Friday, May 30, 2008

Independence Days #4

We are now at our frost free planting date. I don't have a very big garden this year - mostly it is what I've taken over from the flower beds. It's a start.

1. Plant Something Tomatoes, green beans (pole and bush), leeks, broccoli, cauliflower (first try ever for these), butternut squash, lettuces, peppers (too chilly for them), cucumbers, onion sets, raspberry bushes (2), rhubarb, grapes... that's all that coming to me. We still have to dig our main garden but there is only so much we can do at once.

2. Harvest Something Nothing yet - just hand-milked dairy and a few herb.

3. Preserve something I've got another 4 buckets of wheat put up. I am learning some important things about bugs and storage on the food storage site and will be taking some extra precautions there.
Caught a good dessert rain in two rain barrels which I'm using for hand watering of new transplants.

4. Prep Something The chicken coop is completed! Yea Mr. Greenjeans!

Went to COSTCO and picked up sugar (25#), canola oil, chicken stock, aspirin, dog food, TP, Tuna, sandwich bread for the freezer, and brick cheese. Also got little one a new pair of pants and a shirt.

I am declaring Friday as bread baking day. I'm banking on making an out loud commitment here to make two loaves of bread a week. This started last week.

The soap making and the grain mill have arrived but I haven't gotten to them...yet. Today may be the day.

The girls are out of school so they cleaned house for me, did dog detail, mowed and have cooked twice. This sure leaves me more time.

Put up clothes line in addition to the folding racks and have all the family on board for hanging laundry.

Began buying local eggs until my girls lay next spring. The milk strainer came. The goat sized ones are perfect for hand milkers because it's nothing to slowly pour a quart through then milk again.

5. Cook something (New) We've been cooking every meal but I can't think of anything new.

6. Manage Reserves I think I get this mixed up with prep something. Oldest daughter began cutting up reserved clothes for a quilt.

7. Work on Local Food Systems I went to a meeting of the newly forming farmers market. This has never been done before in this town - in the city at least. They are still in search of producers. I realized I had something to contribute because I've been talking to people and asking what's available on my own.

The folks I've been helping along have talke a contractor to drove on their land into putting in a 5' deep ditch for water and power out to a little shed/barn in prep for my possibly putting in an animal. They are planting some vegies for the first time in years.(5' is the minimum safe level for freezing here and only flexible pipe will do just in case 5' doesn't cover it).

Next door we dug up the buried grape pieces and looked at the buds. They planted them on our common fence and I reburied mine for a couple of days and they are giving away others.

8. Learn Something Lots and lots of learning. I learn from the food storage group, from my neighbors, and from my mistakes.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Grain Mill Arriveth

You may recall, that I spend GW's money on self sufficiency items. One of the major purchases was a Country Living Grain Mill. Mr. Greenjeans was skeptical but when he saw how well made it was (USA numbered and all) he had to love it too. To tell you just what a goon I am, I am facinated with the fly wheel: with how substantial it is, with how "real" it is, how perfect it is in all its simplicity.

I think the wording on this picture is interesting as is the fact that it took so long to have this delivered due to backorders at the manufacture.

It arrived last evening and I havn't gotten it set up yet, but I do love how they send a baggie of flour to show its grind. I plan on eventually setting it up to be bicycle powered. This site has a variety of options (Thank you Caroline for the link, I'm still excited)
I will no doubt keep you all updated as I grind my way to bread!

Mr. Greenjeans is home for his days off - yea! His goal is to completely finish the chicken coop.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Disorientation in the city

I have just spent the last two days in the city. It's about a 4 hour drive each way and the errands build up so by the time we go and come back, and overnight stay is necessary.

Ni-chan is registered to finish high school there as the only high school in the (large) county here doesn't offer advanced classes. I thank Mr. Bush and No Child Left behind that my high school senior is leaving for the city. She could have graduated high school early and gone to college but she is socially not ready for that move. We are grateful that she is going to a wonderful family of academics and musicians. We stayed with them and I had always thought of them as green, but I get there and the home made bread comes from a machine and even their garbage can lid is battery operated - I'd never seen such a thing.

Ni-chan was selected to go to girl's state from her current high school. She gets college political science credit for going and it's a trip out, and the costs of the trip are covered, but I had no idea all the fru-fraw that went with this. This very practical child of mine suddenly has to have a prom dress and business clothes for a week. As a parent I didn't want to deny her this at the end of high school. She is just the greatest kid with a fantastic head on her shoulders. So off we went - between paychecks where I've been stocking up - to buy a gown that could be worn on the red carpet and costs over $100. (It is after prom and dresses were 1/2 off). She will wear it to any senior things next year. AND she looks like a million bucks in it. But it is disturbing.

It is disorienting because shopping is so much a part of my old life. I clearly don't have this non-consuming thing down yet. And by the looks of the packed malls (shoppers with bags) on a rainy Memorial Day Monday other folks are a ways from "getting it" too. In the midst of the fervor, I stop by my old favorite shop and get a pair of Capris and a shirt where they told me sales were down all weekend until it rained and folks went to the mall.

