Welcome to the journey,the tale and the saga of our Suburban Homestead.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

DIY love

 If we were ducks this would have been a great week but we are people so it was a dull and semi uneventful week.
  The biggest highlight to my week was the other evening the oven part of our stove did this crazy explosion of  flashing light and noises that sounded like a mad scientist's lab experiment gone wrong,really really wrong.it ended with a loud POP that put me in this crazy zone where you find your self in stop motion time.So my world paused and I was thinking..."Do I need to call 911? Do I need to run for it? What the heck?" No flames.no flying metal as the oven exploded,it was over and all was safe.I must say I have never been so grateful that Chance was home,for the first time in my life I was not too sure of what to do.I have a healthy respect for all things electrical and so does Chance,that stuff can kill you,we'd rather leave it to the professionals.
  We waited until the next day to open the oven to have a look.The element was fried and the part that plugs into the back of the oven was MELTED,craziness....See why we would rather leave electricity to the pros? So we need to replace the element with hope and prayers the oven still works.That is on the to do list for this morning.Cross your fingers for us,replacing a stove is NOT something to be doing right now.But if it is dead the stove top still works so we will be fine until payday next week.
  While rained in I have been keeping myself busy sewing.I have started an A-line skirt ,I just need to pick up a zipper for it and I can finish it.The calendar says summer is coming so I am trying to fill in some gaps in my small summer wardrobe.
  Some of you may know I have a passion for vintage stuff.Two of my biggest passions are textiles and aprons.I have a big stack of both. And although it may sound goofy I do wear the aprons ,even the red Hostess apron made from netting (looks like a Tutu ) for Christmas. It's a hoot and I love it.So here I am rained in and needing a project to keep my brain from going numb and I was surfing the web and found this pattern on line. It uses a vintage dress as the base of the apron(vintage textile,apron and sewing rolled into one! Whoop Whoop! )  and looked easy enough so I am giving it a go.We had a vintage dress in the Halloween box that did not fit anyone and most likely never would be used for dress up so I am using it for my apron.When I finish I will post pictures.
  This morning I found myself wide awake at 5 AM with no book to read and the rest of the household sleeping I checked in with some of the blogs I like.I found through One Pearl Button a link to a tutorial that is now on my To Make List, it is the Eco Travel Lid.I linked over to the tutorial and it is super easy to make. I will need the lining fabric so when I go for my skirt zipper I'll pick some up then.( I also found one more Super Secret Project I am working on for Chance and I's Anniversary.It's a surprise for him.) When I saw the Eco Lid I thought "Why didn't I think of that? " easy, can be made from recycled materials and re-usable perfect!
  Obviously I am on a DIY kick while I am waiting out the rain.This week I also found this blog posting at Homegrown Evolution 's blog. Now their posting is about projects and ideas that became disasters.I can appreciate this posting,not enough Blogger's admit to their flubs and it is unfair to my thinking.Crap happens folks,learn from it and you will grow. What grabbed my attention was the link for a book they are intending to read written by Mark Frauenfelder,the editor-in-chief of Make magazine.I was hoping it was this other book I saw,did not write down and can now not find,the title seemed close but it wasn't the book I am searching for.Frauenfelder's book is about his adventures in all kinds of homesteading DIY type projects and all of his ups an downs with them.(there's the connection to Homegrown's blog entry.) Now I have not read this book but would like to at least look it over all because of one of the reviews on Amazon's page for the book.The review is a snarky rag from someone who does not seem to understand why people make things for themselves.The last few sentences in the review mentions the amount of monies spent on DIY projects and how they are only for people with endless free time and money.Sure I can see that but it does not have to be that way. The rest of the reviews and the introduction to the book are in total conflict with the first review and since we have done many of the projects listed I am ever so curious to see for myself what's up with this book.Is it good information? Or is it just another person trying to make a buck off of information that is easy and most of the time free to find? Maybe he's yet another person to jump on the trend bandwagon,I don't know we shall see.Has anyone read this book? Let me know if you have.
  Homesteading and DIY are so interconnected that finding the line of difference is difficult to do.One can not just go out and buy most of what is needed when you homestead,you have to make it yourself .There can be a lot of power in that, freedom of choices,pleasure,satisfaction and the power called knowledge.
 I am going to spit in the wind here.I phrase it that way because boy have I tried to dangle carrots in front of my readers before and no one bites but I am stubborn and maybe this time I'll get someone to bite! Tell me your who,what,where,how and why's of why you DIY.
With that I close by saying, Just DIY it!
  Rois

