Welcome to the journey,the tale and the saga of our

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Once in a Blue Moon.

This New Years finds us with a Blue Moon.I am not to sure if there are omens that apply but here is my New Years wish.
Once in a Blue Moon is a phrase some use to express something that only comes along once in a great while denoting a special something.So with this in mind I think of the coming year and I hope it is a Once in a Blue Moon Year for one in all.Filled with good things that are rare and special.
As we slide into the New Year my attitude for the coming year will be , this year is a special one.I am dead set on that thought,if I have enough determination,positive thought and fortitude it will be. Lord knows this past year has been one wild ride leading us to grow and find strength when we did not think we could so really how could things be anything but better?
I'd like to thank all of you readers for reading along and coming back to check in with us. The coming months will be busy here, like Spring the homesteading work will return and we hope you will too.
Here's a toast to the New Year may it be filled with greatness,rare treasures,hope and love.
Chance, Rois, Issac, and Sol Dahms

Monday, December 28, 2009

Reply to comments- magazines

I am enjoying the conversation that is going on in the comments box,it is good and has me full of thought.
Although most of us do not consider ourselves consumers we still do consume goods. Goods of choice that fit our own criteria.
Seed, animal feed, sewing notions,yarn,canning things,books and the supplies we all need that we ourselves can not produce that enable us to make and create.
Many choose to seek out the small local crafts people,farmers and ethical businesses in our own communities.It is a way to start a change in our world,our economies and the minds of others. We are already doing this,talking about it,voting for changes, leading by example,slowly we are making a difference. The people of the United States spoke up and there is now a four season garden at the White House.Eyes are opening.
So why could there not be my dream magazine? Sure the magazines sitting on the stores racks are about being a consumer and the companies who advertise within the pages support this way of thinking. But if a publisher looked around they would find plenty of smaller producers of goods out there to advertise.The small guys who are over looked and need the money more than those big box stores do.The companies we still shop with.Would it be so bad to see an advertisement for canning jars?
I am daring to dream here. I tend to go against the grain when some one says "Oh,no that could not be,happen,could not work or some such thing." Hrafinstaad is a dream no one thought possible yet here we are doing it.I won't live my life in a box,thinking outside of the box is what keeps me going and dreaming.
So with the hopes of continuing the discussion I pose this question: If there was my dream magazine what kinds of advertisements would you support? What products or companies would fit into the non-consumer life style? HA! I am daring you to think outside of the box folks by pairing advertising and non consumerism.


P.S I know I know buying a magazine goes against the non consumer's thoughts but put up with me for a moment.Personally I feel a good magazine with lots of worth while information is like buying a book.And like a good book I keep them.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Kitchen Gardeners International: What’s a home garden worth?

Kitchen Gardeners International: What’s a home garden worth?
I found this through an email we received today. It's a topic of conversation here around our house and thought it might interest all of you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Magazines part 1

I have been working on this posting for awhile now.The thought came to me while standing in a long line at the store one day. The gears in my head started to roll and I was left thinking." Well how about that? Although I love magazines I no longer buy them why is that?"
Like I said I love magazines,the glossy paper,bright photos of all sorts of temptations and the random bits of information they house. But their charm is gone and to tell you why let me start at the front door of my life.
Let me be self centered for just a moment and start with myself,the first magazines I turned my back on were "fashion" magazines,it started one day as I nursed Issac as a brand new babe.Someone had brought me a pile of magazines to read as I sat nursing Issac, should have been good right? Not so much.In this glossy tome was an article about how horrid it was to nurse your baby,that was just the beginning of it I won't go into the supposed damage it would do to my looks,intelligence and sanity. Not wanting to wake the now sleeping baby on my lap I did not throw the magazine across the room. And not wanting to be called a litter bug I did not throw it out the window.It did end up in the trash were it belong. Yes the trash, those were the days before curbside recycling and the days when women were getting arrested at the local mall for nursing in public.
Later on I did come back to "fashion"magazines once my postpartum hormones had settled a bit,it was still no good. The only times my body was going to be bone thin was if I was recovering from a bad Crohn's flare up, going through all of that hell just to be that thin was not my idea of beauty. There is just no allure to puking my guts up and curling up with pain all in the name of "fashion". And when would I ever need any of those clothes?Could you see it? Me who rode a bicycle for transportation peddling along, in the rain with 6 inch hells and a long flowing gown? I have seen it done here but it was for one of the many bike rides we have here for some fun loving reason or another.(Portland may be the only city I know of that hosts a naked bike ride,don't worry it is legal here and funny to see.) As for the make up, here in Portland women just don't paint on two inches of goo to look good,it's just not part of our culture I guess. Again flying along in the rain on my bike I'd end up looking like Tammy Fay Baker crying for the T.V camera. Now let that camera pan around to the curb outside of my front door.
If I stood at the curb and faced my 1,1oo square footed house I would see our humble suburban homestead, the lawn we are slowly but surly removing,my artistically inspired front porch and the gap that my beloved and much missed plumb tree once filled. There are a few shrubs planted at the foundation of the house,our little apple tree,my mock orange and the leaning blue spruce tree. Sounds fairly suburban right? There should be lots of magazines to fill me with inspiration and the pockets of the local home improvement stores right?Magazines with names using the words cottage,small,creative,home,garden, that pledge to teach you how to live in a small space with style and elegance.
I bought it hook line and sinker for the first few years we lived in our house. How does one go about living in 1,100 sq ft when you are a growing family of four, who have more hobbies than any hobby store? There were lots of articles titled something like "How to live in a small house." I admit I bought the magazines,the glossy paper was so bright and shining, the story line promised to make my life better and the treasure hunting raven within me was awed by the whole package,oh so bright and pretty. I'd flip open to the pages of my desire and read some thing like the following.
"Meet Bob and Sue Smith they live in a lovely 2,400 square foot home in the suburb of Milknhoney." 2,400 square feet! That's not small! That's not a cottage! That is a full sized house with full sized closets, two bathrooms and a kitchen the size of my front room.
The story goes on from there, " Bob and Sue recently remolded their outdated kitchen with a modest budget of $20,000." Hello? Thats nearly half of a years income in my world.
Two years ago we remodeled our kitchen. Over a summer Chance and I ripped out a wall,moved plumbing,put in the cabinets, painted, hammered and nailed. It took us 6 months of planning to come up with our kitchen design.In that time we poured over kitchen ideas and collected a stack of remodeling magazines. Did we use any of the ideas we found? No for two reasons. The first we had $3,000 cash to spend and we were not going to go over our budget,remember we are Chance and Rois here not Bob and Sue. We did it and came out with $85 left which we used to buy a new backdoor that did not leak like a sieve. The second,We really don't think ANY of the plans we saw we planned for people who cook the way we do. Yes there were some beautiful to look at kitchens but no room for cooking. The kitchens that really made us laugh were the ones who's counter tops were covered from end to the other with kitchen themed knick knacks,walls covered in plate collections and ornate wood work.My only thought with those kitchens was."MMM greasy kitchen dust all over those million little things." Why would I want to spend my days cleaning all of those things? Oh I know they must have a maid.
Ok lets flip to another article there must be some writing with in that relates to my modest home and life. "How to organize your "cottage" ". Now here I have gleaned a few tidbits that have been the savior of my sanity. Everything MUST have a purpose and a place. Clean out closets and drawers a least twice a year to avoid clutter build up. Both of those are good but again the products the magazine wants you to buy to achieve an organized home are for Bob and Sue's not Chance and Rois' budget.
Spending $700 to build a closet organizer is right out.No matter what our closets are so small that Fred Flintstone would feel right at home. I spend hours cleaning them out and folding things in a way that Martha may or may not be proud of just to have everything come tumbling out the next time the door is opened. Wait, Sol's closet can't even have a door, it all just comes tumbling when you open his bedroom door. Sigh,I tried, I really did.
Next article please."How to Green your home in 10 easy steps." This one is one of the most frustrating and as outdated as Bob and Sue's old kitchen. I am already doing those said ten steps and more but want to do more. There must be something I am missing I always think. The media makes living a green life style into hard work and time consuming. A false propaganda,lies all lies! Recycling,Reducing and Reusing are so part of our lives now we don't even notice that we are doing it any more.It has become so simple; then the media's propaganda slips into my mind. "This is too easy,there's no work to it I MUST be missing something." But according to those 10 steps I am not.In fact we are doing steps 11 through 15 that the article left out.
The media tells us that there are 3 "R'S" to recycling and living a green life but that is a myth there are actually 7.
Rethink,Reduce,Repair,Recycle, Refuse,Reuse,Redesign. (from Food not Lawns by H.C Flores)
In between the covers of all of these magazines are lots of pretty things and authors telling me how to place them in my home just so. I want to fit in right? I want a lovely welcoming home right? I want.. right? Not really. I don't want to live in the boxes these magazines offer all glossy and perfect. Yes, I live in a cracker box sized house but I don't live in a box. I suppose if I had to live in a box I'd choose a planter box because there is life and growing there to keep me happy. But I think of our home as a treasure box filled with things that hold memories, joy, purpose,warmth and things to come.
The homes in the magazines show me no life being lived. Where are the crumbs,the dust bunnies,finger prints,pet rodents in their smelly cages or unwashed dishes? The un-mopped kitchen floor? Only un-mopped looking because as soon as you mop someone comes in with muddy muck boots or the chickens invite themselves to tea. Where do these people LIVE?
In our neighborhood there are 3 floor plans of 2-3 bedroom homes with 900 to 1200 square feet of plain and quickly built home. My neighbor Mrs K and I have for years now wondered where are the magazines for people in our neighborhood? Who has money or floor space to live the way they do in the magazines? And frankly I don't really want to but dream of a publisher who would see this void.A publication that went one step farther or one step down may be more like it. Truly small homes done with equally small budgets and an eye on the 7 R's. I want a progressive magazine that is keeping up with the times, how to do it yourself and moves you and it's self forward. Articles that start out with step one but then keep coming back to the topic as you move along on your journey.I know the basics of keeping chickens in an urban setting,don't consider them any thing but live stock so what are the live stock point of view issues that can come up with chickens? How can I remodel my kitchen myself,for a small sum of cash and I do mean small ? I want a magazine that rolls the words cottage,home,farm,mother,small scale,garden and urban into awe inspiring glossy photos of the new urban farm life that is rolling across our globe. Yes, yes I know there is a new one out there looming for my attention,the title promising farm and urban inspiration,I saw it and left it behind. I majored in art you see and I want a bit more style.I am not a home grown kind of girl. Take Frieda Kahlo and stir in Laura Ingills Wilder that's more me. That is what I want in a magazine,canning jars with vivid colors.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