I've raised the girls on developmental toys, limited TV, home cooking, music and interaction. They are growing in a way that makes me proud and suddenly I worry about their not being prepared for a life of shortages, for staying home and gardening. The whole Peak Oil thing feeds into my desire for my kids to be close to me always and I'm also saddened that the world is likely to be be a different place than I'd always envisioned for them.

Back to the trip, however. Chibi had been left at home caring for animals and gardens. She needs clothes because she is growing still, a pant and a shirt are all she gets and a new title in the silly manga series she reads. Again a foolish purchase but gawd I love these kids and they don't get overly much and...then there was the new metronome and sheet music.

OK I'm about out of money but I want to get to COSTCO for stock ups. I get TP for now, oil, sugar, dog food, tinned tuna, soup stock, rice, brick cheese .... And while I know that in a future time they are not all going to look like such necessities, they are for now a move toward all home made items. One day we might have to produce even the basics for ourselves but for now making for scratch means picking up ingredients from the store. When get to the register, I realize I've spent too much because I'm not accustomed to the higher prices. Neither Ni or I even looked at the books or prepackaged foods or gadgets that have in the past run up the bill. We get to the car and discover the keys dropped out of my purse into the car as I was geting out and we are now locked out. The folks at COSTCO are not helpful in the least, but I remember Mr. Greenjeans had wanted us to have AAA. I had balked then, but now I'm appreciating it.

I'm now at home again feeling sick. I feel I've just taken two giant steps backward. Carefully saved money has been spent and there are purchases on my credit card. I'll really have to tighten down to get over this and every bit of savings will be spent just trying to re-gain ground. I feel as if we are in this transition life with one foot in one world and a food in another. The disconnect between the worlds means we are pulled and stretched and it *hurts*. I am sick to my stomach am and am hurting in my psyche.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dairy Daze

Saturday was especially busy. I began with first cleaning the kitchen, then by making butter and yogurt - which are seperate processes. I learned from my last butter attempt to not freeze the cream, to let it warm to room temp and to not add the salt until paddling the butter.

I have made yogurt successfully a couple of times a week for a long time but after my cheese failed, I went back to the drawing board and followed the beginner cheese maker recipees from Fankhauser's beginning Cheese course. Usually I make yoghurt in the little jars that came with the convient kit,
and years ago I made it in the oven and over the pilot light of the stove. But the Cheesemaking site showed a great way I hadn't tried before using the insulating properties of a cooler. This recipee had me cook the milk longer and ended up with a more set up product.
The jars set up better but the cooler didn't do too badly.

I had gotten out the cream while I fixed the yogurt and then began the butter process. Not adding the salt first and the other factors made a world of differance. Of course I needed a little cream for the coffee along the way.
And at one point it took real self control not to just dump in sugar and sit down with a bowl of heavy whipped cream
But in the end butter formed.

Now I needed something to go with that butter. I poured the whey and the odd bit of leftover yoghurt milk into a bowl with some honey and yeast. Added some flour and let the yeast activate - you can see it in that last photo. I can made bread by guess and by gosh and it looked like this: A little extra brown but very good.

This all was served for dinner (and dessert) with a seven bean mix that had been soaked and sprouted. I didn't get picture of that. I used everyone's suggestion from the food storage group and added whey from a different experiment and seaweed as well as spices and vegies.

The simple lifestyle makes for a long day in the kitchen - whew.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Independence Days #3

I am enjoying the Independence Days challenge. Now when I see gas prices climbing and hear the talk about Peak Oil, I at least feel as if I'm doing something for the future of my family.

1. Plant Something: We're not past the date of freezing but I've begun to get some things in the ground anyway. I've put in the greens mix I started indoors, 3 tomatoes, a couple of peppers, and a couple of squash. These are added to the peas, potatoes, and rhubarb. My biggest trouble right now is the dogs are taking out a bunch of what I plant. I have to wait until payday to do anything about little garden fences. I love the dogs but they do get in the way at times.

Mr. Greenjeans and I talked about getting a bunch more 1/2 wine barrels to line the sides of the patio as the raised bed garden is still yet a dream. This would help with the dogs running off the sides into the garden beds. I wish there was more to report here but I've got to get serious vegie garden beds in place yet.

2. Harvest Something: Nothing yet. I'm still waiting on the Rhubarb (maybe that will be ready when my mom visits - she loves rhubarb) and the peas are just an inch tall. I guess taking some snippets of herbs for the bread is about all.

3. Preserve Something I got 4 buckets of red wheat put up and sealed and labeled. I had a daughter cut apart the sacks the wheat came in and taped them to the sides of the bucket. I have 4 more bags to put up.

4. Prep Something We got our rain barrel situated right and caught 60 gal of rain. I came home after it had been raining a while and noticed the drain just wasn't going to work where I had it and so in the rain Mr. Greenjeans and I moved the barrel, cut the downspout, cut the inside of a shrub away to place the rain barrel and in 30 minutes our rain barrel overflowith. Now I realize I can use a dozen or so more.

