Thursday

Using up the Christmas turkey

It's been awhile! Life catches up to me now and then and during Christmas, it chases me down.

We had turkey for Christmas, so today I boiled the carcass and froze five containers of turkey and broth for soup or noodles later on. I use Mom's homemade noodle recipe, which makes big, thick and delicious noodles. When I have turkey or chicken noodle soup, all I want are the noodles!

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbs oil
5 large eggs

Mix oil and salt, then beat the eggs into it. Sift the flour into a large bowl and make a well in the center of it, then add the egg mixture a little at a time, mixing with your fingers. You should wind up with a firm dough that needs to be kneaded a little to smooth it. Once that's done, cover it with a damp cloth and let it rest about a half hour.

Set your meat with plenty of broth to boil, then roll out the noodle dough at least 1/8 inch thick. Using a pastry cutter or a sharp knife, cut the dough into strips about a half inch wide and as long as you want them. I usually cut mine about 3 inches long because they're easier to handle when cooked.

Drop the noodles into the boiling broth one by one and let them cook until tender, anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. What makes the difference is how thick the noodles are, how fast the broth is boiling and the altitude where you are.

When they're done, the broth will have thickened. Serve with cooked peas and carrot sticks. Mmm... I'm ready!

Tuesday

Merry Christmas



A Christmas card from the old blog still says it all. Click below to see it.



Merry Christmas

Monday


Another harvest done! I dug dandelion roots from under the plum tree and roasted them for dandelion coffee. There was a surprisingly good crop this year, considering the weather problems we've had.

Several big fat ones tempted me to try, at last, to taste one fresh and then to boil a piece to eat like a vegetable. Believe it or not, it's good! The only problem with the boiled piece was that there was a stringy core in the middle of it. I don't know if they're all that way or if this was just an old one or maybe it was because of the dry year. It's something to remember if you're into survival. The taste was very good without salt or anything else added.

But I digress... :)

More about dandelion coffee here: Dandelion Coffee and here: The annual dandelion coffee dig



Ready to roast

Wednesday

Horseradish

Well, I dug the horseradish out of the mud. Now it's scrubbed and in a bag in the refrigerator, waiting for me to be inspired enough to get it ready to eat.

This was planted about three years ago and I harvested it for the first time last year. I thought there was plenty - two big roots and a few smaller ones, so I gave some away. Bad move! I ran out and have had to rely on commercial horseradish for the last few months. I don't eat it often, but a roast beef sandwich just isn't the same without it. Hotdogs are great with it, too, and my daughter eats it in pinto beans.

It's good for us, they say. I'd eat it whether it was or not.

I'll put this in the Vitamix and process it for a couple of minutes then I'll put a little vinegar in it to stop it from getting too hot.

Refrigerated, it lasts for a very long time. "They" say a few months, but I kept it last year for about 9 months and the end of it was just as good as the beginning.

Wish I had a picture. All that's left is a mound of dirt and leaves over a few roots left for next year's crop.

Sunday

Winter Storm - The Rest of the Story

I read one report that stated 17,000 homes were affected by the outage in Colorado, but the power company said 190,000 homes, which made more sense. Hardest hit were Denver, Boulder and Greeley. There are a lot of smaller towns around, so the number couldn't have been just 17,000.

I was without power from sometime Wednesday morning until after 5 PM Thursday afternoon. The weather was the coldest we had so far this year, with the temperature as low as 13 degrees overnight.

To set the stage, the only source of heat I have is a gas furnace with a blower and thermostat. No electricity, no thermostat and no blower. Even if they would work, the almost new furnace is electronically ignited and wouldn't work. So I was without heat and lights for about 37 hours.

I could have gone to a motel and I could have stayed with my son and daughter-in-law and I could have stayed with my daughter, but I was comfortable enough and rather enjoyed the challenge.

I stayed warm (around 62 to 64 degrees) in the kitchen (electric stove, so no heat there!) with three kerosene lamps and a few two liter bottles of hot water. Thank heavens that I have a gas water heater! The hot water was a God-send. I filled the bottles and put them on the floor where they radiated heat, much like old fashioned radiators do.

The kerosene lamps gave out quite a bit of heat, too, and I used them to warm my hands after being in the cold part of the house for this and that. I used candles for light when I went into the rest of the house.

Of course, I wore my warmest clothes and layered them, but I didn't need a jacket or anything special to wear.

Cooking was done over a candle stove at first, then over a homemade "buddy burner" which was quite efficient. I made hot tea and warmed up canned soup, but otherwise ate cheese, apples, peanut butter and the like.

Three of the two liter bottles were put into service keeping me warm while I slept. Since I keep my bedroom cold anyway, it wasn't much of a stretch to put on an extra blanket and slip the hot bottles into bed. They warmed up the flannel sheets and I was snuggly warm. To me, it felt better than sleeping in a warm room, I can tell you that!