On the 20th of December ......

On the 20th of December my lovely hens gave to us...4 Brown eggs. Such a thoughtful gift,one we will savor in the middle of the winter.It has been many weeks since our hens graced us with eggs.I am hiding today's eggs away for Christmas morning's breakfast. We are all hoping there will be a few more between now and then to add to our morning festivities.
This evening Chance and the boys made our latest Dark Days of Winter Dinner.We are a week behind due to a round of the flu and Chance has been working extra hours.
Chance was inspired by Issac's confession that he LOVES Chance's fresh pasta.This evening Chance brought both boys into the kitchen to help him.I really wish I had not been on the phone to my Dad at the time,I missed some great photos.

Dark Days Dinner a la The Dahms Men.

Lamb and Potato Raviolis with a Browned Butter Garlic Sauce.

Lamb from a local farm who's name I have forgotten.
Potatoes the last couple from our local farm store
Herbs from our garden
Pasta dough made from our 170 mile bag of flour and local eggs.
Butter from Tillamook Oregon,not organic.
Garlic from the farm store.

Chance got creative this evening by taking a small bit of lamb and grinding it into sausage meat.He then added fresh herbs,minced potato and garlic.All three of my guys were lined up making the raviolis in a production line.Chance then made a Brown Butter Sauce with garlic to pour over the top of the pasta.It was very good but we all agreed it was a little too rich between the lamb and butter.Next time we make this dish we will make a vegetable based sauce for the raviolis. The boys made plenty of the raviolis so we were able to put enough for maybe two more dinners in the freezer.
Both Chance and I believe it is important the boys learn how to be independent and how to work.Once the boys finished making the raviolis with Chance,Chance made sure the boys helped clean up the mess.Our number one rule in the kitchen is "Clean as you go".It makes life easier in the long run.

In my last quick posting I mentioned I was going to write about reading magazines and the give away I am working on, but I was so excited to share that the hens left us a Christmas present and then remembered the Dark Days Dinner needed to happen today that I have put my magazine posting off. I also can not say much about the give away until I finish the project for it. But I am coming back to both shortly.
I am pretty sure I won't have time to write until after Christmas Day.We are preparing for a houseful of family, friends and our four footed nephew Nico, cooking, baking, cleaning (sorry boys.) and dancing to holiday tunes.If I can't come back here before the big day,we wish everyone a happy holiday season filled with blessings,family,light and great cheer.
Chance,Rois,Issac and Solomon

Friday, December 18, 2009

I am here really I am

Just a quick note to say I am still here and playing catch up after a weeks worth of the flu.As soon as I find my way out from under the cookie dust and have a moment I'll be back.I'll hint at this tho' reading magazines and a give away from yours truly.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cheerful things

Our local pond is frozen ,here's Chance standing on the ice.

Baking Sugar Cookies,the first round.

Issac getting some Boy Scout Awards.

Sol's school band,he's 5th from the left back row.

Our friend Hugin visiting in the kitchen.

Our vintage Christmas village.

Our silver tree before we decorated it.

Dreidels and our snowflake snow globe.
(We honor both holidays.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Winter Chores

I was thinking that homesteading had slowed down for us with winter settling in but it has not,we are just doing different things these days. The chickens still need our care,there's wood to stack and split,spring planting to plan and as always food to plan for.
We have had a nasty cold spell here the past few days.I really should not complain about it, farther east of us it is well below zero and snow is falling in great amounts.The cold has added new chores to my list. When the weather is so cold I have to make sure the chickens are well cared for.Chickens are always thirsty beasts, with the temperature below freezing I have had to go out a couple times a day to give the ladies some hot water.They seem grateful for it, just like us a warm drink on a cold day is a good thing.Also birds burn an amazing amount of calories with the added cold they are working harder to burn those calories to stay warm. I am mindful of this in the kitchen and I am making sure they get every scrap I can come up with to add to their feed.I have also resigned to having no eggs until spring.First molting and now it's freezing cold there's not much hope of eggs. On a side note regarding eggs and this group of hens, Chance and I will be selling the younger hens closer to spring.We want to go back to the Aracunas that have been more dependable layers for us.We talked about eating the young hens but thought if we could sell them we could use the money to buy new chicks.
The wood stove....that's a story of love and hate for me.I love the warmth it gives us but there's some issues. When you come into our front door BANG! right in front of you is the wood stove all of 4 feet from the door,smack in the middle of one side of the room.Why it was put there is beyond me. Not very stylish but we live with it.And then there is the dust the stove creates.This time of year I could dust twice a day making me a half of a step ahead of it.
Then there is the wood pile which really is Chance's domain.Chance loves to cut wood.I love watching him do it,he has a gracefulness to him as he swings the axe over and over. Sol hates the wood pile and would chose any other chore to do if he can help it.Issac is mellow about it and just gets to work. Once the wood we have is cut and stacked we have to be sure to keep a tarp over it ,living in the soggy NW your wood can quickly become soaking wet and useless.And once you have cut and stacked a winters worth of wood you will be sure to safe guard your hard work.
Once we start to use the stove full time we keep a wood hoop filled on the front porch for ease.Tromping out to the wood pile out back when it is wet and cold or like this week freezing is not fun.We tuck the wood hoop under the eves to help keep the wood dry and cover it when it's wet out.
Ideally we would have 4 chords of wood for the winter months,this year we started with almost 3. In the past we had more connections for getting wood for free but I think more people are holding on to their wood or selling it.If the winter stays so cold we will have to buy some towards spring.
Our spring planting plans are rolling along.We now have a stack of seed catalogs sitting on our nightstands.Do other homesteaders read them selves to sleep over seed catalogs,cook books and the like? We are getting a good idea for what we want to plant.We need to start mapping it all out on paper.Some time soon we will spend some time in the garden areas working out the map. One thing for certain is the back yard garden area will be set aside for winter crops that will need covers.We were thinking this would look a bit tidier,our neighbors don't mind what we are doing here but for ourselves we want the gardens to have form and function.
Food, food, food but not foodies just cooks. I am keeping my eye on the price of oranges,it is coming down.As soon as I think they are the cheapest they will get it will be time to try our hands at making Marmalade. For the past too many years we have said to ourselves."This is the year,lets make Marmalade." So far we have not.The past 2 winters we have spent at the hospital with Issac leaving us not focused on anything but the moment.This year is the year. I'll have plenty of time the week in between Christmas and New Years. I could even get a boy or two to help me. I can't wait I LOVE marmalade on toast or vanilla ice cream.
Once we listened to a radio program about why space aliens would look more like blobs than people.It had to do with environmental reasons more than anything.But they also talked about what other living things here on Earth share genes,we share genes with Oak Trees,who knew? Today I feel like a tree whose sap has slowed with the cold so I am really feeling the connection to the oak trees. (Since we sometimes burn oak in the wood stove is that a bit morbid?Like burning a distant relative?) I do need to get to work though so I think I'll do some Christmas baking,that should do the trick to get me going.Warm oven, spices in the air and lets not forget the sugar I swear I absorb through my finger tips as I frost a million and one cookies.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Oh Fire Gods