I attended the end of a knitting group. I wasn't successful in learning to knit very well but I am am a quilter. I took along a quilt top I'd put away after sewing on the sides too short and began the task of unpicking all four sides. It went better with conversation and tea.

Ordered laundry soap making parts which have just shipped. I also began to hang entire loads of laundry out - including socks and undies. I'm not pushing the girls at this point but they are out of school this week and maybe with their extra time I'll get them going. Laundry lines are expensive! I'm using two cheap folding racks and may stick with those.

Also ordered a milk strainer since we're continuing to use the milk straight from the cow.

5. Cook Something (new): I tried to make cheese (see previous post) and realized that this is going to be an acquired skill. I also made a new bread recipe for foccia bread that the family really took to. We had it for dinner one night and then Mr. Greenjeans and I used it for sandwiches yesterday noon as it was his - his day off.

I did begin to start talking to the girls about each learning a new sill. Chibi is going to learn about soap making and Ni-chan is going to read the herbal medicine book that came. I talked they balked, but at 14 & 17 they are just that way. I paid for viola lessons for the summer for chibi. I think music and the ability to play will be a blessed skill in the days to come.

6. Manage Reserves:
Mr. Greenjeans put in two more full days on the chicken coop. we now have 4 walls, 2 windows, light and electricity, a door, and ceiling. Still needed: insulation for one more wall and it's skin put on that wall, trim for the outside windows (to prevent rain damage), a chicken door, nest boxes, and perches, an outside gate, and some kind of screening around the tops of the run to keep out pigeons.

7. Work on Local Food Systems: I have been talking with some folks facing hard times - job loss and disability. There is a great deal of depression and apathy and I've been talking about self-sufficiency, about what potential they have in their acre lot with animal rights, about using the money that's still there to lay in some reserves. They offered to not mow the wild alfalfa that grow on their lot so I can cut it and bring to the chickens - even dry some for winter for the hens. They are going to help butcher roosters and I offered them half the roosters and eggs in exchange.

OK, I'm also eyeing a plot across the fence. there is a piece of land that seems to be no man's land and is about 10 x 40 (very approx). I was looking to block off an opening in the fence where the chickens are going and looked at what appears to be good ground and not claimed. There is an apartment next door, my neighbors property fence, a fence for a business and this piece of land adjoining mind that is in the sun. I'm going to look into ownership and see growing something to feed the hens on it.

8. Learn something new: I am beginning to build up muscle specific to milking the cow and learning to milk better (thus make myself more useful to the cow owner as well). There was the cheese thing which is a learning curve.

I also learned about preserving dry goods for long-term storage using dry ice and allowing for expansion as it drives out the oxygen.

I'm reading the books that arrived. The "Gardening when it Counts" was written specifically for peak oil times. The climate he is in is quite different but the information is valuable. What gave me goosebumps is that a knowledgeable man with a lifetime of experience and knowledge is writing not so much for the status of publishing but to pass on what he knows about gardening and can foresee about coming times.

I've been watching the price of oil and reading peak oil stuff like crazy this week. Is it any wonder that I'm wide awake and blogging at 3:00 a.m. with business to attend in the ....morning?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Cheese that Wasn't

...The directions said that mozzarella isn't a cheese for beginners....but I wanted mozzarella for my recipe. - There's a sermon in there.

OK so the cheese didn't work out. A gal. of milk means something different these days that it comes from a cow whose name I know. The cheese never did get shiny and stringy and the more I worked it the more grainy it got. I squeezed the whey out and we're still going to eat it.

At least the rosemary focaccia bread worked out better. The rosemary was growing nicely in the garden.

I sliced that cheese and warmed it in the oven after the bread came out. The pesto and fried onions covered the sins of the mozzarella.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"Stimulating" the economy

Well, I"m thinking that there are shops that sell apparatus that stimulate and perhaps and I'm of the opinion that the powers that be should have stuck to the corner drug store. I'm not in favor of stimulating G.W. and his cronine's businesses - but I'm not returning the money it either. Call me what you will, but there's a lot of us.

The irony is that we are so stimulated.. er inspired to use this money for greater self sufficiency. I guess everyone gets something out of the deal. We spend the money, someone else makes the profit, and we boost our personal security.

So, how did we spend the dough:

I've blogged that we were putting up a chicken coop. Now, at first I was going to put up a newly purchased shed with chain link run. The cost was going to be over $2000. Now, Mr. Greenjeans has a lovely shop inset on the property line. I have to admit I've eyed it but I did not ask for the space. Instead, he offered it himself. This is one of those times where you fall in love again. On his days off, he is walling off an 8x8 area, with insulation and a door to a chicken sized run, sealed off so the dust doesn't get into his shop and with a people door into the coop, nest boxes, two windows (opposite corners), and electricity. Well, that will be about $500. The insulation is because it is cold enough here that chickens die in the winter.

With the money left we bought a new Little Giant ladder for Mr. Greenjeans. See him blocking off the downspouts to better direct the water from advancing thunderstorms into our water barrel that is slightly uphill :-(. We also bought a Country Living Grain mill with corn and bean auger and handle, milk strainer for the raw milk, reference books, and buckets with gamma lids.