The only things that concerned me was the refrigerator, the freezer and my cell phone. I have a charger for the car, but didn't have a lot of gas so I didn't want to run it unless absolutely necessary. It kind of made me mad at myself because I'm usually pretty good at keeping gas in the car, in case of...

All in all, I read a lot and knitted. Otherwise, time was spent keeping the water in the jugs warm and taking care of the lamps. I washed my hair in the kitchen sink Thursday morning because I just couldn't wait any longer. The bathroom was too cold to shower in; however, I could have warmed it up using the same methods as used in the kitchen. I kept thinking the electricity would soon be on.

And that's the rest of the story!

Friday

Snow Storm!

Fall came overnight on September 1 and winter came overnight on October 26.

The view across my front lawn yesterday morning...

I measured 12 inches of wet, heavy snow earlier before it quit snowing, so I don't know exactly how much we got. Reports had it at a little below to a little over one foot. It was enough, however much it was. It was beautiful, too.





Looking the other way... Yep. It looks like a foot of snow!

I had a hard time just walking around it. I didn't have to go anywhere.




Looking out from my front step.



Nope, it's not a monster, even though it could be dressed up for Halloween. It's a 16 foot elm tree. Or it was, anyway.

Ready for winter?

Tuesday

The End of the Harvest


Summer is over. And now autumn seems to be on the way out. Yesterday, we drove into the country to absorb the amazing colors of trees and bushes and bounty still in the fields.

In the back yard, glorious fall colors hover over frozen gray-brown and black tomato plant skeletons.A winter storm warning is set for tonight and tomorrow the high is supposed to be just above freezing. Yesterday the high was 77; tomorrow it's predicted to be 34.

Yesterday we pulled the last of the radishes and cut the lettuce back. Today I will cut what's left of the broccoli and peel the stems to freeze for soup later on. There are tomatoes ripening in a box on the kitchen floor and I need to sort through them today. If there is time, I'll do another canner load of tomato sauce. I found two big cucumbers when I pulled the frost bitten vines, so I'll make a jar of refrigerator pickles with onions and whatever else I can find.


I'm not through yet. There is horseradish to dig after this storm. Dandelion roots yet to dig and roast for "coffee," and the Jerusalem artichokes need cut back and mulched.

It won't be long, though, until activity out doors will be limited to shoveling snow and a walk on the sidewalks.

Friday

My Knitted Blanket and How it Grew (and is Growing)


Have you ever started a project that you couldn't seem to find an end to? About three or maybe four years ago, I decided to use up some yarn I'd had forever and knit a blanket (which is very easily said, isn't it?)

I used a ripple pattern and did actually make it big enough to cover up with, at least if I kind of hunched up and didn't move around much. A year or two later, I added two side pieces so it was wide enough to fit the bed from side to side. Now... well, it would be nice to have just a little overhang, so I wouldn't have to move to the middle of the bed to stay warm.

So... here I go again. I don't know if you can see it, but part of it's done in two shades of purple and white, a part of it's done in purple/white/turquoise and another part is done in white. These are not chosen color schemes, they're just what I had an abundance of. Now I don't have an abundance of any one color, so I don't know what colors to use. I have just about everything, from yellow, green, blue, red, pink, brown, black, white... well, you get the idea. What color would you use?

Sunday

Farewell to the season


In our town, there is a seasonal farmer's market that's quite popular. Every Saturday from the middle of June to the middle or end of October, fresh vegetables, fruits, breads, fresh spices and herbs, roasted peppers, crocheted aprons, wooden toys and more beckon to buyers from the parking lot of the old train depot, now a city museum.

Vendors come from miles around, bringing local raw honey, naturally raised beef, pork and chicken and hand made soap. Sometimes there is music as youngsters play instruments for charity or clubs.

It's a hustle and bustle kind of morning, with people coming and going, waving good-byes and hellos and weaving through the crowd with baby strollers, wheel chairs and running shoes. It's a fun place to be, even if one isn't in the market for bushels of tomatoes and wooden roosters.

Maybe I enjoy it so much because it's short lived. June to October is a short four months and sometimes the weather shortens it even more.

The last market of the season is a sad affair. Both vendors and customers begin to dwindle as cooler weather takes its toll on crops and enthusiasm until at last, there are only a handful of vendors showing up. Pumpkins, gourds, late lettuce, radishes, broccoli and cauliflower are in the spotlight now. Tomatoes and cucumbers are delicious memories, but potatoes and carrots promise rich winter dishes.

The last market of the season is here yet again. All good things must come to an end, I know, and I guess that's what makes them "good." If there was always a farmer's market, always a bushel of tomatoes, always fresh picked lettuce, always bright and beautiful pumpkins, we probably wouldn't appreciate them.

