreage around town that he uses for haying. He sharpens saw blades for local small mills. They found that one commodity missing from the dream of full time farming was time. It is hard to milk goats, go to work, come home, milk goats and then try to make something from the milk before falling into bed.

So they went to auction and sold their herd.

This past weekend they went to auction to get a milk cow. Their thinking was they could have milk for themselves and Sonja could still make soap. It is a lot easier to milk one cow than to milk many goats. They have their own hay, so feed would be cheap for them, relatively speaking.

This is the story they told us when we went to get hay yesterday.

There is a big auction of a dairy farmer's livestock and equipment. Among the items to be auctioned is a 4 year old tractor. Lewis is a bit of a tractor enthusiast. He said that the tractor, brand new, was big money, upwards of 25,000. The tractor sold for 4,500. The dairy industry is in crisis and there is not much call for farming equipment.

He said the farmer's cattle were in bad shape. Many were emaciated. He said that the guy tried to hold on longer than he should have at the expense of feeding his cows. Many of the cows were young and actually sold from any where from 250.00 to 1200.00. Lewis told me that even though some of the cows were thin, because they were young meant that once they were fattened up they would be good milkers. Some of the cows were pregnant. There were several calves.

When Lewis spoke with the farmer he was told that the amount of money raised would not cover even half of the liens he has. Lewis also said that everything the farmer owned was auctioned. EVERYTHING. Furniture, appliances, books....everything.

Lewis and Sonja found their milk cow. They paid 225.00 for her. She was pregnant. The night they brought her home she had a runny nose. The next day it was clear she had a cold. By Monday morning she had died. Sonja and Lewis were out 225.00 but they said that one guy bought ten of the cows. They thought that their cow could have been stressed by all the moving and caught a cold. Or it may have been something more contagious; in which case, the guy who bought the ten cows could have ten dead cows on his hands.

It is easy to not think about where our food comes from. It is always there at the grocery store. Big Factory Farming pushes us further and further away from our food. Afterall, milk is just white stuff in a plastic gallon and it always there on the store shelve. Politics and special interest are so wrapped up in the demise of small family dairy farms.

On another note, if you live in the Northeast please look for Moo Milk. These farmers are trying to make a living. The milk may be a little more expensive. And it should be. We should pay the fair value of the products we consume.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Independence Day Challenge Year 2, The 23rd and 24th week

These autumn days are full. For a while life was on hold. Once we decided to stay in our current arrangement, life in pause became life in play. Wood is stacked. The hay loft is full. The garlic and egyptian onions are planted. Once again I tell myself we live here until we don't.

This moment, these brisk autumn days, it is time to pay attention. And this is what I see; a wooly bear wiggling across soil, its middle orange band an inch wide. Spiders invading the far corners of the house. I'll leave them to weave their winter homes. For now. I see a teenager, nearly a man, reading in a hay loft. I see a boy plowing roads in a sandbox and begging his momma to remove the leaves that have littered his roadway.

I am getting dirty in a good way. I am feeling garden muscles. I am soaking up that vitamin D for all its worth. The days grow short. There is a promise of snow. And we work towards our own hibernation.

Plant: winter rye, garlic, egyptian onions, transplanted blue hollyhocks, yarrow.

Harvested: last of the leeks, rutabaga, last of the onions, kale

Preserved: dehydrated leeks, dill, hubby made a batch of beer.

Manage reserves/ prepared: stacked wood, hay up in the hay loft, unpacked games and picture books. Knitting for Christmas; this has been a week for hats of all sorts. Something nice about circular knitting...round and round and then you have a hat. I am planning on a bulk food order this week.

Local foods: Well, we've kinda blew it with apple season. One week we were too early for picking another week we were too late. We did manage another case of apples ( at a higher price) and I may try another orchard for end of season apples. Hubby is going to pursue a local pork package out in Farmington to put in our freezer. I went to farmers market for local chicken.

Waste not: mucked out goat pen and put it in compost bin, I will try to give it a good turn before the freeze and hope to have it ready for the spring.