Sound sexy to you? Well, it pleases me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Monday Menu + a recipe for laundry soap

This week's Monday Menu includes not only the typical Meal planner (recipes for the asking) but also a recipe for home made laundry soap is found at the bottom of this post.

This week I'm making cheese. As I've yet to buy or make a cheese press I'm going to start with Mozzarella. I'm going to start buying extra milk and saving it for cheeses. I may be this cow's only customer by the time I'm done with yogurt, cheese and milk for the kids. I tried my hand at milking today. I only got a quart before my muscles were fatigued. I'm going to work up to being able to help with the chores so the cow's owner can leave town on occasion.

With the mozzarella I'll make Panini sandwiches. I'll use the whey focaccia bread and then dress the sandwich with a spoon of pesto, and red onion and greens.

I've got whole roasting chicken in the freezer that need to be used and a smoker that has never been used so I thought I'd pair the two and learn to use the smoker.

We'll be having a few all vegie meals such as salad and corn, and I didn't actually get around to the tofu and shrimp dish so that will be coming up as well. I've got my head in the garden and am not really focused on the menu so much just now.

As far as the soap goes,we didn't always just run to the store and pay alarming rates for specialty laundry detergent that is bad for the environment. Really, making soap was normal a couple of generations ago. This recipe for soap comes from Soaps gone buy, a really great site with good prices where I've ordered the Fels Naptha and the washing soda. The borax is readily available here. For scented laundry, you may add a couple of drops of essential oil (gardenia or lavender) in 1/2 C vinegar to the rinse water.

Powdered Laundry Detergent
1 cup grated Fels Naptha Soap
1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup 20 mule team borax

Mix and store in airtight container or bag. For light loads, use 2 tablespoon. For heavy loads, use 3 tablespoons.

To make a large batch - grate 6 bars of Fels Naptha Soap and then add 3 cups of Washing Soda and 3 cups of 20 Mule Team Borax. Mix well and store in covered container.

TIP: Home made laundry soaps will NOT make suds in your washer so don't be alarmed. Fels Naptha Soap is a pure soap and typically makes little or no suds in the water. This makes it perfect for use in the new HE washers as well as traditional washers. You will also notice the need to either reduce your laundry softener or in most cases you can even eliminate the use of softener completely.

Now, go hang your laundry out on the line!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Independence Days #2

The second week of Independence days has been active given the influx of money for Economic Stimulus. I don't agree that this is the way to get our economy out of trouble but neither am I refusing the money. I just find it ironic that I am putting it to use to bring personal sustainability and independence.

Goal #1 Plant Something: It's still too early to put much into the ground - we had a good freeze this week. I do have little plants in pots that I keep moving out to the porch each day, and I picked up a couple of tomatoes and peppers this week.

Goal #2 Harvest Something: We're just getting started so there isn't much to harvest and we haven't gotten out fishing due to home projects.

Goal #3 Preserve something: Here's where it gets interesting. I had to go to Walmart as daughter had ripped her skirt and needed another. Anyway friend had said that Walmart had a new shipment of gamma lids and buckets [remember this is a rural Utah thing]. Sure enough, this shipment had different colored gamma lids. While I was looking around something caught my eye, could it be....looks like bags of wheat. Yup, sure enough there were two pallets of wheat of the exact kind I'd been thinking of ordering except these were $11.00 for 25 lbs:

I had been reading about wheat this week that the hard red wheat stores better and the golden white wheat makes better bread. There were other women there pondering the wheat and picking up bags and they said that they had heard that the golden wheat was better for people with allergies. They loaded two grocery carts of 25# bags but when we both left there was a 1/2 pallet left. Ni-chan teased me about picking up the heaviest item first and then pushing it around the store but when we were standing in line to check out and I was figuring money I told her to go and get another bag of golden wheat. She came back and said that pallet was empty!!! We were not there very long either.

While I was there I got Borax in preparation for making laundry detergent. It is interesting to me that the box is half the size and twice the price it was when I was washing diapers.

This week I ordered the Gountry Grain Mill with corn/bean attachment and bin and extension handle. They are on back order from the manufacture, but it will be coming along. Seems a lot of folks are preparing to grind wheat.

Mr. Greenjeans has been building a chicken coop with every spare minute. This is part of spending the G.W. check. I will blog separately about the coop. Mr. Greenjeans works every daylight hour and many dark hours as well. He is a different man than I married over 20 years ago and butted heads with for the first 7.

Goal #5 Manage reserves: We moved here just before a very harsh winter. Basically we moved into the house, made a home, and hunkered down for a long winter's nap. Now that the weater is nice, it is apparent that the garage and workshop are disaster areas needing further unpacking and organizing. That's what I've been slowly working on. The one area I succeded in organizing is a little alcove in the garage with shelves and work bench that I laid claim to early for garden equipment and potting.

This morning oldest daughter asked about a suit I have that is too small for me. She tried it on and looks beautiful in it.

I bought a glass (reusable) milk jug - no more disposable - from the udder to glass.

