Saturday, August 30, 2008

Conversations with my Senior

At church, there is an older woman (heck she's 85) who was born on a farm in Great Britten. She is very bright, well traveled, and has a good sense about her. She was the oldest child of the home when war time came to England. She loves to tell stories about her life. She talks without exaggeration but with a twinkle in her eye and smiles and laughs at her own memories, and I love listening.

She has many stories of old farm life, the cows and chickens, the milk seperating and the egg collecting. Recently she talked about her father being allowed to own one gun because he was a farmer. But when a fox killed all of the laying hens and was trapped in the hen house, he couldn't bring himself to shoot it and the mailman had to do it when he came by.

They lived in the country and when the cities were being bombed in WWII, extended family came to stay. They didn't have running water or electricity in the old farmhouse and they had many, many people to feed and bathe that exceptionally wet and cold winter. I get the feeling that this was a difficult time, though she never has a disparaging word to say, only occasionally pulling a face and saying that she was fortunate to be able to get outside and help with the chores. Everyone else was too old or too young to be of good use and there was no place for the frivolity of playing outside. Getting unnecessarily cold and wet was dangerous and the people were packed inside the house so tightly that there was little room to hang clothes to dry. Washing clothes was an unpleasent all day project and the drying items hung in every available space, draped over the furnerature, and were rotated in front of the fireplace so they'd get dry enough to put away. She didn't go into details about toileting but had a roll of the eyes.

She talked with excitement about when after the war they put in a flush toilet and running water and what a boon to their lives that was. Then she said something unsolicited that has really hung with me. She said that if one ever had to make the choice between running water and electricity, that running water was by far the more important thing. Somehow that seems like a pearl of wisdom from someone who lived during the time prior to the utilities we so take for granted and for whom many may go without this winter.

A couple of months ago I sat with this woman for several dark hours as she was having a heart attack. Her skin was grey and eyes glazed. I remember how sad I was to think of her not being around anymore. When the helicopter crew finally arrived to take her to hospital in the city we loaded her into the flying ambulance and said a prayer for the crew and their patient and they left with great gushing of wind and disappeared into the night sky. There was such silence for many weeks. I am happy that this strong, resilient woman is back to tell stories again. I'm not through learning from her.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Independence Days #14

I'm glad for this challenge because right now I might forget to blog.

1. Plant Something - Nada
2. Harvest Something - Did I mention the beans have been a success? much so that I've picked twice a day sometimes. I don't know how many beans we need but I may give up processing beans and focus on giving them away.
Add corn, tomatoes, cucumbers (I am so done with cucumbers), watermelon, spaghetti squash, peaches, plumbs, pears, basil, peppers, and dill.

3. Preserve Something - 12 quarts of green beans, likely another 14 pints of dilly beans, 12 1/2 pints of plumb jam, 7 quarts of peaches, and dehydrated apricots.
1 Kitten - Oh not, that's not canned kitten, we preserved the life of a kitten that had taken up residence in the corn and way crying and wailing from hunger. The girls fed and watered it until Mrs. Neighbor caught it and talked her hubby into keeping it. (Hey we took in the last stray and she had one cat die this year).

4. Prep Something - Took Nee to school in the city - bought her books and bus tokens. Wow, this is tough without my chatterbox around - I've always been so busy parenting I've never given much thought to when they start to leave the nest.

While in the city, renewed the Costco membership and came home with TP, canned milk, dog food, butter, and 50 lbs of sugar.

5. Manage reserves: While I was away, the beans got awfully big and so I sorted out those and am cooking them with ham hocks right now (no good ham bone available).

6. Cook something (new) - nothing new but it was fun to be able to make Nee's (and all of our) favorite food - Pesto for her going away meal.

7. Work on local food systems: gave beans to the water master, sent Nee to school with two cases of dilly beans (she loves them) and dried apricots. Accepted food from Mrs. Neighbor last night when Chibi and I dragged home after irrigating (Mr. Greenjeans is working extra these days).

8. Learn something new: I learned to pressure can!! This is a big deal. My mother was afraid of pressure cooking and Mr. Greenjeans has memories of the pressure cooker spewing food all over the ceiling. I read the book and we sat and watched and timed everything. As long as I don't get distracted this will be good.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Independence Days #13

This last week or so has been marked by the bounty of the harvest time.