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Homestead Revival: Tattler Reusable Canning Lids Give-Away

Homestead Revival: Tattler Reusable Canning Lids Give-Away

Oh my goodness! I can't believe it! I just learned about these awesome lids and now they are popping up everywhere. Stopping by Homestead Revival was totally worth it today with this give away going on.
Rois

Monday, May 24, 2010

Smoked Smelt




Just when I thought I would never have another homesteading project to share due to the crappy( daily hail as thick as a snow flurry,cold temps,pouring and pounding rain.) weather we have been having Chance smoked some smelt for snacking.
 Last Friday Chance and I went in to Portland to run a couple of errands and ended up stopping at Fubon our local and biggest Asian Supermarket.I have mentioned Fubon before and if you live here in the Portland area and have never been you should go.The prices on everything is well worth our trip all the way in,ingredients that inspire and it's fun to try out new things.
  If you go,don't be afraid to ask a fellow customer questions about what you are wondering about.Chance and I have had some informative conversations standing in the aisles.This last trip we learned how to make what the Thai's call Na-va (not too sure about the spelling but that is how the word sounds.) Na-va is made from tapioca flour,dyed green and rolled into little worms for a couple of different desserts and sometimes used in the southeast Asian dessert/drink called Three Color. I was super excited about finally learning how to make these.Growing up I lived for a time with a family from southeast Asia and one of my favorite desserts I had at the Ly's house was the Na-Va with coconut milk and tapioca pearls.It was the one dish we always bought so I did not learn to make it.But I am posting about smoking smelt so I'll get back on track now....
   While at Fubon we picked up a package of frozen Smelt Fish.Normally we like our fish to be fresh but since we wanted to try smoking these little fish we thought it would be fine.The package was about 1 pound of fish and was just over $2.When we came home again Chance defrosted the fish and found this brine for them.Chance soaked the fish for the 4 hours recommended and laid them out to dry (see photo at the top.) then smoked following the recipes guidance. We were happy with the fish but we are going to change a couple of things next time.First of all they are a bit too salty for us; so next time Chance is going to replace the garlic and onion salts for powder and see if that helps.And we will keep better track of the time,a couple of the fish were too dry.The fish are fun little snacks that are kind of like fish jerky.
 We came home from Fubon with 4 bags of groceries and our lunch all for $35.We bought meat ( 5 pkgs),veggies,noodles,spices (including a five spice blend for only 88 cents! ) coconut milk and some jars of sauces.
  I have been shopping at the local Asian markets a long time and know which products I like, my tips about learning to shop international markets where you may not be able to read the labels are: Take a gamble and try something new, if you like it memorize the packaging or save it for your next trip.You will also find that packaging can have pictures of key ingredients.In many countries not everyone can read so this is the way things are marketed for the none reader.And like I said just ask someone,a clerk or customer.If you are respectful and show interest you may just open a new door in your world.

 Over the weekend we celebrated Issac's 16th Birthday.It was great to have his gang of friends here and to see their smiling faces.I am impressed with this group of kids,we have watched them grow up and they are all turning out to be a fine group of young adults.Young adults with car keys! That was new this year and sure sign time is passing.
 In the photo you can see Issac's Voodoo Guy donut from a local shop,Issac always wants donuts instead of cake for his birthday.


Other that all of that we have been indoors...way to much,thank you very little Mother Nature. I am worried about some of my seeds rotting in the ground either that or they have all washed away with the rain. The only up side to the weather is if my seeds do rot it's not too late to replant.
Yesterday Chance made his first and very successful batch of bread.He has decided if he just tries eventually he will be able to bake.
Tonight for dinner we are having the Duck Wings we bought, a nice change from the ever present chicken.And that folks is all of the news I have for now.I'd be really interested in knowing if anyone has questions for us about anything you think we may know or do or even something I mentioned just in passing you would like to know more about.So shoot me some questions...
 Rois

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010

Design*Sponge » Blog Archive » small measures with ashley: eating in

Design*Sponge » Blog Archive » small measures with ashley: eating in

I love Design Sponge,I use ideas from it often and find many things that are appealing to my artistic eye. I have also just recently found Small Measure  and so far I am enjoying her blog as well.Check both of them out.