Thursday

Finishing up the season

I washed dishes, mopped the kitchen, washed and hung out three loads of laundry, caught up on email and started thawing six 3-pint containers of pureed tomatoes to make sauce, since it was a little cool. Then I looked at the weather and it said the temperature could fall to the mid thirties tomorrow night with a spell of cold weather over the next few days. There are tomatoes on the vine, squash and pumpkins and beans yet to pick. Radishes, lettuce and broccoli will be fine, but tomorrow is going to be a busy day.

I should also have quite a bit of meat to process by the weekend... weekend? That's day after tomorrow!

The tomatoes will cook down for sauce and go back in the freezer for another "slow" day. It's a good thing I don't have to cut wood, too!

Friday

As the season turns...


I grew sunflowers this year. Big, beautiful heads of sunflowers, some larger than others, all bright and cheerful - at least until the squirrels found them! I managed to save a few by sprinkling them liberally with red pepper, but the squirrels still got the best of the harvest.

The stalks stood, still green and tall, but headless, which was a rather strange site in my front yard raised bed, so we cut them down and cut them into lengths to be bagged for the trash man. What a waste!

Sunflower stalks can be dried and used as a supplement to burning wood. They burn faster than wood so they're good to revive a dying fire, or to start one with. If I had a woodstove, the trashman wouldn't get these, that's for sure.

The horseradish spilled out of its container this year. I'll have to be very careful digging up all the roots that escaped. The neighbors might not appreciate it in their yard.

And then there are the dandelions. There is a corner that's never mowed, where the dandelions and lambsquarter are free to grow. Each year I dig dandelion roots and roast them for dandelion coffee over the winter.

I wish for cattails in this kind of weather. Different times of the year, I wish for yucca. Guess I just can't have it all!

Wednesday

Homemade sandwich bread??

I've made bread for years and years, but I've yet to find a recipe or a method that guarantees a soft enough crumb for sandwiches. Too often the bread is dry or it falls apart when you try to bite into a sandwich made from it... so I went looking on the internet to see if I could discover the secret.

Well, I didn't. Not yet, anyway. What I did discover is that no one mixes bread by hand any more. Not even to stir sugar and salt and yeast into some milk or water. What's so hard about that? Mixers, for heaven's sake! If it's electric, plug it in. After all, we don't want to use a muscle or two when our money can pay for the electricity to do it for us. As far as kneading bread goes, not too many even know how any more.

Okay, end of rant. But I still need a good homemade sandwich bread recipe or method or something. I make sandwiches from my homemade bread but I'm ready for something better. Does anyone know what it takes to make a soft, slice-able bread that won't fall apart in a sandwich?

Tuesday

Back to Frugal

I've had a few requests to resurrect the old "Extremely Frugal" blog, so I'll try to keep up with it again. If you have any extremely frugal tips that haven't been already posted there, send them to me and I'll post them. Let me know if you want your name published with it, and exactly what name to use.

Sunday

I love it when the weather cools down. I always want to make bread... so I did. :) Beans. Stew. Soup. All those good things go through my mind (and my kitchen) as soon as the weather turns from hot to cool. This year, it turned overnight. One day the air conditioner was running and the next morning I was shivering and wondering about turning on the heater. No, I didn't.


I don't want to turn it on until it's necessary, but I have used the little electric heater a couple of times.

The garden is still trying, but after such a late start due to the weather, we're not getting a great abundance. I'm grateful for what is coming in, though and have done some canning and freezing.

The peppers, tomatoes and squash are just now starting to produce heavily enough to make it seem worthwhile. Every night the temperature has been dipping into the 40s and it's nerve wracking. There was a frost about an hour away from here and there is snow in the mountains already. What kind of winter are we heading for?

A wood burning stove sure would make me feel more secure! Maybe that's just me and maybe it's just the time of year. I always want to gather in all the harvest, stack the firewood and make sure everything is ready for cold weather.

Regardless of what we do to prepare or whether we prepare at all, winter is on its way. After a sweltering summer, I'm ready, garden or not.

Wednesday

Making Yogurt

Yogurt is easy to make. You don't need anything special to make it, so forget the excuse to buy a yogurt maker, even at a garage sale. You simply don't need it.

What you need is a good yogurt starter, which is simply a little bit of natural, real yogurt that doesn't contain anything but yogurt. Check the label; rule out the ones that use guar gum, sugar of any kind, fruit or flavorings. You want a yogurt that has live cultures in it because you can't make your own without them.

When you've found the yogurt (organic is best), take a cup or so of real milk from the refrigerator and put it in a well-scrubbed glass jar or bowl. Add a quarter cup of yogurt, stir it and put a lid on it loosely. Don't tighten it down; the lid is only to keep it clean. A cloth napkin or teatowel works just as well as a lid.

Now, set it in a warm place, like on the refrigerator or the top of the water heater or in an oven with a pilot light. Don't put it where it will get too warm - you want it pleasantly warm, but not hot or the live cultures will die. The best temperature I found was found on the top of an electric dehydrator (if you're frugal, you won't do this unless you're using the dehydrator for something else already).