Oh Fire Gods why have you forsaken me on this morning of record breaking cold? When winter has painted my windows with icy patterns of lace changing the views of the outside world. On a morning when my feet are frozen cold along with my finger tips and nose.
I brought you offerings to feed your consuming flames.Offerings of the bones of my beloved and gone plumb tree,twigs of apple and logs of a once swaying poplar tree. Shreds of paper fed to you like prayer flags flapping in the wave of your heat.
Yet you will not come and grace my hearth,leaving my loving sacrifice smoldering,gasping for life's breath and cold so very cold. Taunting me like a coy temptress so close but denying me the warmth of your breath. Denying me your crackling laughter.
If I danced upon the hearth stones and sang your praises would that woo you to flame? I could beat on a drum or shake a rattle in my frenzy,anything to see your glowing self.Shall I light some candles and set them at your feet?
Maybe the tiny flame of the candles burning will inflame you with jealously. Sending up a roaring rush of heat to warm my nose,toes and entwining your hot jealous fury between my fingers bringing them back to life. Leaving you to burn and brood within the stove all the day long.Muttering and crackling over the pitiful flames those candles dare to burn.
But,I am a more tender soul than that,no need for jealous rages or hot tempers here upon my hearth.Let me be the temptress sweetly coaxing you with whispers of my breath blowing charms into your ears.Feeding you with loving patience.Luring you to rise up and return to me.
Like the spider said to the fly "Won't you come into my parlor and stay awhile?"


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Dark Days of Winter Challenge dinner #3 And more

This weeks Dark Days Dinner is a pretty good one. We were able to wrangle together the last bits of some of our summer growing along with a few choice things from with in our 150 mile radius.There is one side dish not with in the radius but is organic.
Here is our menu:

Grilled Chicken - feet traveled about 10,it is one of our own
Flour Tortillas- Made from our 170 mile wheat,50 mile butter
Tomato Salsa- Using the last of our hanging tomatoes,home grown onions and herbs from our
Shredded Cheese- Left over from our first Dark Days dinner.
Steamed roots and zucchini- from the farm store 10 miles and our own garden/freezer.
Homemade Re-fried beans- not local but organic. We felt the burritos would be lacking with out.

This past week has been a up and down week here.We found out that Sol dose not have Crohn's Disease an up.The first down Issac will need to have his Gallbladder out some time in the coming months.Second down the doctor bills are piling up fast leading me to call the school to see if they can find us some help.That was a humble moment but I will ask if it is for the boys and their well being.
The ups came after I threw my hands up, let go of struggling and put my faith to the test. I am now happily employed! I was not finding anything and had thought I would wait out the holidays before I resumed my search for paying work but, some where in there I had an Ah Ha moment.I put the word out to a few people that while unemployed I am available to babysit figuring it would maybe bring in a few extra dollars here and there,every little bit helps. I now have not one but two regular jobs.The first is one day a week I will be a nanny to an almost two year old boy who lives right across the neighborhood from us.The second job will be 3-4 part days a week working with my young friend Emily who is 17 and is special needs.(there is not a term for for what she has but close to Autism.) I have known Emily and her family for a long time now and have always enjoyed Emily.Strange I know to enjoy the company of someone who can not communicate with you but we just click and some times I feel a deeper communion with her that is beyond speaking.Saturday Emily and I giggled all through lunch a thing that her mother says is rare so I think we are on a good start. The final ups to all of this is both jobs are VERY flexible and the pay is way more than I was seeing through job postings. Letting go is a wise thing when things are looking bad,it takes a deep bravery,is scary as all heck but trust in it you will be ok no matter what faith guides you.
Now I am going to do something I said I was never going to do,I would keep it as a guarded treasure to covet. I am going to share with all of you my Great Grandma's recipe for Dark Secrets a family favorite Christmas Cookie.I really only said I would not share it when my step mother, who was straight out of a story book, wanted it and was going to change it. Change it! Then it would not be what it is a light moist bar with a chewy layer of dates and walnuts on the bottom all rolled in powder sugar.
If you can get them use Black Walnuts since they have the best flavor. For the Dates some years I use the whole pitted Dates and chop them some years I use the pre-chopped Dates kind of depends on time and money either will work. They freeze well,I made ours today and they will be a temptation calling from the freezer until Christmas.

My Great Grandma Berg's Dark Secrets.

Preheat your oven to 350
Oil a 8x8 square pan or if doubling a 9x13 rectangle.
Baking time- 35-45 minutes

3 eggs beaten
1 C walnuts chopped
1 C dates chopped
2 Tablespoons oil
1 Cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 Tablespoons flour. Yes only 5 tablespoons.

About 1 1/2 Cups powdered sugar for rolling.

Mix in order.The batter is all egg but don't worry.I also don't recommend using a mixer of any kind for these,the dates and nuts make it difficult. Pour into your pan and bake.

The timing on these is something to watch.Just about the time you think they are ready to burn they should be ready to pull out.You are looking for a deep golden brown crusted top.And when you test the cookies like you do for a cake the knife or whatever you use should pull out with a bit of moist not wet batter on it.
Now you have to move quickly, be sure to set up your work area while the cookies are baking.As soon as the pan comes out of the oven run a knife all round the edges of the pan to loosen the cookies.Now cut in the pan so you have 2 inch or so squares.Quickly roll the squares in powdered sugar and set aside to cool.You want the cookies to be hot when you do this so the sugar will stick.Sometimes bits of the dates and walnuts fall off as you pull them from the pan,you can do a repair by gently pressing the bits back into place.Cool or at least mostly cool if you can't wait and enjoy.
Dark Secrets were my first round of this years Christmas Cookies.I still have Lemon Melt Aways,Sugar Cookies,Gingerbread Cookies,something Chocolate and one more something I don't know what yet. Our tree is up,the lights are glowing and the house is starting to smell like the holidays as well.Perfect combination considering winter has rolled in with it's icy breath.
What are some of you making for the holidays?

Thursday, December 3, 2009


I just wanted to update all of you,Sol's blood work came back showing he is healthy as can be so there is (at this point) no need for further testing for Crohn's,Whew!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dark Days of Winter Challenge #2

I have not actually planned out a dinner just for the Challenge. It's one of those weeks where we need to eat up what we have on hand.And between the holiday left overs and a birthday dinner here over the weekend there has been no time or need for something else.
I suppose since tomorrow night we will end up eating a dinner from our own stock pile it could end up being pretty darn local.I am planning on baking one of the chickens we butchered here at home,you can't get more local than right out your backdoor, served with some of the roots we bought at the local farm.So there it is my offering for this week.
Chicken- feet traveled 50
Root Veggies- miles traveled around 10.