Rois

Thursday, May 20, 2010

 Yesterday when I went to use my recipe notebook I realized that it was time to transfer the recipes to a new book.Many of the pages are now so stained that reading the recipes is becoming difficult.My friend Kari gave me for my birthday a brand new actual recipe book complete with dividers and little pockets,a perfect new home for my recipes.
 When I first left my mother's home I had started my recipe book,I wanted to take with me some of the recipes I grew up with and the ones that were family recipes.Like my Grandmother's pickles and my Great Grandmother's Dark Secret's.Over the years I have added my own collection of recipes and made little notes in the margins.
  On the page with the Sugar Cookie recipe I wrote "Do not double unless one million cookies are needed." I wrote that the year of Issac's first Christmas.I had doubled the recipe and invited my friend Lisa over to help me bake and frost the cookies.I had a grand scheme to make these mini works of art out of each cookie.I was young and filled with ambition.Did I think ahead about the reality of it? No.Did I think about the fact that I was nursing Issac and would have to stop to nurse the baby? No. Did I know that Issac who was normally a mellow baby would have a rare cranky day? No. The project took us all day and the note was written to remind me of my folly. Now speed the years forward and I now have not one but two boys, (well I am actually known to say I have three boys because Chance can be a bit boyish at times. )  two boys who love cookies so I now triple the recipe and hope and pray that will still be there for Christmas festivities.At the bottom of the new page with the Sugar Cookie recipe I wrote a new note about the old one because someday  one of the boys will own the book and I want them to remember our family joke about one million cookies.
  As I have been rewriting I have been taking the time to make sure each recipe has directions. I never gave this much thought before,I knew what to do and to save time and space I skipped writing the directions down.But as I said someday one of the boys will own my book and I want the book to be used.
  Besides rewriting my recipe book I have been working on writing the boys their own books.I am gathering up all of the recipes I use from all of the different books I use.Both boys fight over who gets which of my books when they leave home.I shake my heads at them,silly boys I won't be dead yet ,I'll still need those books and they would have to wait to pry them from my cold dead hands. Or maybe a dust covered shelf but you get the idea.So having a book for each of them will keep them fed until the day comes to divide the cook books up.
 All of this writing of recipes finds me in a pensive mood.The stains on the pages are reminders that time has passed rather quickly.How did I get here so fast, copying out recipes for the boys for when they leave the house? Add in the fact that Issac turns 16 in a couple of days and talks about learning to drive,finding a paid job and (gulp) collages with nursing programs.Nursing? Yeah , we are not talking about the babe at my breast nursing but Nursing as a profession,wow.And just behind Issac will be Sol. Issac and Sol ,my two young men who eat cookies by the million.
   What other news can I report? We are back to waiting out the weather.
   Hey our neighborhood Squirrel was just patting at our front window.Wanting in? I would want in by the looks of the clouds.And did our yappie little dog bark? No,even though the Squirrel was right above her head.Go figure,sleeping on the heat vent must plug her ears up.
  With the return of the pouring rain Chance and I have not been able to work on the Big Garden Project so that is on hold.Our garden though is growing fast and filling in nicely. I am seeing a few gaps in the beds which I am hoping to maybe fill with more flowers.
    I do have some sad garden news, we think the Gravenstein Apple we planted is dieing.The leaves are falling off and yet the branches still have some spring to them so we are hoping the tree will survive.We planted the tree in the same area as the plumb we cut down last year because it was dieing.I am wondering about what is wrong with the soil in that area.A few years ago the water company came through our neighborhood and put in new pipes for the sewage.It was a year after the work was done that we started to notice that the plumb tree was going.The sewer line runs along one side of the area where we are having so much tree trouble.We had thought that during the work some of the plumbs roots had been cut and that was why it was dieing but maybe not.I am thinking about calling the water company and asking them about this.
 That's about it for now,a quiet work and school week waiting out the rain yet again.
   Rois

P.S Our strawberries are turning pinkish! 