I got my bicycle tuned and fixed and it is realistic for me to get around on it.

Took plastic bag collection to the food bank and managed to use all cloth bags.

Goal #6 Cook something (new): I blog pretty regularly about cooking so it's there for this last week: skimming the cream off the milk and made butter, make yogurt twice a week, made breakfasts and dinners all week (full time employment). However I also ordered and watched a DVD on cheese making at home in prep for a venture in that.

Goal #7 work on local food systems: I've been having neighbor conversations across the fence (dog kennel) with a neighbor. She'd been thinking of cementing in a garden spot so it wasn't as messy. I think she has changed her mind as we talked about the joy of a kitchen garden. I had brought up maybe growing beans up her fence on my side and she reacted kind of negatively about that and I let it drop. Later in the week I came home to she and her husband were burying sticks in trenches in the as yet unplanted garden. She had gotten two varieties of juice (wine) grape starts and had been told how to root them by burying them for two weeks before digging them up and planting. She decided we'd have a grape arbor on that fence and be able to harvest grapes in 3 or 4 years. Yea! They have a giant back yard of lawn and are now thinking of planting corn in part.

Those neighbors showed up at the door last evening while we were collapsed in front of the boob tube. They came in and sat down to chat for the next 2 1/2 hours with toddler in tow (even the teens went to bed after a while). My very compartmentalized life was a little wigged out, but the part of me that wants to build community and return to the beauty of life before TV was thrilled.

Goal #8 Learn something new: I've been learning about cheese making, and researching about building a good cheese press. The books I ordered last week still haven't arrived. I also learned a lot about grain mills and how to properly store grain before making my selection.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I love butter and butter loves me

I love butter. My family loves butter. Butter love me and sticks with me and wraps itself around my hips and arms in velvety embrace. I wish we didn't have this love affair, it's unhealthy, but there it is.

Yesterday I made butter from the cream I'd been skimming off the top of the milk we buy straight from the udder of the hand milked cow, Pretzel. Last week I'd skimmed the cream off the gallon we purchased and put it into pint jars. Each jar was about 2/3 full and then I added a Tablespoon of salt. I then tried to convince teenagers to shake jars (one a piece) into butter. They shook a little and complained a little and after just so much I collected the jars and dumped them into the kitchen aid and set it on 7 for about.... an hour.

I couldn't believe it took so long! Maybe I shouldn't have added the salt to the cream, maybe the mixer didn't go deep enough into the kitchen aid (my biggest complaint with Kitchen Aid). Maybe the fact that the first pint had been frozen for a week??

It finally broke apart - not into creamy sticky swirls the way I've seen it before but into crumbly bits. When I poured it through the cheese cloth they came together nicely and were even yellow-y which I had assumed was a product of food coloring before.

That two week's supply made enough butter to fill the butter bell, exactly. Now that is not the total collection from the cow, but rather two milkings worth - the two gallons my family consumed last week. Even the kids said in surprise - wow, that's why butter is so expensive and they used it a little more sparingly.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I am an uninteresting Chemestry project

I have been declaired so my Ni-chan whose chemestry assignment was to go through the cupboards and pantry and bring to class things with interesting ingredients. She had a really difficult time finding anything with artificial ingredients. The Kosher tuna fish had a preservative, there were dog biscuits, and a packed food box that I'm not sure where it came from but which no one in the house will touch. We conjectured that it might have been left over from the previous owners since we bought the house from friends and moved in as they moved out.

It has been fun for me to have her come home from school and talk about all the stuff in food and have her go through the cupboard looking for examples... and not be able to find any.

One concern around the suburban homestead is that it is froze last night. I think the little peas and potatoes in the ground will be OK. I have some herbs planted and I hope there were protected and/or hearty enough. Freezing weather is a perpetual problem around here and one I need to get ahead of by making plant covers.

I was right - no one has noticed that the heat is off in the house. Mr. Greenjeans found out when I asked him to read my blog post on gas pumping frugality.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Monday Menu - Breakfast Edition

This week's Monday Menu features breakfast. Commercial breakfast cereals are fast and convenient. They are also overpriced and only going to get more expensive as grain prices increase. I have not been buying these packaged cereals so that our food budget can keep pace with the increased prices at the grocery store. A cooked breakfast means getting up a little earlier or preparing the night before.

I believe that a cooked breakfast will have more far reaching effects than simply keeping pace with inflation. I think it matters that the kids go to school with a cooked breakfast warming them from the inside out. I think it will matter that they have memories of the smell and taste of cooked breakfasts. I hope it strengthens them in ways that go beyond nutrition.

Non-commercially prepared breakfasts include:

*eggs, toast, bacon
*Muffins (the variety is endless)
*Pancakes or waffles - these don't take too long to prepare but can also be individual frozen pancakes put into the toaster for a grab and go on a busy day.
* Hot rice with milk and butter
* Home made bread with jam.
* Yogurt with fresh fruit. With fresh milk from the cow I'm making yogurt twice a week.
* Spaghetti with egg. Mr. Greenjeans learned this from some Italians on a trip. He scrambles a couple of eggs with chili pepper flakes and then adds left over spaghetti noodles to fry for a moment and then scrambles in freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
* Omelets
* French Toast
* Left overs from dinner with things like quiche or potatoes being the best.
* Cooked cereal such as oatmeal, or malt o meal (buy the plain and add your own sugar).