Leave it at least 24 hours, then stir. If it's not done (taste it to see - it won't hurt you), leave it another 12 hours, then check again. How long it takes depends on how warm the environment is.

When it tastes like plain yogurt (slightly sour), it's done. Take a small portion to use as starter the next time, then you can flavor your yogurt or use it plain in place of sour cream in many recipes and on baked potatoes, etc.

Keeping My Feet on the Ground

Okay, so it's hot out there! Thank heavens for air conditioners. As I was daydreaming in the cool flow of mine, I remembered long ago when I would sit by the fire (in the winter!) and darn socks and mend small things by hand.


It's almost as good for you as gardening, but since it's too hot to sit by the fire and since the garden is begging to be weeded yet again, I'll save the soliloquy for cold weather.

Some of the weeds I missed earlier are growing to monster size. Why is it that weeds can grow undetected until suddenly you realize that's a four foot tall lambsquarter amongst the tomatoes? By that time, the root is half-way to China!

Anyway, I've been weeding in my bare feet and that's a whole 'nother creature. I've read and heard about it before and kind of worried the idea around in my mind, but I wasn't convinced there was anything to it. Then the idea appeared again in a newsletter I subscribe to so I had to look it up. I found some sites that were obvious quackery selling snake oil, but I also found a few sites that seemed to take a scientific approach to it and actually made sense.

If you've not heard of it before, I'll give you my take on it, but do some research yourself before you decide.

The earth is a generator of sorts, with a molten iron core and two magnetic poles. As it turns, electricity is generated. That's an easy enough assumption. It works. The problem comes with us (as usual). We have learned to "control" electricity and electromagnetic waves to enhance our daily environment. That's a fancy way to say we use electricity every day in many ways. Our bodies are made of a large portion of water, which is very conductive for electricity, so our bodies resonate with waves of various frequencies and strengths all day and all night long. These waves are not limited to the electric circuits we have around us. Radios, TVs, computers, wireless networks, microwaves, radio towers, cellphones and cellphone towers, TV towers... any kind of transmitting or receiving system creates waves. They all affect us. They have to; how could they not?

This page explains it much better than I can: Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?

I don't get paid for talking about this and I have nothing invested in it. I do think it's helping me. I have been sleeping better and waking up more rested than I have in a long while.

I know that it sounds strange, but we shall see.

Sunday

My Kind of Recipes

I have a collection of really neat recipes on the computer that I've gathered from here and there. Now, when I say "really neat" I don't mean "really neat" as in French cuisine that I can't pronounce OR spell or a fifteen ingredient Italian sauce. Not that I don't like those things, but I'm happy to let others make them for me.

No. My really neat recipes are very basic. They're fun, although sometimes difficult and often the taste isn't what I expect. Here are a couple of favorites so you'll see what I mean:

Rice Milk
4 cups water
1/2 cup raw rice
1/2 tsp vanilla

Cook all together until rice is very soft. Cool then blend and let stand for 45 minutes, strain and refrigerate.

Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 cup powdered milk
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup boiling water
3 TBS butter

Add sugar to milk and mix, then pour boiling water into it. Mid and add butter. Use immediately or reheat to mix butter back in.

Kool Aid Sherbet
1 cup sugar
1 package unsweetened Kool Aid or other drink mix
3 cups milk

Mix all ingredients until sugar is dissolved. Pour into a shallow container, cover and freeze for about an hour, until it begins to freeze around the edges and bottom. Beat until smooth, then return to freezer until frozen through. Let it stand a few minutes before serving.

These I haven't tried yet. If you try them, let me know what you think:

Margarine

1/2 C dry milk
1 1/2 C vegetable oil of your choice
2/3 C water
a pinch or two of turmeric (for color)

Add water to the milk and put into your blender or food processor. Slowly add the oil while blending, until the mixture becomes thick like margarine. If it doesn't thicken enough to suit you, add a little dry milk at a time while blending until it does. Taste before adding salt, if wanted.


Bologna

3 pounds ground meat
3 TBS Morton Tender Quick
1 cup water
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp liquid smoke

Run the meat through a grinder or process in food processor until fine. Add all the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Divide in two rolls, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerator 24 hours. Bake at 300 degrees for an hour in a greased pan, turning once about half way through.

I have one for salami, too, that I'm looking forward to trying, but I'm having trouble locating Morton Tender Quick locally.

Anyway... those are my kind of recipes. ;)

Thursday

The Blizzard of '49

Growing up in the mountain states, it's strange to think that some people don't know what a real blizzard is. I looked up blizzard images and found pictures of two inches of snow. Blizzard? Not quite.