Monday, May 17, 2010

Growing your own Chicken Fodder

 As I mentioned in my last posting one of the areas Chance and I have been hired to work on is slated for a Chicken Garden.The owners of the house would like an area where their hens can free range and forage through a garden of plants that are good eats for chickens.I am sure that all of you chicken owners know chickens will eat just about everything they come across including the things you would rather see them leave alone.Chickens getting into the garden is one of the biggest gripes out there so it is interesting to be working on a project that is the complete opposite.
   The plants to grow is the easy part,we could plant an entire garden of veggies and the chickens would be happy.But veggies are annuals and we are working towards a mix of annuals and perennials to insure the garden will be long lasting and so there will always be something for the hens to eat.
  I did some looking around and came up with some hopeful solutions.First I located Norris from
Discount Permacultures blog entry about his Chicken Fodder class.Like I said in my last posting I took this class last spring and found it to be informative and I will be using some of the things I learned for this garden project. I also found a company called Peaceful Valley that sells a seed mix for chicken fodder.Although the seed mix is mostly grasses I think we can incorporate it in.I am definitely going to plant some Comfrey, our girls love it and will mow it down if I don't cover it with some chicken wire.Comfrey is high in protein and when the hens are not free ranging this time of year (because of the garden) I will cut some leaves and chop it up and give to the girls with their feed.  A couple of the sites I stopped by also mentioned Lambs Ears,these are a maybe because they tend to take things over.Taking over is not necessarily a bad thing since the chickens will mow it down but we shall see.I am still searching out other plants the chickens like and are beneficial to them.
 The other thing I am working on is figuring out how to rotate the chickens through this garden.Pasture rotation is a common practice on farms and ranches where livestock free range. Rotating your animals through different pastures enables the just used pasture time to re-coop.Joel Salatin, has a great system for this,first he lets his cows graze a pasture and then he lets the chickens in that area once the cows have been moved to another pasture.This allows the hens to clean up after the cows and get some good eats in their bellies.There's more science to than that but I don't want to get all science nerdy on you.I know I have seen interviews with Salatin covering this topic.
 Many chicken farmers use chicken tractors for this but the garden area is on a steep hillside so this won't work for this project.The best two choices to give the house owner are movable pens or permanently fenced areas within the garden.Either one is going to take some dedication and being able to keep a rotation schedule otherwise it's not going to last long. 
 Pasture rotation is not on most urban chicken owners radar.Like us most people just let their hens loose to free range their yards.It is easy and suits a city lot.But all of this reading and planning has me thinking about how to incorporate growing chicken fodder and the rotation of "pastures" into our city sized lot.
  We are fortunate here at our house,we live on a double city lot,we have room to do all that we are doing.Although we are doing our best to fill every nook and cranny with growing food we do have some "dead zones" .These spots are just not useful for growing and are just there.We have a side of our yard that we currently use for storing our trailer and canoe.This space is right along the fence line and on the other side of the fence are the neighbors bedrooms,perfect for storage and not much else.And we have the area where at some point our Cobb Oven will be built,it is empty for now.I am starting to think both of these spots could become city sized pasture areas planted with some chicken fodder plants.With some portable fencing we could easily bring the hens into these areas for a few days at a time.This would be good for the chickens during the growing season.From February until October are hens are mostly cooped to keep them from eating the garden.Once in awhile we let them out just before their bedtime so they can range while we watch over them but the more free ranging they can do the better.Letting the hens out in the growing months is also getting harder and harder as more and more of the yard is used for food growing.
 This may also work better for us since our back yard is terraced,like the slope at the garden project house it makes a chicken tractor obsolete.Along with the fact that the front is all garden beds now with no room to put a tractor.

So here is some food for thought.As we all dig up our yards and grow food on every square inch where does that leave the desire to let our hens free range? Free ranging makes for healthier birds; even though we all give them the left over green bits, it is not a substitute for living a more natural chicken life.By taking "unusable" areas and creating pasture areas in our yards that are planted with fodder we could close yet another gap in our gardens ecology.Just a thought,the chicken lover,gardener and science nerd in me thinks it is a great thing to ponder.

Rois

Friday, May 14, 2010

The news from Hrafinstaad

 I do apologize for ranting in a couple of postings this past week,I am done at least for now and will return to my normal self for a bit.

                                              Zephaniah our Roo. 