1. Plant Something - no, got my hands full.

2. Harvest Something: Now we're talking - 2 bushels of green beans, 1/4 bushel yellow wax beans, peppers, the first tomatoes, cucumbers and more cucumbers, a head of broccoli, dill, celery, plumbs, peaches, pears...tried the watermelon but it wasn't quite done. Lord have mercy when the corn and tomatoes come on.

3. Preserve Something: 35 pints and 28 quarts of Dilly beans (1/2 the quarts go to Mrs. Neighbor), 21 half pints of pepper jelly, 1 gallon bag of dried apricots (I think the kids have eaten half already).

The kids are eating fruit by the fist fulls, I actually bought a 1/2 bushel of peaches for canning and the family has eaten half out of the box. Pears are picked green and ripen on their own - this keeps them from getting stringy and grainy so they are ripening in the kitchen. Yellow wax beans are waiting for preserving.

4. Prep. Something We are getting ready to take Nee to high school in the city. We've found a host family in a high tax neighborhood (read more taxes to support better high school). They have an extra room or two and the willingness to take her in so she can take the math and science that is not taught in rural areas. Now what children are being left behind, Mr. Bush? The best students in the nation, all students who are not in wealthy neighborhoods, that's who. I'm dealing with it but I'm sad and angry to see my high school senior have to live hundreds of miles from home. She's gotten her external hardware out of her broken arm but that leaves essentially a new break to deal with.

Bought some extra canning lids while they were on special price.
School shopping out of town.
bought more good salt on sale

5. Manage Reserves I think at this time of the year that focus is on making sure the bounty is not wasted and is properly stored or given away fresh.
Realized that we have used 4 gallons of vinigar in one week and that I'd better have plenty of vinigar in food stores.
Began food storage inventory sheet - more on that later.

6. Cook Something new: No, just focusing on preserving now - though I did have to experiment with the apricots and find a way to preserve them a little in sugar and lemon rather than strait from the tree to the dehydrator (sans pits).

7. Work on local food systems: What a joy it is to can your buns off with someone else. Mrs Neighbor and I canned beans until 1:00 in the morning and quit because the vinegar ran out. She has picked up cloth bags to use at the grocery (yea), and is leaning to can and has plans for a grain mill. I have encouraged her to use mine - that we don't all have to own everything but oh well one more person buying canners and such means one more person who can take care of self and others.

I'm giving 10% of preserved food to land owners and any fresh that they want. Gave a whole grocery store bag (yes they do creep in) full of fresh green beans to the irrigation master as his wife asked for them.

8. Learn something new: I feel as though I am but can't say what exactly.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Oh I've got beans in my ears

And there's still a row waiting to be picked.
These all went to Dilly beans with Mrs. Neighbor last night.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Canning my Buns Off

Hey you all, the garden is producing like mad and so are the local fruit trees - peaches, pears and apples.

I'm getting the kids ready for School (including one boarding out of town).

I've taken on seeing an incarcerated kid 3 times a week.

So, I may post as inspired, but right now I feel I might expire.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Free Use Canning Labels

You may notice there are canning labels on the side bar here. These were created for me by my oldest starting last year. She does them in layers in adobe - I'm in awe.

She has posted them here in case anyone else would like to use them. You only need to cut and paste to word, how many you fit to a sheet depends on your printer. On mine, she puts my name and the date but you may even hand write that on yours.

I put them on the jars with clear packing tape and they come off easily with no uber sticky glue left on the jar.

I'm crazy about them - but I'm crazy about that kid, too. Besides I used to label with masking tape and a sharpie.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Beans Galore

While we were away the neighbors picked and ate all the beans they could. Yesterday we picked about a 1/2 Bu.

Nee: Mom, what are we ever going to do with all these beans?
Me: What do you mean, I always can this many beans.
Nee: Every thrid day?
Me: Oh, I see what you mean

Nee: I think your are trying to feed a village beans and corn.

The photo was taken after giving a good amount to the fellow who helps with irrigation. I call the picture, "Berner with Beans"

The beans magically turned into 35 pints (amount corrected)of Dilly Beans - OK I worked through the night canning.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


We are home again after a charmed vacation. It was everything we could have hoped for and more. I love my quiet home in small town in the middle of nowhere but I do love getting out to the excitement of the city, too. At first the girls were afraid of the city and had to be coaxed out of the room (their first trip to a BIG city) but by the end of the week were right there figuring out the best routes on public transit and moving with the flow on the city streets.

Now it's catch-up time as the busy time of year is here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Independence Days #12

I'm posting my Independence Days early this week as we leave in the morning for San Francisco.

