Thursday, September 30, 2010


Tonight I am sitting here wondering at the ways of modern technology. I am now connected to the internet in my house. Our new home is at the end of a very long dirt road. When the telephone company came to hook up our telephone, a month ago, the technician commented on the old connections on the house. Cell phone coverage can be spotty. We are at the end of the line. We investigated radio internet, dial-up and finally decided on a toggle from a cell phone company. So now we are connected and this space should be filled with more of my ponderings again.

In the time that I have not had regular internet access, I have been busy. I've been planting garlic, sheet mulching new perennial beds, cooking dinners, reading an incredible amount of Roald Dahl to a certain 4 year old, knitting up abandoned projects and discovering the joys of making sourdough. An absolutely amazing process. I've been ferrying the teen to many days at the blacksmiths forge.

Which has me pondering the juxtaposition of this life between the old and the new.

This homesteading life embraces the old skills. Each year I learn a new skill that harkens back to a more traditional self sufficient time. Sewing on a treadle, growing my own, knitting socks and leavening by the microbes in my own kitchen. These are skills that save me money, mean I am less dependent on an external system to provide it for me, give me the satisfaction on doing for myself.

I was also reminded of this paradox of past and present this past weekend. On Friday evening we went to the Farmington Fair. It is a fair that Tristan had been working all week giving blacksmithing demonstrations. It is a fair with animals, exposition hall and carnival rides. Evan had a ride on a carnival ride. He enjoyed that novelty of the experience. The following day we went to the Common Ground Country Fair. There were animals, an expositions hall, blacksmithing demonstrations but instead of the carnival rides there were piles of hay for kids to jump in, a dress up parade for kids, and cardboard scraps for kids to slide down a berm.

I am glad to be able to be back in this space, connected to the interwebs and all the information it provides. But this respite from the modern technology has been productive and valuable in lessons it has provided me. I have found stillness again. I have discovered old technologies.

I don't know if I can tie this thought process into a nice neat bow. I will keep on the homesteading path. Each year gives me new knowledge. Some of those lessons will be gleaned from from the internet and some from native knowledge and quiet life I am living. It is what is is for now...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Independence Days Challenge

I love this time of year. The canners are busy, the knitting needles are busy, the kids shift gears from outdoor fun to quiet, rainy days inside with books open. Leaves are starting to turn and fall; emitting “that” smell of the season. We anticipate fairs. We stack wood.

Life is good. Quiet in a sense of returning routines. We are so very aware of what a blessing this routine is.

Plant: I am trying a little experiment in the new garden this fall. We have tilled up the space. I have planted spinach and will be planting garlic and Egyptian onions soon. But there will still be plenty of time and space for weeds to move in. I usually plant some winter rye as a cover crop. But I have yet to get any. So I decided to use some of the organic hard red winter wheat I had in the cupboard. I was thinking that I would let it grow and go to seed next summer. After it is harvested then I will plant a succession crop in its place, maybe kale or other season extending crop. I can use the straw as mulch in the garden.

Harvested: tomatoes, basil, acorn squash, apples from our own trees. I am using these apples for preserving. They are pretty buggy and some have scab. I plan to go to an orchard for long term apple storage

Preserve: chicken stock, tomato puree, tomato salsa, pear butter, dehydrated apples

Local food systems: I bought bulk tomatoes from my local farmer for salsa and tomato puree. Local chicken, local milk,. Local beets. Local butter, local carrots from the health food store.

Eat the food.: I am immersing myself in the book Nourishing Traditions right now. I have made a beet Kvass which will be ready tomorrow. It is a tonic for general well being. I made homemade yogurt and yogurt cheese. I have used the whey from the yogurt cheese in the kvass. Local chicken dinner. I then made chicken stock from the left over bones. I add vinegar to the water as I boil the stock. This draws out the minerals from the bones. Another reason I love this time of year is the time I spend in the kitchen. All our meals are from scratch again. If it is a chilly day I get most of my canning and baking done later in the day so that our home is cozy warm in the evening.

Waste not: using up those bones, using the whey from the yogurt cheese. We are using up the emptied boxes from moving in our sheet mulching of perennial gardens. Recycling, stuff to the thrift store.

Want not: I pulled out winter clothes and clothes I stashed away for Evan to grow into. He only needs a few things for the coming season. I am writing up my to-do list for our handmade Christmas and checking to see what we have available for materials. Stacking wood for standing dry wood that Mark is harvesting. Well, tis mid-September and I had the hardest time finding regular sized canning jar lids. Finally found some and stocked up on a few boxes. But I think that next year I will try to get some reusable lids.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

On and off the needles..a little of this and that...