A blizzard is when it's snowing so hard that you can't see more than a few feet in front of you and the wind is blowing so hard that the snow is falling horizontally. It's serious business, being out in a storm like that and one doesn't go out in it unless it's necessary, or unless you're already out when it hits.

I drove home one time with my 3 year old daughter beside me in one of the worst blizzards we've had around here. Another time, I'd just bought a brand new car and had to drive it 20 miles home in a blizzard. Another time I was coming home and, coming down a hill, drove off the side and landed with the nose of my car buried in a ditch covered with snow.

And on it goes... but I've never seen a blizzard that was as bad as the Blizzard of '49. I remember listening to the grownups talking about it when I was a kid and I was alive at the time, but we weren't living in this part of the country at the time.

"This part of the country" means Wyoming and Colorado. The Blizzard of '49 covered Nebraska, the Dakotas and Kansas as well before blowing itself out.

Weather stories like this are fascinating and frightening. For all our bravado and our houses with central heat and runs to the store any time of day, we are still at the mercy of nature. We don't like to think about it because we like to think we are in control. We are not.

The Blizzard of '49: A Weather Lesson Forgotten

Monday

Save Seed for Next Year

Now's the time to think about saving seeds for next year if you haven't already. With the economy the way it is and other things so uncertain, you may be very glad you have your own seed next year.

Of course, if you've planted seed that's been genetically modified, your plants won't produce viable seed and IF you should get a seed or two that will grow, you're doing something illegal by saving it. (Thanks, Monsanto)

If you planted hybrids, the seed may not produce true to type. That's a way of saying that if you plant saved seed from a hybrid tomato that was large and juicy, you may get a small, dry tomato from it.

Heirloom, organic seeds will grow true to their type. If you have big juicy tomatoes this year and you save seed, you'll have big juicy tomatoes from it next year. (Which is not to say that the weather doesn't have anything to do with it!)

So save seeds. From lettuce, from radishes, from squash and melons and corn and peppers and yes, tomatoes. Be sure to let fleshy produce get ripe before saving the seed. Much of what we eat is "green," in that it isn't ripe when we eat it. Sweet corn, squash and peppers, etc., need to mature to a stage that seems inedible to us. Corn needs to be dry and hard, squash will become hard shelled and maybe gnarled or warty, peppers will change color and become dry and wither and so on.

When you have saved your seed, store it carefully in a dry, cool place. Next year, bypass the seed racks and catalogs and delight yourself in planting your own saved seed.

Saturday

What if...

Did you ever notice that almost as soon as the summer equinox has passed, there is a vague hint of autumn in the air? It can be hot as blue blazes, but there's still that something... I wonder if it's some sort of primitive consciousness that alerts us to the fact that the seasons are about to change?

Maybe it doesn't happen to everyone, but every year about this time I begin to feel an urgency to get ready for cold weather. I want to put up food, make sure the blankets and quilts are ready, sort through sweaters and coats and just make sure I'm ready for cold weather.

Which is kind of silly, all things considered. I have central heat and very likely won't get so cold that I have to pile on all the blankets I own. There is a grocery store within walking distance, so even if it snows to where I don't want to drive, I can get to food. I know how many sweaters and coats I have and what kind of condition they're in (it hasn't been that long since winter!)

But there's that niggling thought: What if something happens and my furnace won't work, or the gas lines get shut off? What if there's an enormous blizzard and the grocery stores don't get food shipments for days... weeks? What if... what if. But that's what preparation is all about. What if.

If I were truly living in the country, the "what if" part of life would play an even greater role. Preparing for the next season is the name of the game and we humans are good at playing it.

Or at least we used to be. It seems like many of us don't know there's a game on, much less how to play it.

Insulated in our warm houses and our warm offices, we go out only to walk to the car (for those who are deprived enough to not have an attached garage) or to shovel snow (if you don't pay someone else to do it).

Every kind of food we could desire is available year 'round.

Preparing for the next season sometimes does seem like just a game and nothing serious at all. But... what if.... 

Wednesday

Finally, a harvest...

I picked the first two tomatoes! Yes, they're late, very late. So are the cucumbers and the corn and the squash. I'm hoping we can get a decent harvest before the first frost!

All the beets have been pulled and the lentils are drying in the garage. I am going to can lambsquarters and beet greens today. The harvest really is getting underway after all this time.

This is one of my favorite times of the year. I love to see the pantry shelves slowly fill with jars of colorful food and to be out in the sunshine picking corn and cucumbers and tomatoes.

When I had a family to feed, I used to bring in baskets full of produce each day this time of the year. Not so any more, but the produce I bring in is enough for me and certainly enough work for me.

I guess life evens out, doesn't it? I mean, I wouldn't have the stamina to put up enough food for a family any more so it's a good thing I don't have to!


Monday

Homemade Cottage Cheese

One of the pleasures of having real milk is being able to make real cottage cheese with it. If I don't use it up before the next week's delivery, I set it aside for a day or two to sour. When the curd sets enough to pull away from the sides of the pan, I put it on the stove and heat it slowly until it's hot - not even close to simmering.