Chance and I have been talking about this challenge and the affordability of it.Sometimes we just can't afford to buy organic sustainable foods in the quantity we'd like.Between me not working outside of home and a mountain of medical bills cash is tight.Some days I just have to be able to have enough to feed our family.
But as some of you know Chance and I have a plan of multiple years.We are working towards being more self sufficient urban farmers. As seed catalogs start to come we are using them to help us map out the coming years plan of more garden beds for fruit and veggies.Not only are we working on more but we are working towards a four season garden.Our dream is to be able to grow more of our own food so we can have the organic produce we want saving us money to purchase what we can not provide for ourselves.
Indoors we have also been working towards a more independent sustainable life. It's not only the way we eat that we are working on but the way we look at things in general.
One of these points came to light just recently and I am proud of us for accomplishing it.I noticed that over the past few months it is taking us longer and longer to fill our outdoor garbage can.We are now up to a month to fill the can which has led me to request a smaller can.We will be saving money and helping the planet. I think our efforts to buy items with less packaging and being super aware of what we are throwing out is showing.We have a system here for how "garbage" is looked at. Can the dog,chickens or cat eat this? Can this be recycled either at the curb or re purposed? Not much makes it to the compost due to the chickens but we do ask that question too. Would someone else find this useful? And this time of year do we need this paper for kindling?
We have also looked at what things can we make for ourselves that normally we buy. Chance started two kinds of vinegar this past weekend with this in mind.Chance had read a blog entry about making pineapple vinegar and amazingly we had one as a treat here at the house. We also had part of a bottle of wine left over from the holiday dinner so he started some white wine vinegar as well. So Chance recycled some left over things to help us along on our journey.
The holidays are coming which is hard to believe since it has been so mild here.This evening we are decking the house for this festive time of year.Soon the house will smell of holiday treats baking and be filled with Christmas cheer.
This week is all about doctors appointments for both boys.Sad to say young Sol is having tummy troubles and the doctor wants him to be tested for Crohn's as a precaution. Don't ask me how I feel about this yet,not going there as of right now,it's filed away until I have to face it full on.Say a prayer that it is just a passing thing and the tests come back showing nothing. No matter the outcome I will carry it.My children are a gift from above and to quote my Midwife "God would not have given you this child if he did not think you were the right one for the job."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

It is early here so I am taking a moment to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.
There are many things I could write about that I am so thankful for, my husband,our boys,family,home and health are right at the top but I have a busy day ahead and it would be such a long tale, our guests would arrive to me sitting here at the computer clicking away and no dinner ready.
Today set aside your woe's, gather around with those who matter and as you see all of their faces smiling remember to be thankful for what you have.
Blessings to you and yours,
Chance,Rois,Issac and Solomon.

P.S Today I am thinking of you Pa.I miss you singing to us in Latin at the dinner table,you laughing and the sparkle in your eyes as you cuddled the little ones.Forget the Huskies,what about those Beaver's? See you on the other side.We love and miss you.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Mutiny

I am about to commit mutiny dear readers,a crime in some eyes is about to happen.Am I quivering in my boots,thinking twice about my approaching deed ? Briefly I did both, then I threw back my shoulders and said to myself,"Too bad,they will get over it."
What is my deal? I am changing the Thanksgiving menu. Scandalous,crazy me I want change.My family has had the SAME thing every year since before I was born.A dull bland menu without any joy left in it,a menu that leaves food on my plate and is so out dated that I wonder at it. Like last years calendar it has got to go.!
The old menu was a typical American Thanksgiving meal.Turkey,Stuffing,Mashed Potatoes with Gravy,Sweet Potatoes,Cranberries, Corn,Salad and Rolls. MMMM Bland Starch.
A few years ago Chance and I started changing things,slowly and quietly.First it started with the Cranberries.My family ALWAYS had a wiggling log of jellied berries that made a sucking noise as it came out of its can. Chance started to make his Cranberry Relish,(I wish I could share his recipe because Damn it is good,but there is no recipe.) offered right along side of the canned. After a couple of years what do you know no one was eating the canned stuff any more.Bye bye can-o-cranberries!
Next came the salad.Chance makes a good Cesar Salad 100% made from scratch.What do you know my Mother was wrong,the family loved it.Bye bye plain tossed salad.
The same year we changed the salad I changed the stuffing to Cornbread Stuffing. No complaints so it has stayed.
Last year as I cleaned up after dinner and was filling plates for the family to take home I noticed no one had eaten the Corn and no one wanted to take any home.Then why am I making it? Bye bye Corn.
Now I have nothing against Mashed Potatoes or Sweet Potatoes,we have either of them with dinner most weeks.But come on like I said we and the rest of the family eat them often there's nothing special to them.
This year much to the shock of my mother I am revamping the rest of the old menu.

Hrafinstaad Thanksgiving Menu 2009

Turkey brined in a citrus herb brine served with gravy.
Cornbread Stuffing
Roasted Roots,Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes, Parsnips,Carrots and Beets with a bit of Garlic.
Fresh Green Beans with Honey and Almonds
Cesar Salad
Desserts, Pumpkin or Chocolate Pie and Flan.

I already know my Brother is on my side because I asked him," As long as there is gravy for the turkey I am good with a change." to be exact. My Dad and Cousin are bachelors who are always happy with a home cooked meal they did not make so they won't care.My own household has my back on this one so that's covered. Our invited guest won't know I changed the menu.And as for the Cousins who are else where this year,they don't count this year.
It's my Mother and Aunt,the matriachs (see def.#2) of the family who will turn up their noses and sigh over it. What about tradition? And my answer is times are a changin'. Holidays to me are about getting folks together to share in the days celebration. The family has lots of other traditions I won't mess with but this one needs to become our own.Chance and I host all family dinners and never mind but we both feel it is time for my Mother and Aunt to completely pass the torch to us. Times are changing and I may or may not hear about it.Maybe next year it will just be the four of us sitting here on Thanksgiving Day eating something so far removed from tradition I will regret making the changes but right now my back is straight,shoulders are back and I am ready to change.
Cooking good food for others gives Chance and I huge pleasure.It is our way of saying "We are SO glad you are here with us." I hope the family can see that by changing things we are just finding our joy in the meal again and sharing our love for all of them.
We hope your Thanksgiving is blessed with bounty,gratitude and love.
Chance,Rois,Issac and Sol Dahms

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dark Days of Winter Challenge dinner #1

This evening we had our first Dark Days of Winter Dinner and we went all out and feasted well.We also learned some interesting things at the store today which I will get to as I go along here.
Many weeks ago Chance had read about a cured meat made from Pork Jowls called Guanciale. Guanciale is dry cured meaning it hangs in a cool dry place for weeks on end to do it's curing.It has a mild garlic- herb flavor and reminds me of Bacon a bit,just less salty. There is a blog we follow,One Hungry Chef and that is where Chance found our dinner idea. We started the curing of the meat 8 weeks ago and when we signed up for the Dark Days Challenge we just knew this would be our first dinner.
So here is the run down of what we made and what we discovered.

We made for Dinner- Carbonara the way the Romans did.