BTW, here is an "after" shot of the pretty bread and jam from my previous post (after the family got their hands on warm bread and fresh jam):

1. Plant Something: nope

2. Harvest Something: copious amounts of pickling cucumbers, the first slicing cucumbers, the first tomato, the first green beans, pecks of peppers, and apricots.

3. Preserve Something: Mrs. Neighbor and I canned 11 jars of pickled peppers (the long yellow kind) and roasted chilies over a wood fire for later salsa - all cooked it went into a 1/2 gal bag in the freezer.
Put up 2 half gallon jars of lacto fermenting kosher style pickles.

Next day: two loaves of bread, and bought raspberries on sale at the grocery to make 14 1/2 pints of jam for Mr. Greenjeans.

Next day: 9 1/2 pints of Pepper Jelly. I put what I thought were 2 habeneros in the mountain of peppers but it doesn't seem to have any heat. (Turns out the peppers were poblano or pimento - now I'm afraid all the hot peppers died). I'll let the Santa Fe peppers develop more next time see if we can't get some heat into them.

Next day: Borrowed Mrs. Neighbor's food dehydrator and put in a load of apricots.

4. Prep Something: Have really weeded a lot in the garden (don't worry there's still of weeds plenty left - no manicured garden here). Here's some before and after photos from the green bean makeover. Thre are three rows of different varieties of green beans:
Interestingly, the beans with the holes in the rows are an heirloom yellow wax bean.

Mr. Greenjeans cleaned in the shop and I cleaned in the garage (lots of moving mess left over). Like the weeding, there is more to do there too.

Mr. Greenjeans developed a way to get the fruit out of the top of the apricot tree. He has a 16' extension pole that he taped an small plastic bucket to. When we climb a 12 step ladder and rattle a branch with ripe fruit on it, we catch most of the fruit in the bucket.

5. Manage Reserves: I have to say we had decided that the jam that I made with splenda a few years ago wasn't safe to eat. I don't know if that's true but I didn't want to be the family that made the news as a cautionary tale. I put the contents of two dozen jars of jam into the compost and the jars into the dishwasher. I could use the jars anyway.

Nee made labels for all the preserves for me and put them on. She started doing beautiful labels for me last year using layers in adobe photoshop. We put them on clear packing tape and stick them on the jars. They don't leave a gooey mess on the jar when the label comes off. We've talked about posting the labels on the blog so everyone who wants to use them can.

6. Cook Something New: Everything I preserved this week was new to me. I had actually not made apricot cobbler before.

7. Learn something new: The lactofermenting is completely new concept to me. I'm still trying to understand it and giving it a whirl.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

It is Vacation Time!

Yeah! I am officially on vacation for 10 days!

I have three days at home to can and preserve whatever bounty the garden provides, clean, tie up loose ends and pack for our trip. Not only that but Mr. Greenjeans is on vacation too! (Him to me: don't work me too hard.) I tend to always have more plans than time but it will be good.

Here are some garden shots: Some of the corn
Tomatoes, Peppers, Brussels Sprouts. (Yes, the Tomatoes are caged but they need fences and they were planted a couple of feet apart but have grown together into one big massive tomatoe tangle).

One of the baby Watermelon

Here are some of the projects. The picture was taken before I made pepper jelly and the apricot cobbler. Also not pictured are the fermenting kosher dills.

Raspberry Jam in a Jam Pot my MIL brought to me from England years ago.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A Blog Award!

Thank you Rob for the award! (I saw your post before I even received official notification!)

1.The winner can put the logo on her/his blog.
2. Link the person you received your award from.
3. Nominate at least 5 other blogs.
4. Put links of those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message on the blogs you’ve nominated
6. Bonus points, list 5 random things about yourself that we might not pick up from your blog.

So, I nominate:

1. Lisa and her new urban homestead chickens for her generous sharing of her herbalist knowledge.
2. Caroline at Goldenacreliveson for her wonderful garden post and practical ho-to's
3. April at My Grandma was Green for a really great spin on the greening, simplicity movement. My Grandparents were so important to me and I feel as thought this honors Grands.
4. Ilex who homesteads in a condo for being one of the blogs I've read the longest, who show what you can do with limited space and her views on the world.
5. Wendy? at Home Is... a cool blog I've recently found and started reading. The pictures have me wanting to move to Maine.

The Bonus 5 things about me (I took the liberty of shortening this list).