I'm sure there are thermometers and "recipes" for making it, but I've made it this way for years because that's how Mom made it. Raw milk is safe at any stage unless it turns pink, so I don't worry, but don't try this with pasteurized milk. Pasteurized milk doesn't sour, it rots. It's not safe at any stage except fresh (and then it's questionable).

Anyway, after it's heated and kept at that temperature for awhile - maybe 20 minutes - I "cut the curd" and then drain it.

I use a long knife and draw it through the curd first one way and then another, gently separating it into cubes of about 1 to 1 1/2 inches. Then I cover a colandar with a piece of cloth and pour the curds and whey into it. I bring up all four corners and fasten them together, then tie it to the manual can opener that hangs near the sink.

I put a bowl under it all to catch the whey and let it drain for an hour or more. Salt, pepper and a little cream finish it off and if you've never tasted real cottage cheese before, you may not even like it.  If you're used to the bland, uniform, commercially produced "cottage cheese," the real thing can be shocking.

If you ever get a chance to get raw milk, try it. You might want to hurry, since our government is now treating raw milk producers like terrorists.

Thursday

Backyard gardening


Backyard gardening. Raised beds, containers (sorry they're not pretty) and a solar oven at work under the clothesline. It takes some work to keep it all together but that's what it's all about anyway.

This picture was taken earlier this year. The tomatoes (in buckets) are now producing. No ripe ones yet, but soon... very soon. There's nothing like the anticipation of the first ripe tomato of the season. 

One of the containers has a pepper which is very slow this year, just now beginning to bloom. There are two others in the ground 'way back there and they're just now setting peppers, so it's probably just the weather.

Got paprika, though! It's in the front yard (someone said you know a country person is living there when the garden extends to the front yard). It's my first time growing paprika so I'm kind of excited about it. The cost of the plant was less than a container of prepared paprika at the store. It looks like there will be plenty for a couple or three households for at least a year or more. Not a bad investment!

Tuesday

Ready to start canning

Almost! I've been picking lambsquarter (also known as wild spinach) every time I weed the garden (which isn't nearly as often as it needs, with all the rain we've been getting). I almost have enough in the freezer for a canner load - the first of the year. It takes a lot of lambsquarter because it cooks down like spinach and I don't have the patience to do a big batch at one time, so this is my compromise. I pull it up, pinch off the tender tops and the best leaves, then clean it and blanch it for two minutes. Into the freezer it goes until there's enough to do something with.

Friday

Photos

Do you see the bee in the logo above? I was taking pictures of the wild sunflowers in my backyard and the bee was an accident - a happy accident. Serendipity, I think they call it.

I'm not the greatest photographer, but now and then I do something by accident that please me. ;) My daughter, however... she's a photographer. She and her niece are busy setting up for the local Arts Festival where they will have (I think) 60 photos to display. If you want a peek at what they've done, look here:
Seasonal Illusions Photography

Good, huh?

Anyway, that's why I don't post photos all the time. They outshine me and it's kind of embarrassing... but I'm laughing. I'm proud of how good they are.


Monday

Canning Meat and the Harvest

I've been canning for years but have always been leery of canning meat. Year before last I finally got enough courage to can some fish that was given to me, and since I've discovered that I didn't die after eating it, I'm thinking about canning homemade stew. I will probably do it this fall, after the weather cools down but while I still have (I'm assuming) a lot of garden vegetables to work with.

Have you tried to can stew or soup? I'm wondering how potatoes would turn out. I canned potatoes one time when we had so many I didn't know what else to do with them, and they were okay, but just barely okay.

Saturday

Sunrise

Yesterday morning, I woke up after dreaming I was planting beans. I went back to sleep and dreamed that I was pulling radishes. So... I went out and pulled a few radishes that were getting really big and then I planted a few beans alongside them.

It's so peaceful in the early mornings when I can get out to the garden, but there are too many houses and trees here to see the sunrise and I'm reminded of it every time the sun peeps over top of the neighbor's apple tree.

Can't have it all, I suppose, but a time or two I've taken a drive just as the sun was rising and parked on a country road to watch it. It's worth the drive now and then.

A sunrise is a daily miracle. Poetry and songs have been written about sunrises. Maybe it's because a new day promises new beginnings. Or maybe it's because of the wonder of the light returning. Or maybe it's because we recognize somewhere deep down, that this is life at it's most basic expression - an expression that is outside of us and beyond us.
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Monday

Chickens

Try as I might, living here in town just isn't the same as living in the country. I can't have chickens here because my property isn't big enough. Even if it was big enough, the number allowed is very limited.

I'm griping today about this because I really like chickens. I love hearing roosters early in the morning and I love hearing a hen squawk when she lays an egg and cluck when she's content. And baby chicks? Oh, don't get me started!