Chance made the pasta from scratch. We found today a flour company Stone Buhr that is kind of like a co-op of wheat farmers that all live in either Eastern Washington State or Eastern Oregon. We cheated a bit with this one and this is why.On the bag of flour it said we could go online, enter the date stamped on the bag and they would tell us all about which farm our bag of wheat came from. We figured that maybe we'd be lucky and get the farm in The Dalles Oregon since that's within our radius or maybe there would be a farm in Washington within our circle. Well, we ended up with a bag of flour from Eastern Washington,the farm is 20 miles out side of the radius on my map. We tried, and like I said in my last posting grains will be our biggest challenge here in Western Oregon.
The eggs came from the neighbors since I forgot eggs at the store. 2 came from one neighbors coop and the others were store eggs from Vancouver Washington.
We also needed Parmesan Cheese now that was interesting to learn about.There is not a local Cheese Maker who makes Parmesan,Wisconsin was the closest we could get. The guy at the cheese counter showed us some local cheeses and we picked a semi hard cheese called La Mariposa 5 Esquinas from Sweet Home Oregon, 96 miles south of home.Good cheese and a fine substitute for the Parm.
The original Pork Jowl we bought to cure came from Carlton Meats about an hour west of here.
Chance wanted to add his own twist to the challenge and opted not to use any oils in the cooking of dinner.We had a pint of heavy cream from a local dairy that needed to be used so Chance made his own unsalted butter to use. Chance's other twist was he did not use any salt in making dinner since we did not see any local salt today at the store.
With the Pasta we had a plate of fruit.Today we went to a bike race at one of the local farms we go to often so I was able to buy right from one of our favorite local farmers.Kruger's farm is on Sauvie Island which is within the city limits so it's really local.I sliced two kinds of Apples and one type of Pear.
Last night Chance and I were actually watching TV and came across a show about a 100 mile food challenge this town did.It was interesting to hear what the people missed,how they made do,and seeing the film footage of the families cupboards being emptied at the start of the challenge.One family did get to keep their jar of honey since it was local.Seeing that opened our eyes,wow there's so much we just take for granted!
Today during our shopping trip we read labels,many labels and they can be misleading.Yeah sure we are used to some of the misleading information on products but today we were looking for a different kind of information.
For example I was thinking partly that we may be able to find local wheat from Bob's Redmill flour company,they are based here in our area and well known.None of their packaging tells you where the grain comes from.Then we were wondering about something in the bulk isle.Most items were marked with point of origin but we found one that said to ask the department manager for the information.The bulk foods manager was very helpful and told us that we were not going to find much grain to buy within our radius.He also told us Bob's Redmill is just based here and they bring in all of their product.
We toured the store today just to see what we could find.Dairy,meat and eggs where no problem but veggies were a different story.Most of the vegs were from either Mexico or California yet they were labeled Organic.Where dose one draw the line here? Organic but from far away or Local but not certified Organic.Which one is "greener"? The veggies for this challenge is most likely going to be the challenge for us. We shall see. We saw plenty of local apples and pears at the store.
One of the other things we learned today is, there is a difference between where a company is based and where the product comes from.If I buy from a local company that uses product from out of state is that supporting a local company or is the carbon foot print not worth it even if the product is sustainable, organic or whatever? Lots of the labels gave us no clue as to where the food its self came from.Luckily many of these were on the packaged food isles where I don't really shop much.
I am still thinking about all of this,it certainly is big yet it makes sense in some ways and ties into what we are trying to accomplish here. Now to start thinking of the next meal......

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sour Kraut done!

Hey it's me wearing one of my vintage aprons.

Today Chance and I processed the sour kraut.It had to be done with Thanksgiving coming and the family about to fill the house we needed the counter space the kraut bucket was taking up.
I think it took longer to heat the canning kettle than it did to fill the jars.Our 5 gallon bucket of kraut had really shrunk down so, we ended up with 7 jars to put away and one to put in the fridge to be eaten soon. We are happy with it.Sour Kraut is not a huge part of our diet,the jars should hold us most of the year.I may take that back by the end of the jars but I have written down the amounts used and the amount of jars we ended with so I can always adjust next fall.
To process the kraut we heated the kraut in our large kettle until it reached 185 degrees.(Ball Blue Book said 185-210 degrees.) Then we packed it into hot jars until it was an inch from the bottom of the jar neck.We then poured in the hot liquid from the kraut until it reached the bottom of the jar neck.The jars were processed for 20 minutes in the canning kettle.
Overall Sour Kraut proved to be an easy thing to do.I liked that we did some work,let it sit for many weeks and then could finish it.
I did notice that without my glasses on, the jars of kraut could be mistaken for Apple Sauce opps that could be bad,I made sure we marked the jar lids in big letters KRAUT. I could just see me the sleepy headed mother at 6 AM packing school lunches,reaching for what I think is Apple Sauce and packing the boys Kraut instead. I really am useless until I have had many cups of coffee.And I think the only smell I am focused on in the morning is the coffee I am waiting for.
Tomorrow I figure out my Dark Days Challenge Dinner #1,come back soon to see what we come up with.Have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dark Days of Winter Challenge

Look what I am trying out, 3rd annual Dark Days of Winter Challenge S.O.L.E , A challenge to cook one meal a week using Sustainable,Organic,Local and Ethical foods and then write a blog posting about it. I can pick foods from within a 150 mile radius of home.I don't have to give up coffee,chocolate,oils or spices to make my meal. Notice my order of importance there. The blog posting will also share our findings,what we ended up using that's not on our list and just our thoughts.
This challenge got Chance and I talking and thinking.We have thought about the miles our foods travel and the impact those miles have but other than buying bits and pieces,growing/raising our own and supporting local farms when we can,we have not done much I suppose.
Today we got out a map of Oregon and drew a 150 mile circle around Beaverton.Wow,there's lots of food grown in that circle.I know we can find lots of dairy,meat,veggies,fruit,nuts and breweries for most of the year. But with winter coming in the veggies are going to run low on options.That's fine we are up to the challenge.
I know we are only doing one meal a week for this challenge but already I am thinking about foods and things we cook with that are not made within that 150 miles. Cooking oil,sugar, rice,baking things like baking powder hmmm how deep can I go with this?
The challenge dose say I can make my own list of what I am going to use that comes from farther away.Here's the things I have thought of so far,baking items such as baking powder/soda, vanilla ect.Those are the few things that might stump me.I may not end up baking anything for those meals but just in case they are on my own list.
One food group I am most interested in find out more about are grains.I know grains are grown here in Oregon but what kinds and are they grown outside of my 150 mile radius? I am definitely taking some time to find my answer.
Well we have some food for thought,literally, to work on for the winter months.It will be interesting to see what we learn about our food and ourselves as consumers.Stay tuned I will be cooking our first S.O.L.E meal this weekend.

Look what I found in the coop!

No kidding we really did! An Emu Egg of all things. Some adoring fan of ours tip toed their way into the back yard and left us a BIG surprise. We check the coop at least twice a day,it was not there last night when I locked the girls snugly in.
My family loves a good joke but none of them will own up to it.My brother says he wishes he had been the one since it's such a great gag.I sent Issac a text message this morning and he had no clue either,he's going to ask the neighborhood kids today at school.
A mystery it is for now and we love it! A funny joke and a treasure to keep.

Update! Our young Solomon did it! I told you my family LOVES a good prank! I guess awhile back Sol was with my Mother at Goodwill and Sol spied the Emu egg and bought it.My Mother gave him the idea of hiding it in the coop,it just took Sol sometime to work it out.I guess bringing in the garbage and recycling cans from the curb last night was his cover. I have I ever told you all how much I adore life with boys?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Apple Fritters no yeast..

I have been trying since Sunday afternoon to sit down and write,the phone has rang,the door bell too and five million other little moments that have kept me away from here. So let me back track a few days and get caught up.In fact I'll back up to last Saturday.
As I wrote last week the family and I went to help move The Urban Farm Store to their new store front.The high light of the day was any homesteader's wildest dream, an entire pallet and a half of CANNING JARS and LIDS! Oh my! We filled the whole back of Chance's Land Cruiser.Two thoughts went through my mind, first one, quick, lets just make a get away! No we would not do that but man o man what a temptation.The second,Dang it! No camera what a great photo that would have been. Everything else was that stuff at the end of any move,the random bits,the things that are too big to load with anything else. We had a good time visiting with the Urban Farm folks,a given in our books.
That was Saturday on Sunday Chance awoke wanting something yummy for breakfast.The daily bread was still rising and so was Chance's hunger meter,what to make? I remembered I had been wanting to make a Fritter recipe I had not done in a VERY long time.So long that it was B.C - Before Children days.
The last time I made these we were camping with friends.We had picked some early Huckleberries that were not enough to just eat so I made them into Huckleberry Fritters.
Sunday I did not have Huckleberries but I did have some apples that needed to be used up. Of course I tinkered the recipe a bit.The book said to slice the Apples,then dip them individually in the batter to fry.Well that seemed like more twiddling around than I wanted to do.So instead I chopped the apples to mix into the batter.I also added a teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg because the batter needed a boost. Apples sometimes need something to bring up their flavor in my mind. The final change I made was I rolled the fried fritters in cinnamon sugar.
I am sharing the recipe with all of you and it will be below.I like this batter,it is light and kind of egg-y like Beignets ( with out the work or the waiting.). It is also not sweet which means you can use it even for a savory type of Fritter.Another plus to me is it dose not use yeast,instant gratification.