Life is settling down. Without regular access to the computer I find that I am returning to better habits. A tidier house, more attention to the present and the finishing of languishing projects. I know that this is a good thing on the whole but I miss my regular connections to the blogging world. We hope to have internet access by next week. However, I have been grateful for the break. Some connectedness has return as a result of not being connected. My challenge will be to find a better balance between the two worlds. I heard this story on Fresh Air a couple of weeks ago. It was sobering and well worth a listen. In retrospect, my time online has been used as a coping mechanism for our last year. But now that we are settling into a new life it is nice to find grounding in a life I want to live; which for me, means more balance.The situation at the old place had not been healthy for a long time before our neighbors became a problem. Living in the country can be isolating. Being a new mom can be isolating. I am generally a social creature so adaptation took a while. The computer helped me for a while but I don't want it to be a substitute for making real connections in the world I live in.

However, I also love writing. the blogging has helped me rediscover this passion again. So this space will be busier again but I hope richer in content.

Anyway, that is where my head has been lately...

My hands have been busy while my mind has been pondering these things.

I finished Evan's fall sweater. It is the Modular Tomten by Elizabeth Zimmerman. I LOVE THIS SWEATER. It was fun to make and looks so nice on him. I have had the unfortunate luck the last few years of starting his sweater in the spring, so I he would have his sweater when the weather cooled, only to find out that he had grown more than anticipated. The sweater would be just right for about 2 months and then he would no longer fit in it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Independence Days Challenge

Our busy summer is behind us. Mark has returned to school today and the kids and I are trying to navigate a new routine. I love this time of year. Summers are always so busy and the last few summers for us have been full of hard work and some angst. I am looking forward to settling into a quiet home routine with regular excursions into town for the kids, errands and classes. Our new community has lots of things to do. Contra dances, poetry readings, u-pick farms, knitting dinners at the local yarn store.

Even though the last month has been full of packing boxes, moving them and unpacking, I have been able to put some food up for the winter. Mark and I both feel the pull of what this season really means for the kind of life we live, preparing for winter. Mark has been cutting down some dead trees on our property for firewood. I have been putting the canners to work.

Plant: I am still transplanting perennials from the old garden. We have a couple more trips to make there. Transplanted rhubarb, purple cone flower, sorrel, asparagus. Planted fall spinach.

Harvest: There is a local u-pick farm for high bush blueberries. We've picked about 18 pounds so far. We may try for one more bucket before the season is done. Basil, Kale from our little raised bed we planted in June. Potatoes from the old garden. Pears from our own pear trees. There were not many but more than we ever had before;). Apples from our own apple trees. These trees have scab and bug issues but there is still lots of really good apples on them. I am investigating a permaculture practice of planting guilds under the trees. The idea is that all the variety of plants work together to address all the needs of the tree. The plants include bulbs, aliums, food perennials such as rhubarb, and some herbs and flowers.

Preserve: Frozen corn, frozen blueberries, blueberry syrup, blueberry jam, chicken stock, roasted tomatoes, dehydrated onions, dehydrated ontario peaches. We were local when we bought the peaches.

Eat the food: I made a cold pea soup from peas from the farm job. I served it with homemade biscuits, sliced tomatoes from the farmer's market and local cheese. Our stove was hooked up this past week and we have been enjoying many from-scratch meals.

Local foods: Gee ,where to begin?? I bought a share from a farmer at the farmer's market. I have used this to get corn and tomatoes, local eggs and other in season veggies. The local farm where we get our feed sells all varieties of local meat. There was that great blueberry u-pick. Before we had our stove hooked up we were buying bread from a local farmer. Mark and I celebrated 5 years of marriage this past month. We treated ourselves to a nice block of local cheese. This week I am going to explore the local milk options. There is one farm that sells organic milk for 3 dollars a gallon. I want to start making my own mozzarella cheese and get back into making our yogurt again. I am investigating joining a food coop that is supplied by Crown of Maine.

Waste not: We have curbside recycling on our rural road! Our last home we had to collect and deliver it to a regional location. It was something of a hassle. Now it is much easier. Still donating stuff to the thrift store.

Want not: We got the new garden tilled. Mark has been cutting dead trees on the property for firewood. I am busy with Christmas knitting already and hope to get my sewing machine going with a few projects this week. We are enjoying our new library cards and have enjoyed listening to books on tape in the evening while WE ( yes, we, Mark is knitting:) knit.

We are still not hooked up to the internet at home yet. We are at the end of the road and many services have yet to make it to our end of the road yet. There are options we are looking at but internet is not high on the to-do list yet..still need a compost bin. So for now, I am writing at home and posting at the library.

Recipe: Cold Pea Soup

2ilbs of peas
1 quart of chicken stock
another cup or two of peas
garlic chives

Bring to a boil 2lbs of peas and chicken stock. When peas are cooked run through a food mill or food processor. Chill in fridge for several ours. When ready to serve add remaining peas and garnish with chives.