Friday, May 9, 2008

Independence Days Challenge

This is my first weekly synopsis of the independence days challenge.

1. Plant something everyday - I've been a little weak on this front. I have seedlings in peat pots, and I bought 4 half wine barrels and planted potatoes. I've purchased soaker hoses to begin getting water efficiently to the plants, and put up two rain barrels (though after the first rain realized some adjustment is necessary). Since we just moved into this house, the vegie garden space is limited until I bust some sod. Mr. Greanjeans works tremendous hours every week and at least once a week, often twice, he works around the clock.

2. As it's spring, the harvest is a little low. I have found locally produced honey, however and of course the milk cow (see previous post), and I've ordered 25 light Brahma chicks. They are a straight run and so we will be harvesting roosters this fall.

3. For preserving, I found that the walmart in my area still has buckets and gamma lids and so I bought 4 of those (cost just under $40).
Walmart also still had the 50gal blue drinking water storage barrels and hand pumps. I'd like to get another of these blue barrels. Yea, food and water storage at Walmart is a Utah thing. These will go in the garage, which we learned last winter resists freezing to about -15 f outside temps. Oh and I also bought a 32 Qt. pressure canner. I have quite a few jars, enough to fill a free standing shelf unit when they are empty, but from experience of using them, I know I'll need more for what I'm trying to do.

4. Prep Something. I had organized and cleaned the pantry the week before. I'll be going to the grocery store a little more often, for peanut butter and such based on what I read in this article in the Wall Street Journal about rood prices rising much faster than the returns you are likely to get from keeping your money in a bank or money-market fund. Probably what I wrote in #3 should go here. However I also purchased 4books,
Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times
Storey's Basic Country Skills: A Practical Guide to Self-Reliance
Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long
, and
Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables

5. Manage reserves. In this category I am actually using things out of the freezer. Again I have years of experience putting food by and one of my common mistakes is not using the food in a timely manner and having it go bad. One has to live in this system of food storage or else is is just hoarding. You have to consume on one end while stocking on the other end. If you eat too much out of the grocery store, you don't have a taste for preserved food and you aren't eating in good rotation. So, we are having lots of frozen strawberries in anticipation of the new strawberry crop and also because they don't last forever. I also know that I tend to put up too much jam. I'll get going on a jam craze when the fruit is in and it will take us years to eat it all, by which time some will begin to get too old.

It is this category alone that got us through a really bad year last year and the one before. We got into a hole, and we give thanks every day for our being able to climb out of it - but the only way out was to accept an offered hand to do it.

6. Cook Something. I've really been conscientious about cooking and blogging the Monday Menu blog keeps me on top of it. Making a menu and laying out the ingredients keeps waste down and production up. I've stopped buying packaged cereal which requires me to get up earlier and actually make breakfast for everyone. The trouble is the increased dishes produced and the need to prod teenagers (one of whom is taking AP tests and final exams) to help more.

7. Work on Local Food Systems. In having conversation with the people at the greenhouse, I learned that a local farmer's market is beginning for the first time this year. I made contact with them and have agreed to attend their meeting later on this month and lend a hand. They also referred me to the local conservation group. I attended their noon meeting a short walk from my office and met 5 people who have worked for years to bring recycling to town and are just this week seeing the first fruits of that. With out this challenge, I don't know that I would have shared my time.

8. Learn something new. I've been learning from the posts on Sharon's food storage groups and I learned about pasteurization in the home dairy.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Got Milk?

I was reading the Nickel Ads, not looking for anything in particular when I saw an ad that said: "fresh milk for bummer lambs. Great milk." I knew that there was someone in town with a milk cow and excess milk. I called and sure enough that's what it was. I went over yesterday and bought a gallon (or just short) from the lady on an upturned milk carton who hand-miked into the sterilized 1/2 gal. canning jars I brought to her. The milk costs $8.00/gal and is 12 or 13 miles, round trip.

This is pretzel (the kids got to name her and they figured she's the color of a pretzel). She is a Jersey x Brown Swiss and she will be providing our milk. As part of trying to find more local food sources, I'm going to put pretzel's picture on our fridge.

I've forgotten how old pretzel is, but just a few years old, and has had her first calf - it's a heifer (baby girl cow).

The calf's name is Anne I would love to purchase Anne. We'll have to see. Mr. Greenjeans nearly snorted milk out his nose upon hearing of my latest desire.

I made yogurt last night in the little jars that came with the yogurt maker but since I forgot the vanilla, the kids likely won't want it. I might as well dump all the little jars into the blender and make another yogurt smoothie with fruit.

I think I wait until this afternoon to scoop the cream off the other milk to store for butter.

