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!