Plain Fritters- From: The Betty Furness Westinghouse Cookbook (an oldie but goodie!)

1 Cup Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
2 Eggs beaten
1 Tablespoon Veg.Oil (or whatever you have) Plus more for frying
1/2 Cup Milk or Water

Stir together all the dry ingredients,then add the wet ones,mix it up till there are no lumps. The batter should come out a lot like pancake batter.
Now you can get creative. Like I said I chopped up my apples but the book says to dip slices of apple in the batter then fry. The book also talks about using other fruits as well as clams or leaving the fritters plain. (why?when you can add something yummy.) If you choose to use canned fruit you will need to drain all of the juices from the fruit.
Ok once you have chosen wither to add something or not mix it all in the batter until your addition is well coated.
In a frying pan you will need to heat about 2 inches of oil. The book gives no temp for this and I did not use my electric frying pan so I'd guess around 250-300 degrees .Or until when you drop a bit of batter in it sizzles.
Once your oil is ready scoop enough of the batter to give you the size you may want. Place scooped batter into hot oil. The batter dose not spread like pancake batter but will rise and puff up.I made mine so they were about 3-4 inches across.
For once this cookbook is a bit lacking in directions esp about the frying part of the fritters. I fried them on the first side down until I could see golden brown edges starting to form. I then turned them over.I checked the bottom often and turned the fritter again once the bottom side was golden. The book did say the fritters take 3-5 minutes to cook and it did. I would just treat the frying of these like you were making a thick pancake and you'll do just fine. I turned the fritter more than once on each side before they were cooked through.
Tomorrow Chance and I will process our Sour Kraut that has been pickling away for the past 6 weeks. Besides writing, the processing of the Kraut has been put off a couple of times this week too. Our book said the kraut could sit for up to 8 weeks so even if tomorrow follows this weeks trend of side tracking anything I have planned I am covered for another 11 days.
That's it for now. Please leave me a comment if my directions seem off to you. Like I said the book was not helpful so I winged it and passed my wings on to you.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sourdough Starter fed with Spelt flour

I have been wanting a Sourdough starter for sometime now.It seemed like every time I made one it failed.I tried all the little tricks I could find just to end up with a molding mess. I finally got it right this time but I kind of cheated.
Chance and I had talked with the bakers at our local whole foods store about sours and they said keep trying. I even asked them if it could be done using spelt flour,they said it could not be done. I guess being regular faces at our store finally paid off, the bakers said all we had to do was ask for a bit of their starter and they'd give some to us no charge.So last week Chance asked for a bit of the bakery's starter, we brought home this nugget of sour-ness and gave it a try.
I have been really wanting to try this out using spelt flour.I have spent a great deal of time reading up on different diets geared to help people with Crohn's disease and found these points.Lower or eliminate gluten and if you are going to eat bread Sourdhough is the best choice.The reasoning behind this is Crohn's patients tend to be at least gluten sensitive and anything sour you eat turns to alkaline once digested.An alkaline diet balances things in your gut so it helps.
I have reduced our wheat intake here at home.Both Issac and I have noticed a difference for the better.It takes some getting used to since I find there are times when I am wondering what to eat.People don't realize how grain dependent our diets are until you cut one out.
My sourdough starter is still alive and happy one week later.I have been feeding it every three days using whole spelt flour.It dose work after all, now I'll have to inform the bakers at the store.Although the original starter was started using wheat I am hoping after time the yeasts in the sour will have eaten up the wheat parts and I'll have a spelt base.I am not to sure about the science of it but since I am just wanting to lower the gluten not eliminate it I am happy so far.
Chance did some reading up on sourdough starters for me.I was wondering about the layer of liquid that had formed on the top of the sour.I was hoping that I had not killed it yet again.The liquid on top is actually an alcohol,yup booze created by the yeast doing it's job.Chance read on one website that miners used to drink this stuff.GAG! They must have been hard up to drink it.Hey, let's all belly up to the bar and order Sour Hooch shots.Thanks but no thanks I'd rather stay sober if that's the offering.
So far I have had time to make one loaf of bread and a small batch of Bagels.Both were good but the recipes will have to be doubled to feed my hungry crowd. I used whole spelt flour for the bagels and the boys were happy with them.The bread I made with half wheat and half whole spelt was good too, just not enough in quantity. I am still tinkering with recipes and the grains I use.Hopefully soon I'll find the right combination that makes the whole family happy.
We had a hard frost here this morning. My Dahlia's are still blooming which is not uncommon in this area when we have a mild fall.The frost has turned them tho' and soon it will be time to dig them up.Normally I leave my tubers in place for a couple of years but this year I have trade offers so digging is in order.
One of the trades is not really a trade.Chance and I went to a permaculture class last weekend about root crops.One of the roots covered were Dahlia's, I guess they are edible, this was not the first time I had heard this. Our teacher showed us his(he and his partner have not tried eating theirs yet.) and expressed his desire for more and of a different variety, I offered some of ours,I am digging them any way so might as well share them. Norris and his partner Tulsi offer classes at their house for free.Both of them have so much to teach and do it so freely and willing I wanted to also say thank you to them in a way that made sense in a permaculture way.
Today the family and I help Urban Farm Store finish moving to their new store front.If you live in Portland stop by soon and check out their new place. It's not far from their old store,just around the corner on 21st and SE Belmont.The new store is larger so they will be able to offer more to the community.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Brotformen, a bread rising basket.

Last night two of girlfriends kidnapped me away for a few hours.We went to our neighborhood Goodwill store,don't we live a wild life? We spent 2 hours looking over EVERYTHING,tried on clothes,shoes and clattered through the dishes. I found a small sifter,.99 cents, a restaurant wear (my newest collection.) coffee mug .99 cents,a polka dotted glass .99 cents and on one of the final isles I found my biggest thrill and it was a cheap one!
A Brotformen basket! I had knocked a stack of other baskets over,went to pick them up and there on the shelf calling my name was the Brotformen. Last winter I had seen them on the King Arthur Flour's website for around $ 30, I wanted it but not a price I wanted to pay. The basket last night had no price on it but I was willing to pay up to $10 for it.When I went to check out I was quoted the price of $2.99, whoop whoop, my luck! My total for the night was under $6 what a great night to be stolen away!
So what is a Brotfomen? It is a coiled willow basket used in Germany to rise bread in.You put a thick layer of flour in the basket and place your bread dough smooth side down, in it for it's last rising.When the dough is ready to bake you turn the dough carefully onto your baking sheet.You end up with pretty circles of flour and a slight bee gum shaped bread.The flour and circles stay even once you have baked the bread.The darker the dough the more prominent the rings will be.

The King Arthur Flour's website sells them.I went onto their site today and found the directions on how to use and care for a Brotformen.I also spied while there a chance to enter their sweepstakes.You could win $1000 gift card plus a cookbook,$500 gift card and the book or $100 giftcard.I signed up even the $100 giftcard would be easily spent.
A loaf of handcrafted bread is beauty onto it's self. There's endless ways to take a simple bread recipe into a work of art. I used my everyday bread recipe,baked one as a cottage style loaf and the other came from the Brotformen. So pretty to look at.
My next pan on my wish list is a long Pullman Pan also called a Pain de Mie Pan.These pans make a longer sandwich loaf perfect for a more store bought look.They even come with a lid that slides on. Someday,but right now spending $40 on one pan is a bit ridiculous. It's good to have wishes.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Saving seeds.