Pasteurization: Everyone wants to know about pasteurization. There is a big raw milk group out there that has very good reasons for raw milk. The need for pasturization came about due to unclean milking conditions however most folks who have a single dairy cow don't find the need to pasturized, which kills the digestive enzymes. We don't have any medical need for raw milk so I will be doing light pasteurization of the milk in a double boiler at home. Mostly I'll pasturize to save me trouble with the family. They'll be squeemish if I don't pasturize, my parents will hit the roof if I don't, and really there is a slight risk of disease. I won't go to the extreme of ultra high heat pasturization that commercial milk undergoes, however.

After I came home with the milk, I got online and ordered some information about cheese making, and bought glass milk bottles and a dairy thermometer from Leamans Country Store.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Frugal Gas Pump Tips

My daughter's chemistry teacher was giving the class some tips on getting the most out of their fuel purchases and I thought I share what those were. Some I knew and some I didn't.

*Fuel in the cool of the day. Gasoline expands in the heat and you get less gas for your $$ if it's hot.

*Don't fuel if the gas truck is in the station. When the fuel is pumping and any impurities in the tank get stirred up and you will pump them into your tank.

*Gasoline vaporizes very easily and so your purchase can literally evaporate. To reduce evaporation do two things. 1. pump slowly - when you set the pump on full blast, you lose more to evaporation. 2. Don't let your tank fall below half full, otherwise you have an air pocket that leads to evaporation.

*Another reason not to pump full blast is that there is no room for air displacement in the tank and the some of the fuel gets pushed back up into the pump and you pay for it twice!

And Verde's $.02 is that of course reduce fuel dependency by walking and biking and avoiding unnecessary trips. But y'all knew that already. If we just slow down a little we'll all be better for it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Chibi Tea

So, somewhere along the line our youngest got a taste for soda pop. You might want to ask MR. Greenjeans about that one. Her sister and I give her a little hard time about it and her sister encouraged her to give it up for Lent, which she did. She then started to want me to buy her those canned sweet teas. I did this to support her not having soda pop. As I'd taste her tea, I thought, I can make that for pennies. And so not too fast so as to not spook her, I one day made up my first batch of tea and asked her to taste it. It was a hit!

Now for all the world to see (or maybe the two or three of you who stop by my blog on occasion) I present the recipe for Chibi Tea:

In a one qt. glass canning jar add the following:
2 bags raspberry leaf tea (the organic kind - not the kind that has added flavored stuff) and boiling water just below the shoulders of the jar. Set the cap on loosly and let steep for 5 minutes.

Remove tea bags - (put them in the compost) and add copious amounts of local honey. Replace lid and shake jar to mix honey. Let this mixture cool and then add 1/4 to 1/2 cup raspberry juice. Chill until cold.

Recipe two:
Same idea except with black tea and pomegranite juice.

Makes a teenage soda pop drinker happy.

And just as I suspected, nobody has noticed yet that the furnace is shut off.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Monday Menu

One thing I came up against last week as we have settled into eating at home more deliberately is that I didn't have enough meals planned so I throwing in one more this week:

Pizza - er yes the kind that is made at home. The kids want pesto and olives and things on theirs. Mr Greenjeans and I like caramelized onion and anchovies.

Spaghetti and salad - This is from Spaghetti sauce I've made in bulk and stored in quart jars in the freezer.

Chicken with Garlic and Sugar Snap peas and Dry fried Green Beans
Both of these recipes come from "The Breath of the Wok" book by Grace Young and Alan Richardson. This is one of my most favorite cookbooks in a very large collection. It isn't all recipes and chronicles the spirit of the wok. We were in San Francisco last year and went to the Wok shop they wrote about - it was a fine experience, and we spent all morning there, but I digress.

Shrimp Stuffed Tofu from this month's Cooking Light magazine.

Today i purchased a 32 Qt. Pressure Canner. This will be my learning a new skill. We've always frozen our batches of spaghetti in quart jars but now I'll be able to pressure seal them!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Rain Barrels arrived

Yea! I am excited that the rain barrel arrived this week! We found an extra 50 gal. water storage barrel out in back of the shed from the previous owners that we can connect together to have 100+ gal catchment. I plan to get more with a differnt paycheck. (pictures to post when the sun shines)

We've put them in the asphalt garden because that is where there is a down spout to connect to (really would sound better if I referred to it as the container gardening area). Mr. Greenjeans is really into the rain barrels - yea! The biggest trouble is rain - we had ZERO precipitation in April, I do imagine we'll heavy rains at some point.

I turned off the heat in the house even though the evening temps are in the low 30's (we barely turned on outside water). The winters here are so cold and we did alright so I think the family won't really notice that the furnace is off.

The new Inu kitty is here on my lap as I type - look alike Neko the uncuddley is off hunting moths under the light.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Independence Days

See that Banner on the side of m blog for independence days? That is the challenge I'm taking part in. You can click on the banner to go to Sharon Astyk’s blog to see its beginning. I've also added to my links folks who are taking part in this challenge.

This does not replace using less energy, reducing waste, but enhances it and compliments it. The ground rules are thus:

1. Plant something. Everyday - and at some point in your local growing season, flip over to preserving something everyday.