One time I raised 200 chicks to butcher. ONE TIME, I said. I raised chicks many times, but never that many at one time. That was a job and so was the butchering. A couple of dozen at a time was enough after that.

I used to go out to the chicken house just to watch them. When my son was little, he loved chickens, too. We had a nice chicken house with a fenced in yard and he would go out there to play. One time he asked me to lock him in with the chickens so he could see them closer. I did and he stayed out there for a very long time, just enjoying their company.

I think every kid deserves to be friends with a few chickens.

Saturday

Solar Energy That I Can Afford

I can't put solar panels on the roof because the house is situated wrong for them. There's no room for them in the yard and I couldn't afford them anyway. I'm not sure they would pay off fast enough for me.

What I can do isn't exactly off the grid, but why not do what we can?

Here's what I can do:

1. Solar battery charger. There are all kinds out there, but there are some simple ones that work any time the sun is shining. You can get them that will charge anything from a hearing aid battery to a laptop battery and they can be found a whole lot cheaper than buying batteries over even a short period of time. You can use the same batteries over and over and over and it won't cost you a penny to recharge them. I can afford that.

2. Solar oven. On a hot summer day, I don't want to turn on the stove or do anything at all to increase the heat in the house! I bought a solar oven for less than $150 and it will last years and years - far longer than it takes to pay for itself in electricity (or gas, if that's the kind of cookstove you have). Besides that, it's fun. AND it's convenient. Put your food into it and forget about it. It won't burn even if you're late. I like that and I can afford it, too.

3. Solar clothes dryer. Hang your clothes on a line outside in the sunshine and let the sun do the work. It works even in the winter and any time it isn't raining or snowing (or hailing or sleeting). The cost of setting up a solar clothes dryer isn't much, and the cost of a few clothespins is even less. As a matter of fact, the whole set up can pay for itself in less than a month. I can afford that!

4. Do-it-yourself solar heat booster. You can help warm your home by opening the window covers during sunny weather, of course, but you can take that another step and line your windowsill with cans painted black and filled with water. If you can put lids on the cans, so much the better. Put the cans in the windows then close the drapery or curtains. The water will heat up in the sun and give up its heat when the air around it is cooler. You can move the cans back into the room to get the most use of the heat when you need it.

5. Solar water heater. No fancy setup needed. Just put out a jar of water on a sunny day and wait for it to heat up. Want it hotter than that? Use the solar oven concept and put a dark or black container under or inside a glass container. Or just run a little water through a garden hose and leave it in the sun. Hot water from a garden hose may not be safe enough to make tea,, but you can wash dishes or clothes in it or do other cleaning that needs hot water.

Yep... that's solar power that I can afford!

Friday

My Own Socks

Yes, there's more to life than food! It's not all about growing it and using it. Right now there's a pair of socks on my knitting needles. I started them before Easter! I had to stop and knit for a new grandbaby on the way, so I put them down and I'll tell you, remembering exactly what I did on the first one isn't easy.

I usually write things down as I go, but I'm not sure the notes I found are the right ones. Keeps things interesting, anyway.

My goal is to knit enough socks to never have to buy them from the store again. In the summer I don't wear socks much, but there is a time both in the spring and fall when I need socks but not heavy socks.

I've never knitted socks with laceweight yarn and I have a feeling it would take forever, but I guess it's time to try. After I get this pair done. And the pillow cases embroidered. And the bedside rug made. Oh, heavens, after I get the sewing/mending caught up! Maybe next year.

Wednesday

Broccoli Bonsai

It's so nice to get up in the mornings, get a cup of tea and go out to the "patio" while it's still cool. The garden is doing well, despite some strange weather this year. I can't quit planting, though. It didn't look like there was enough beets among the lambsquarter, so I planted another couple of short rows behind the broccoli - which is another story.

I bought broccoli from a local nursery and planted it within a few days, so it isn't my fault (this time!). Anyway, they're about 6 - 8 inches tall and beginning head out. After some research I discovered that happens when broccoli is left in small pots too long. Sort of like broccoli bonsai?

The only thing to do is to buy broccoli seed and start my own and hope the weather holds long enough to get a decent crop. Any plants I'd buy now, if any are still available, will likely have been in their small pots too long, too.

Live and learn. It's always best to do it yourself. Remind me of that.

Monday

Weeding "Greens"



Last year, I let an enormous lambsquarter plant grow in the back raised bed so it would go to seed. I picked quite a bit of seed from it, then it fell over of old age (I guess - or maybe it wasn't well rooted in the soft soil). This year, of course, the entire bed would be filled with baby lambsquarter plants.

I like lambsquarter, but that was a lot of it! We (my daughter and I) planted turnips and beets in the bed, then I "weeded" out the lambsquarter as it came up. Most of it was frozen for later use. I usually freeze greens, but this year I want to can them. I'm still picking... er, weeding them from the garden and letting some of them outside the bed grow. Those big leaves make excellent sandwich "lettuce."