My friend CAS over here, left me a note on my last blog asking about saving pumpkin seeds for next year.I am sure many of you have some sitting around right now and may be wondering the same thing,how do I save these for next year?
Here is how I do it and it can work for other vegetables as well**. Once I have scooped the seeds out of what ever veg I am saving seed from I wash the seeds to clear them of any goo that may be attached to them.I think this also helps to prevent molding. Now I lay the seeds out on either a linen type towel or if you use them you could use a paper towel.Pat the seeds dry.I then lay the seeds out in a single layer on a plate.Set the plate some place warmish,like the kitchen counter.I try and find a spot where they won't be in the way to often.Now you just wait for them to dry out.Now and again you can turn them over just to help both sides dry out quicker. Once the seeds are dry and looking like the seeds that come in a packet it's time to store them away.
What to store the seeds in is part choice.I store mine wrapped in a bit of paper with the name of the seed written on it.Some people store them in small jars or film canisters. These two are best since it means no critters can eat your seeds as midnight snack. My paper wrapping is safe for me since I know there are no snackers lurking behind my fridge. I have read that some people use those little packets that come in packaging,the ones that absorb moisture.Their name has slipped out of my brain but hopefully you know what I am talking about.(these little packets also say DO NOT EAT which is why I don't use them.)
For the long term there's a couple of other things. First put your carefully saved seeds someplace you will remember.I keep all of my seeds in an old cookie jar. (Cookies always disappear before I can put them in a cookie jar.) Next be sure the seeds are kept in a cool dark place,this keeps them from breaking down.

** When saving seeds from Green/String Beans I leave some beans on the vine to dry out on the vine.Once the pod is dry I shell the beans out and save them.Beans are to me the easiest to save.
With other smaller seeded veggies there is a different method that takes seeds,water,a jar and letting it all mold.I have yet to do this.There are lots of information out on the web on this.

CAS, I hope this is helpful and good luck.

Wintering in and Cashew Butter cookies

Halloween ended up being an early night here,we have a younger crowd of kids in the neighborhood theses days.Chance did have fun spooking a few young teens.When we pick our costumes Chance always picks something a bit scary while I pick a more lady like character to be,to guide the littlest ones up the walk to the door.
This year Chance was a space alien type someone and I was a 70's mama.I could not believe my luck when I found my suit esp.since it fit perfectly.

The next day was a stolen day here in the wet northwest,we awoke to thick damp fog only to have it clear up to brilliant blue skies.The day ended up being warm enough to be outside in just a tee shirt.Not wanting to waste such a treat for the first day of November we spent the day out side wintering things in.
Chance built a cloche over our young Swiss Chard bed out of parts he had in the shop. We are hoping it will work and allow us to have fresh Chard all winter long.
I planted a cover crop of Red Clover,raked leaves that I added to the path in the back yard,chopped down the Sunflowers which had trunks not stems.I left the sunflower heads out in the yard for the birds. I also cut down the Hop vines.Chance twisted the vines into wreaths; I am not sure what he has planned for them but they already look nice as they are.
Once I was indoors I baked a batch of Cashew Butter Cookies from a recipe I picked up at our local whole foods store.The cookies are super rich and no one was able to eat more than two due to the richness. (I am posting the recipe below for all of you.) I used the Cashew Butter Chance makes here at home, he makes it chunky and sweetened with honey, both of these points stood out in the cookies I will be making them again.

Cashew Butter Cookies - from New Seasons Market

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl stir together:
1 1/3 Cups Flour
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt

Add to the above:
1/2 Cup Butter
1 1/4 Cups Cashew Butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix together until mixed.Spoon heaping Tablespoons onto a cookie sheet and press down with your fingers.(These cookies don't spread much.) Bake 12 - 15 minutes or until edges are browned.Let cool before removing from cookie sheet.(This step was important,until the cookies are cool they will fall apart if you try and remove them while hot.)
The recipe says it will make 10 -18 cookies which I was thinking would keep me from trying them again due to the cost of the Cashew Butter but, I was able to make 24 medium sized cookies from the batch. I also was thinking about their crumbling so easily would not make them easy to transport or send in the boys' lunch boxes.But maybe if I made them into a sandwich filled with butter cream frosting they may be able to travel.
The weather report is saying it will be clear and sunny here this week.I hope it holds true,we are headed into the wet gray season, a few more days of dry sunshine is welcome.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Cooking up a Cook book

I have a passion for cook books.I read them like the juiciest novel.I take them to bed with me to read myself to sleep. I keep a stack of them on the coffee table where most people house magazines. The best ones are vintage ones,they not only have long forgotten recipes.sometimes for the better but in their backs are usually a "helpful hints" section.Tidbits of archaic home keeping using items that are no longer made and entailing more work than a modern woman wants to do.
I am working on writing a cook book for our boys. Both boys want my recipes and cook books.You see in their youthfulness they can't see that, just because they will someday move into their own homes where they will have to feed themselves , I won't be dead; I'll still need those books and recipes.
Looking through my Holly Hobbie recipe file that was full of clippings the wheels in my head started to turn, a seed of an idea was planted that could grow into the cookbook for the boys.Then Chance brought out my own recipe box and my grandmothers.
Let me side track for a moment.My grandmother's recipe box really added to my thoughts on my book to be written.When grandma died no one wanted her recipe box.I did but I always seem to want the things no one else wants.One mans trash is another man's treasure.
Grandma was a horrible cook, that is why no one wanted it. I think every one of my cousins were remembering Tater Tot Casserole. The one dish Grandma made every single time one of us grand kids came to visit.The dish that made all of us gag and forget we were hungry.Layers of tater tots,hamburger,cream of mushroom soup and topped with cheese.Trauma at the dinner table. No wonder Grandpa was so lean and the cat so fat.
When I opened Grandma's box there was the jewel, that moment of bliss,my treasure in the trash,Grandma's handwriting.Neatly written with excellent directions and notes about her results or changes. And two of my Aunt's handwriting and way in the back the name of the recipe written in Norwegian my Great Grandma's writing.
That moment of pleasure is what I want to capture as I write this crazy book. I want the boys to someday open their book and be able to say."Look here's mom's,Nana's,Great Grandma and Great Great Grandma's writing." My boys are tender heart- ed family orientated kind of guys, they will get it . My vision, part cook book,family tree and family history all bound together.
Not a new idea,many families have these books but I am inspired none the less.It has motivated me to sort through my own recipes and pitch the ones that were bad or never made. Issac also reminded me to start writing down the measurements for things I just make. I have a few years until at least Issac is out the door I should be able to have the book ready for him.
Homesteading has slowed down a bit.The weather is wet and cool here.We started to put parts of the garden to bed for the winter.My hens are still not laying.They are excused for now because they are molting.Poor Abby is nearly naked and just as the weather turned.(how dose that work? They molt just as the weather is cold.) Two more weeks and the Sour Kraut will be ready to can. Just settling in for the coming months focusing our work towards indoor projects.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What the..?!

It's amazing where pumpkin goo lands when you use power tools to carve pumpkins.It was fun and I'll wait until day light comes to find the rest.
Happy Halloween,

Monday, October 26, 2009

Take a can of soup and serve it up with Holly Hobbie.

What to write to all of you.? I could write about the chaos that is my front room. Chance is still working on painting it and along the way he's doing some repair work he discovered that had to be done now verse later. The chaos is getting to me,when you live in a small space and use every single inch it gets tough to have things turned up side down. The wall color is beautiful and will be worth the extra waiting.

Over the weekend I found a treasure that I am sure only I would view as one.I found at our Goodwill Bins a 1970's recipe file,sunny yellow with one of the icon's of my youth standing on the front,Holly Hobbie. The folder is accordion style filled with clippings starting in the mid 70's.I thumb through all of them.There were lots of add a can of___soup, a box of Jello some Coolwhip and even one recipe that called for 3 teaspoons of MSG. MSG?! People really used that stuff,wow so not the earthy hippie fare my Mom cooked.