2. 2. Harvest something. This can be related to #1 or it can be about wild foods gathering as well.

3. Preserve something. This can be a big project such as an all day canning but it can also be as simple as putting out some extra fruit for drying.

4. Prep something. I consider this to be the heart of the challenge - this is preparidness - for what? Hard to say, but you will be better off with an organized stocked pantry, water storage, extra blankets in case it's cold....

5. Cook Something. Yea! It's good to have extra things cooked, it's good to know how to cook well and with different mediums. It's one thing to know that a wild food is edable but another to know what to do with it.

6. Manage your reserves - Take it from experience: laying in food takes maintenance. You have to rotate it, and use food. I tried to can with splenda last year for a family member who has diabetes, but I discoverd it does not last. Sweaters and blankets can get moth eaten, and remember the phrase: One bad apple can spoil the barrell.

7. Work on local food systems. This can be part of the by local movement or locavores, it can be part of working in a food coop or farmer's market.

8. One of the commentors on the blog (I'm still trying to find that) said learn a new skill and I think that bears adding. Candles? Ironwork? Animal husbandry?

You only have to pick from one thing a day. I am going to aim for something everyday. I nearly do that anyway. I think I'm going to organize my links into those who are participating.

So what I have done before finding this challenge: cleaned out and organized the pantry, making plans for chicken coop and taking up the lawn, planning raised bed, planted seelings indoors, cook regularly, purchased barrels for container planting, ordered rain barrells...

A Coincidence?

Yesterday on freecycle there was an offer for free yarn. I don't knit myself, but there is a knitting ministry at church that knits shawls for people who are sick and blankets for kids being examined at the Children's Justice Center. I quickly ran off to get the yarn. It was much further than I'd expected (yes, I took the car), as I drove I thought oh, this is out where that nice family from church lives....then this is the street...then this is the cul-de-sac. The free yarn was next door to where one of the people in the knitting ministry lives! So I chatted with the person giving the yarn as I was leaving I saw and Mr. and Mrs. Foundation were in the yard wondering what my car was doing there. We had laughed over the coincidence.

However Mrs. Foundation had been crying. She said that she had started to feed a cat that people had left in the neighborhood when they moved. She had promised Mr. Foundation that she'd take it to the pound or find it a home and he was insisting she take it to the pound today. He said do you want a Holstein Cat? Well, I like Tuxedo cats and I have a really good cat - he is all the things good in a cat but he isn't cuddly. I'd been telling him if he didn't get sweet I'd have to find a nicer cat. Well, the cat going to the pound was a sweet and cuddly cat.... in fact she slept curled up between Mr. Greenjeans and me all night long. I had first washed her with a cloth to get the dust off and checked her for fleas and ticks which we don't tend to have in this arid, cold climate.

The girls named her Inu. I hope she can acclimate to the four house dogs.

This is Neko, the uncuddley:

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A May Day Mixture of thoughts

I got a surprise this morning: snow. Not very much but still, snow on the first of May. I shouldn't be too surprised, the last freeze date of the season is some time in June. This is something that I'll have to deal with in the vegie garden - to be. The snow didn't seem to harm anything and I didn't get any pictures before it melted but I think the fact that there was cloud cover with snow I think means that we didn't get a killing frost. I've got my eye on the apricot blossoms.

Oldest daughter and I have been having good conversations. She came home from chemistry class (public school, conservative small town) talking about the proliferation of plastic bags that don't break down into anything but toxins, about the ingredients in plastic cups, (artificially) scented candles, toxins in plastic wrap, and a whole lot of other things. Unfortunately only the kids in advanced science classes get to have these discussions. The class assignment was to go home and look at the fibers in their sweaters (meaning they had to get picked up off the floor) and she was proud to report wool, cotton and cashmere. We talked about the fact that we've been trying to live this way for a while and I'd love to be able to buy organic clothing but haven't been able to afford it.

Later that night she was inspired to map out a quilt pattern on graph paper and began to go through old clothes to see what fabrics could be cut up to go into the quilt she wants to take with her next year.

Next year... ugh, Next Year, thanks to the Bush Administration's "No child Left Behind", Ni-chan has to leave home to finish high school. The funding for advanced classes has been cut for basic public schools (we have one high school in the county) so that lower students have to be brought up and the better students brought down. We have found a host family living a wealthy neighborhood in the the city so that particular school can offer AP classes. She could have graduated and gone to college (she has the credits) but she didn't feel ready. I did that myself (being a whole lot less mature than this kid) and know that being able to do the work and being mature enough to live in the dorms and all that goes with college living are really different things. So instead she can stay in high school and take AP classes and get college credit to help on the tuition bill.

Chibi was in a sulky mood and so spent the evening behind a closed door, nose in book, except for when it was time to come to the family dinner table.

By the way, everyone liked the Makaruni Pasta with Baby Bella Mushroom Sauce recipe. Mr. Greenjeans isn't fond of cooked mushrooms but was being a good sport about it. He ended up raving about how wonderful the dinner was even mentioned it again this morning. (He'd worked hard all day and had a good appitite - the best seasoning of all).