1. You may be able to gather bits an pieces about our critter from my blog, but we have 4 dogs: A Bernese Mountain Dog, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, A Border Collie, and a Golden Retriever. All are rescue dogs from various organizations, the best of which is Bernese Auction Rescue Coalition. We also have 3 cats: a Pixie Bob, and two black and white "tuxedo cats" (two rescues). We have 26 chickens (numbers to be reduced upon crowing) and a bunny.

2. As a child I worked for a week for a circus and when the circus left town my parents came early to pick me up to be sure I didn't leave town with the circus.

3. I've never been off the North American Continent (unless the blogger Cruise counts as out to sea).

4. I quilt in the winter the way I garden and can in the spring and summer (future blog posts, to be sure).

5. I own a Yamaha V Star 650 that I've been too busy to get out of storage from our move.

Friday, August 1, 2008

One More Reason Walmart is Objectionable

Yea, I occasionally shop Walmart - I've mentioned that good alternatives are over 100 miles away (more in the winter or spring when the pass is closed).

However, I again renew my pledge to avoid spending any money there. I will pay higher prices in a strapped economy to not support their exploitative ways.

edit: Is anyone willing to design a Democrats boycott walmart button?

Independence Days #11

The harvest is just beginning here and I suspect it will be can your buns off through September now.

1. Plant Something: Nope

2. Harvest Something: The neighbors were letting their raspberries die on the bush so I couldn't stand it any longer and picked one and half cups which I made into 1/2 pt. of Mr. Greenjeans favorite jam.

Harvested several pounds pickling cucumbers (and dill and peppers) and made 14 1/2 pts of spicy dill pickles. Took two jars to land owners. This recipe called for sugar which I reluctantly put in thinking it must be required for the preserving but I don't like the flavor (yes, I have that extra jar that didn't go in the water bath that I'm tasting out of). There is another batch of cukes on now so I'll try a different recipe.

Today Mrs. Neighbor is coming over and we are going to pickled peppers. We don't know exactly what we have - not for lack of labeling - but because her two year old went along and "collected" all the tags we'd put in the ground. We'll pickle the long skinny yellow ones, then lay a fire in the Weber and roast and freeze the ones that look hotter. The tomatoes are all green so this will preserve the peppers (with wonderful flavor) until the tomatoes are ready.

Mrs. Neighbor got our first Zucchini - she'd been hungry for that Zucchini. The slicing cucumbers are just about upon us with a vengeance.

The tops of our apricot tree (too tall to reach) are getting ripe and falling to the ground and so am harvesting ground apricots for the chickens (trying to keep ahead of the Spaniel whom I don't want to get them). Harvested grasshoppers from the garden for chicken feed.

3. Preserve Something: Um, see above narrative.

4. Prep/Manage: Went to yard sales and found two matching infant car seats and an umbrella stroller for Mrs. Neighbor (who is 8 mos. pregnant) and gave them to her - I knew that's something she needed. She was thrilled - I guess the car seats were the expensive kind, and they were as clean as new.

Searched and searched for fabric covering for the seats in the trailer but ended up buying the cheapest heavy fabric Walmart offered (canvas). Wow, I noticed price increases there. Yes, I hate going to Walmart but we are in the middle of no where with a walmart and a Lowes.

Accepted an old wall cabinet a neighbor was throwing away. He kind of didn't get it that I wanted to lay it on it's back and plant strawberries in it.

Examined apple trees, peach and plum trees and found a pear tree in the Garden's yard.

Did the chore of taking homemade Beef Stew, Chicken soup, Chicken broth, Frozen party yum yums... out of the garage freezer, thawed them (to get them out of the ball jars) and thew them away. It was a very hard experience but I know that that freezer thawed for an unknown time (repeatedly) and that none of that food could be trusted. Next week I'll clean it.

5. Cook something new: Nope just getting by in the heat.

6. Work on local food systems: The first farmer's market was on with only one small vendor. The produce just isn't ready here, and they were having trouble getting vendors who produced in sellable amounts. The dog park group was there, and people were taking orders for peaches and some folks were playing music... hopefully it will do better through the year.

7. Learn Something new: I really learn a great deal from the food storage group. I have everything to learn about lacto fermentation, but I'm going to try some of those cucumbers lactofermented.

From Sharon's site, I began to think of my garage as cold storage. I had been thinking cellaring, but really, we went a winter without a 'fridge a couple of years ago and just kept our food in the garage.