I found it to be a sad thing to find thrown away like that.Someone had cared enough about their family to file away all of those bits of paper,carefully trimmed,folded and tucked into its appropriate niche. A nifty time capsule of food trends, advertisements and even a credit bill that was so politely written.
I do wonder though did this person know they had clipped and saved 9 Chicken and Rice Bake recipes from the Campbell's soup can's?
I found one clipping I do remember having someplace.You took a cake mix,baked it and then poked holes in the cooled cake top.Now you poured Jello over the cake,put it in the fridge to set up.Finally top with, you'll never guess,Coolwhip. MMM Chemical goodness.


P.S In the background of the photos you can kind of see the new blue paint I am so in love with.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Quilters I have a question

I know some of my readers are Quilters,out of all of the five million skills including sewing I have I know zip about quilts. So I am asking if my idea sounds workable with the hopes that one of you will pipe up and give me a little input.
We have a vintage quilt that is a lap size that I use in the living room.We all fight over who gets the quilt in the evenings,that's how much we love it.It is also a perfect color combo for the front room.
It's a simple pattern of 4 sections of checkers,I guess that's what it would be at least in my mind.
Here is the problem,only one section of the quilt has some squares that are shredding with age. It is only the one fabric,everywhere else is reasonable for the age of the quilt.What I'd like to do is patch over the worst squares with a new fabric that has a vintage print,to try and stay in keeping with the rest. Will patching work?
Really, we love this little softy and I would love for it to keep doing its job.

Feedback,comments, What in the H*ll are you thinking, or any other response will be greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pardon the dust

Pardon the dust and cobwebs, I am dismantling the front room to prep it for fresh paint. How do cobwebs find the places they hang? With the walls bare and the sun shining I can see the reasoning for making such a mess.I can't wait to see it all put back,freshened up and homey once more.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sweet and Sour

Even without a plan for the weekend I was right and we filled our days up.We were all work and no play,this led us to a conversation about that,these mice need some play time too and must not always be the busy Ant. A few stolen hours to be the Grasshopper will do us good but that will be next weekend.
Saturday was busy but not with homesteading,we babysat our young neighbor while his younger sibling was rushed to the ER for some stitches. She'll be fine,these things happen when one is young. I must say I did adore our boys as young ones but, whew I had forgotten how busy they are at 4.We made it through,never underestimate the power of a large bin of Lego's and never be tempted to get rid of any you have,you may need them someday before your Grand-babies come along.
Sunday we decided to go ahead and start the Sauerkraut.This is a new item for canning for both of us.At first we were going to try the method of putting the cabbage into canning jars to ferment,you then process the jars later,but I was not to sure about this idea.I don't know why but it worried me.I was also wondering if we would have to use new lids once the kraut was ready to process.Since we could not find the answer to the lid question we opted to make it in a large container and transfer to jars later.
Oops, we had no crock or large glass anything.We did some double checking and ended up wanting a food grade bucket,the modern equivalent to a crock. Since we needed dog food we went to our local market to start our search.We lucked out,the nice man that works in the bulk section was just finishing filling the honey machine thingy.He handed Chance two buckets right on the spot. And HOLY COW! there was still honey in both buckets,score! Once home we scraped the honey out and ended up with 2 pints,one of blackberry and one of clover honey. We felt safe about the honey,the buckets still had their lids on all the way home so nothing could fall into the honey.
Earlier in the morning we had went to a local farm store and bought a 12 pound head of cabbage,we also had 2 smaller heads weighing 2 pounds each already here.Chance thinly sliced the cabbage heads and I salted. We placed the cabbage in a large bowl and once we reached 5 pounds I tossed the cabbage with 3 tablespoons of Canning Salt. I had to keep emptying the bowl into the bucket so we could keep going.Once we had all of the cabbage into the bucket we jammed it all down as tight as we could get.Our Ball book said the brine,which is the water the salt draws from the cabbage,should cover the top of the sliced cabbage.This actually took Chance's stronger arms to do.We then placed a cloth over the cabbage then, a plate with Chance's 30 pound Kettleball wrapped in a plastic bag as the weight. Now we wait for 4-6 weeks before we process it. The bucket-o-kraut to be is living on a section of our kitchen counter so I can keep my nose on it.I am certain if something goes wrong we will smell it first.
Today as I went to put something away in the pantry/studio I remember I had intended to share something with all of you.Years ago a friend of ours told me she and her parents always pulled their tomato plants that still had fruit coming before it frosted.How they did it was to pull the plants up by their roots and then they hung the plants with their fruits still on the vine upside down in their garage.The tomatoes then can finish ripening and you have fresh tomatoes for a few more weeks. This year we are trying it and so far it is working.I read someplace that it is not sunlight but warmth the tomatoes need to ripen so maybe this is how this works.
Still no eggs.
As of today I am starting to stash away odd ends and pieces of bread to make the Thanksgiving dressing/stuffing with. I know, no one has gone trick or treating yet and here I am planning out my Thanksgiving dinner. It takes a lot of bread to make enough stuffing for a 22 pound bird.And when the stores charge $3 a bag ( I'd need 4.) for dried out bread no one wanted I say no thanks I'll save my own unwanted bits of bread and make my own. To do this I put the bread pieces into a freezer container until I have enough to fill a cookie sheet.Then I cut the bread into strips like they do at the stores and place them on a cookie sheet.Put the cookie sheet into the oven that is preheated to around 200-250 degrees.Keep an eye on the bread,give it a stir once in awhile.You don't want toast or burning,just dried out.Store in an air tight container until you have enough to use.You can even turn the dried out bread into bread crumbs by giving the bread a whirl in the blender or a food processor.
Tip of the day: "Never eat anything bigger than your head"** - B. Kilban
** until you turn it into Sauerkraut.**


Friday, October 16, 2009

82 pounds = 410 Apples peeled and sliced

You know the movie "Forest Gump"? And the conversation about all the ways to cook shrimp? I feel over run by Apples, 82 pounds equals 410 apples more or less.Chance and I have peeled,sliced,processed and canned every single one.My hands are chapped and hurt. Ok maybe some of the pain is from bumping up my violin practice to an hour and half daily. But these hands of mine are stiff none the less. And as you can see from the photo above 82 pounds might not have been enough.The boys polished off a whole quart of Apple Sauce in one sitting.
How did my Great Grandparents do this? To put up enough food to last a whole year to feed a large family and sometimes a farm hand.There was no store to run to, the freezer was a hole dug into the cellar floor and town was a days journey away.
Grandma Barbara Ellen, can I channel you some how so I can gain your knowledge? Can you send me a message from the great beyond? So far channeling my Great Grandmothers has not worked.Great Grandma Elizabeth fiddled and was called to dances far and wide.When I play dose she help me? No,I still miss notes.Have I figured out the great math equation that is canning for a whole year no.Sorry but the number you calling is no longer in service or has been disconnected.DANG, I want my dime back!
I baked bread today,did more laundry, took inventory of the rest of my canning jars.It looks like I still have plenty of the wide mouthed ones to make a batch or two of Saurkraut. I went to the market for a few things we needed and tried really hard not to be so pissed that I was breaking down and BUYING eggs! BUYING EGGS, ugh store eggs suck.From here until spring eggs will be for baking only.No one will sit down and eat them. Then in the produce section I realized that soon our garden will be empty and I'll have to buy those things too.But, I did spy their Chantrell Mushrooms, $9.99 a pound,we have three pounds in the freezer, we saved nearly $30 by spending an afternoon in the woods having fun.
It is the weekend,no plan but I am sure we will find a way to fill the next couple of days.Bacon is coming out of the smoker before bedtime,maybe I'll make us a big breakfast minus the eggs. Damn birds you do this every year and it still bums me out.
Rois the egg-less Homesteader.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Chance and I have been working on a project that I have been saving to show all of you.It's 100% recycled,adds at certain charm to our little homestead and we love it. And here it is.....

Ha ha ,just a bit of fun. We are getting the yard ready for Halloween.Halloween is a big deal here it happens to be one of our favorite holidays.Over the next couple of weeks the yard will grow into a spooky corner of our little neighborhood.The kids have already started to stop and ask "Are you doing your yard again this year?" They love it even if it scares them so badly that teen aged girls pee their pants and I have to greet the littlest ones at the end of the walk.

Happy Halloween.