This batch is growing alongside the raised bed where it warmed up the quickest this spring.

Lambsquarter, called wild spinach by some, is more nutritious than spinach and can be used the same way, raw or cooked. It is "good source of Niacin, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese" according to Nutrition Data.

It's kinda cool to harvest a crop that I didn't have to plant, don't have to water or baby along.

Saturday

How Not to Plant Lima Beans


I knew better, I really did. I'm still disengaging my brain from trying to do everything the cheapest way possible. That's not always the best way.

My daughter is helping me with the gardens this year because she only has a balcony to garden in and can't get her fill there. She wanted to plant lima beans, so decided to plant some leftovers from the bag I had bought to eat instead of buying seed.

Now, there's nothing wrong with planting beans that come in a package to eat, but when they're... maybe three years old?

We waited and hoped for them to grow, but only one did and it was from the last few beans that wouldn't fit in the row so I'd tossed out on the edge of the garden.

So... I went and bought lima bean seeds yesterday and planted them this morning. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping the season is long enough to get a harvest. If it isn't, I owe her a few pounds of choice, organically grown lima beans.

So far, I'm not making a very good homesteader in the garden. Other beans are not doing well this year either, so maybe (a tiny part, maybe?) it's not all me...

Thursday

Horseradish Flowers!

One of the country mindsets that is too often missing in the city mindset is that of "using it all up."

In that spirit, I took to the internet to find out what to do with horseradish flowers. It turned out that horseradish flowers can be eaten or used to make tea. Horseradish flower tea is used to treat colds and respiratory problems. I can understand why that would work!

The flowers are milder than the root, they say. I haven't tried them yet, but I will, since mine is flowering right now. Some people eat them with beans or meat.

You can eat the leaves, too, and they're a mild version of the root also. Use the young tender leaves and cut them up to put a little bite in your salad or on a sandwich.

Since horseradish roots are not at their best during warm growing weather, the flowers and leaves make a great substitute!

Tuesday

Homemade Butter

I'm blessed to have a source of whole raw milk. I put it in the refrigerator to set for two or three days then I skim the cream into a jar. Since I only buy a half gallon a week it takes a couple of weeks to get enough cream to make churning worthwhile.

Never fill a churning jar (a quart canning jar in my case) over half full of cream and you'll have a much easier time of churning. The cream needs room to slosh around. If the jar is too full, it won't "turn" at all.

I put the cream on the counter until it's at room temperature (or a little warmer in the winter), then I put the lid on it tight and get comfortable. I like both sweet cream and sour cream butter, so if the cream sets out a little longer, it's fine. Raw cream just sours; it doesn't rot like cooked (pasteurized) cream does.

Anyway, to churn, one must bounce the jar on the knees or leg or shake it or roll vigorously. I usually wind up trying all those options before it's over. If everything works perfectly, I'll have butter within 10 to 15 minutes. If it doesn't, it could take a half hour, so I do it when I want an excuse to sit for awhile.

I keep churning the cream until I see flecks of butter, then churn some more until the flecks gather together in one clump. It's time to stop at this point and pour off the buttermilk.

If I've churned sweet cream butter, the buttermilk will taste just like cream, except it won't have as many calories in it, so I indulge a little. I sometimes drink it as is, or put it over fruit or a pie. Both sweet and sour cream buttermilk can be used to bake or cook with, so I never throw it out. If I can't use it right away, it freezes very well.

Once I've drained the buttermilk it's time to wash the butter. I put in enough water to cover that's close to the same temperature as the butter and work it with a wooden spoon. (I wet the spoon thoroughly first to keep the butter from sticking to it.) I drain the water and repeat until it's almost clear, then set the jar at an angle or push the butter to one side. You may be able to contrive another way to allow the butter to drain on its own for a few minutes.

Then I take the butter out of the jar and put it into a bowl and add salt to taste.

Now, to bake some bread to use it on!

Sunday

Learning to live in the country in the city

When it first began to dawn on me that I could still incorporate my country ways, I'd been living in this city home unhappily for about five years. I'd sold the old place and moved into town due to health and other reasons as it seemed the most sensible thing to do.

Now the most sensible thing to do is to incorporate those things I love into the right now of living. It's satisfying to "go back" to where I once was and find that I can still do things to make life happier, save money and even get a little more real exercise. I am living a country life in a city home.

And that's my introduction to this blog.

Just how I am learning to live "country" again is a process of relaxing, of letting myself let go of working and trying to keep up - not with the Joneses, they never impressed me - but with the status quo, with what the neighbors expect, with what others do. With the background roar of city living and the almost enforced waste and the quick shopping trips and the forgetting that I can make my own just about anything.

It's a journey. Come with me.