Eat the food: Vegetable soup, enchiladas made from local chicken left overs, local chicken dinner with brussel sprouts hubby got a farmer's market. Yum!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dream deferred or a sign of the times. A drive up Route 15

Today is a rainy autumn day. I love these sorts of days this time of year. It is as if Mother Nature is saying, " It's okay, put down the shovel. Go inside, drink tea, knit, bake something sweet, maybe write."

And so I write.

Yesterday was my last day at work at the bookstore. Bittersweet. I loved this little job. I've worked in bookstores off and on for 20 years. But this children's bookstore was the best. I loved the picture books and loved recommending books to preteen boys. I loved that the owner let me bring the wee one with me since he was an infant. I loved that I could knit or read on a slow day. But I need more time with my family.

I left work yesterday afternoon at 4pm and drove straight up route 15. This road ends at Moosehead lake. My stop would be a church fundraiser. But it is long drive from Bangor to Sangerville on Rt 15. Not a wholly unpleasant drive but the road is long, at times, poorly maintained and there are long stretches between town centers. We are far apart in this part of the state. Yesterday was rainy too. The gray clouds really seem to make the color of those red maples pop out; those fading ladies preparing for the crone of winter. Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss is the opera on Public Radio as I drive north. The road winds through Glenburn, Kenduskeag, Corinth; towns that still share their agricultural history in the vast fields and old grange halls that will, maybe, one day, be revived when our world decides to be more local.

Along the way, I pass fields with big, round, wet bales of hay destined to be mulch. This will be a hard winter for many small animal holders. There isn't much hay and what hay there is of marginal quality. The rain delayed the first cut and the second cut couldn't come fast enough. It is one of those things on our to-do list that can't be delayed much longer. The hay loft is empty.

I pass cows loitering at their pasture fence along the road.

I pass flea markets closed for the season.

I pass general stores with gas prices 10 cents more expensive than I paid at the gas station in town. Every penny counts and after the year we've had, I am grateful for small breaks even if it is just a few dollars.

I also pass a lot of homes with For-Sale-by Owner signs in the yard. Which had me reflecting on our own home and any potential sale there may be for it...some day...maybe..hopefully..if ever. For-Sale-By-Owner is one way to come down on your asking price if you don't have to include the realtor commission. But we are not there yet. Patience. Patience.

The road is really rough if spots. I always wonder if all the noises the car makes are creaks and moans from the abuse the road gives our car. I pray, " oh please great god of machines, just keep her going one more winter."

The mind can wander on long stretches of road. Hubby and I had our heads together when he came home on Friday night. We are weary. We struggled with wacky neighbors this year. He found a great new job. We worked hard all summer trying to get the house ready to put on the market. We have abandoned many of the things that we used to enjoy for this move; considering it a sacrifice we had to make to get to Valhalla ( Farmington).We do not like being apart all week. And we don't want the emotion of the separation to cloud the choices we make. So we have decided not to take the off-grid home. These autumn months are the months we need to be getting ready for winter. In the end it became a question of economics. We have one house, we should not have two. We will revisit our living arrangement in the spring but for now we must stack wood.

My car drives in the slow lane going up Charleston Hill past the prison. The wipers are thwoking back and forth and I noticed that the wiper blade will need to be replaced. I will take care of that this week. This would normally be something Hubby would do but , now that he is gone all week I will take care of it.

Coming into Dover the road gets really rough but then I see that there is road construction ahead. A portion of the road is being repaired. I slow. I slow...

I come into this little town. There are not many empty store fronts, but there are a lot of for sale signs on lawns. The local theater is growing a bit. The mill across the road closed last year but the town has bought the building and has plans to generate energy from the mill's dam. But plans take time will tell.

10 more miles and I am at my little church. I am excited to see that there are cars lining Church street and when I enter the sanctuary I am reminded why I love this building. During Sunday mornings the sun lights up its beautiful stained glass windows. But at night, we gather outside our regular fellowship, and join as a community. I join my family for a meal, grateful for this time together.