   I have a couple of bits of news to share. Chance and I have been hired to recreate a Hrafinstaad style garden at the home of some people Chance does side work for and we now have a truck,thanks to my Dad downsizing.
 I know we had downsized our own vehicles with much pride but when the offer of the truck came up we realized we should not say no to it. So we are partly paying for and partly working off the $700 my Dad wanted for the truck.The truck will be very helpful while we are working on this large garden project and we won't have to borrow the neighbors every time we need a truck.Chance is planning on still driving the Vespa to work and for quick neighborhood runs.The truck will be mostly parked until there is work to be done.I also remembered (before the truck came up) that last summer when we tried to put our canoe on top of the wagon the canoe did not fit,that could have been a bummer this summer without our own truck.
  The Big Garden Project is going to be a new big step for us.The couple want us to plant a vegetable garden with flowers and herbs mixed in which will be easy enough to do.They also want us to fill in some gaps in their landscaping and create a "garden" for their chickens to forage through.These are easy as well,the only challenge is learning where the sun will be in their very shady yard and what will fill their needs and grow with part sun.Besides installing the gardens we have been hired to maintain it as well so this will be a long term and on going project.
   I am very interested in the chicken "garden". Last spring I had taken a chicken class that focused on plants you can grow to help off set the price of feed.I enjoyed the class very much and remember some of the plants but I am emailing for a new list of plants to grow for chickens.I have already planted a few things here that our hens like,comfrey and red clover have been a big hit.As I figure this all out I will be sure to post.Part of this garden will involve ways to rotate the chickens through different areas so the plants can re-coop.I am sure Chance and I will be able to find a way that is both functional and nice looking.
  Finally the weather has warmed up! Now I can get out in the yard and finish planting.On the list for this weekend,tomatoes, peppers,beans,cucumbers,squashes and what ever else that we pick out.We tried growing our own starts but they flopped big time.Although our yard is all sun the only good sunny window is in our matchbox sized bedroom..Even with trying a grow light the starts just did not get the light they needed.With that,we will go buy our plants today or tomorrow.My master plans step one  to plant shopping is ,only bring the money we have set aside for plants and not a penny more.I know us really well,the temptation will be great at the nurseries but we must stick to the budget.
   I love this time of year,I went out the other morning to look around the garden to see how things were going,all was fine and on track.I had planted some flower bulbs that were not up yet but I was not concerned.Later that evening Chance and I were back out puttering around and Chance pointed out that the flower bulbs were up. Up? They hadn't been just hours ago but were now an inch or so tall.Not only that but one of our hop vines had from morning to evening reached the top of it's post,it had been only half way up.
 The weekend ahead is looking full and busy.Besides planting we will as a family be going to a Vespa race.The boys and I have never been and Chance is more excited than he is letting on.It should be fun.Plus we have an invitation to hang out with a friend one evening.It looks like it's not only the garden who has woken up but the whole wide world is ready to get busy and have some fun.
 Enjoy the weekend.
 Rois 
 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Canning & Food Storage Jars, Wine & Beer Bottles, Carboys

Canning & Food Storage Jars, Wine & Beer Bottles, Carboys

This local fellow has been recently brought to my attention by a number of people.I took the time today to look him up and his list of "stuff" is interesting. I guess he has lots to look through and is acharacter.One of these days I want to go over and buy some jars.
Rois

Culture Shock at a HOA Meeting

 I went to the HOA meeting last night with a notebook of paper, a pen and my favorite chicken book tucked under my arm. Wore a nondescript outfit, left my nose ring in and a smile on my face.And there I stood ....waiting.....waiting...and waiting.Nothing happened,no questions,no clam patience needed as I answered a bazaar question,no inward chuckle over someones craze over chickens,nope, nothing but standing there.That was before the meeting started and then the culture shock hit.
  I know I live in the suburbs.I know the a majority of the people in the suburbs lean to the right or are firmly planted to the right side.I know that my family and I stick out and don't quiet fit in.We have lived here for almost 11 years now,I really know these things.I have been snubbed so many times at this point in time I just roll my eyes and walk away,I don't have time for judgmental people any more.I am of an age where I am so comfortable with who I am as a human that crummy behavior reminds me of high school.And who wants to play that game?
  It's become easy for me to roll my eyes and walk away because I know home is a good place and the neighborhood I live in gives me a sort of protection from the rest of the suburban culture.I have some of the best neighbors with whom we have been able to make a true community with..
   It has not always been so.When we first moved here our neighborhood was a biker neighborhood.A neighborhood where the cops came in 3 and 4 cars even if the call was about a barking dog.It was a pocket of small run down houses where blue collar families lived and made the best of it.Shortly after moving here the neighborhood turned a sharp corner.The bikers mostly moved out and frankly I wish they had not.Once they were gone our cars were pilfered and bikes left on porches went missing.Growing up my parents always said "If you are ever broken down on the side of a road,flag down a biker for help.They will always stop where as the guy with the nice car and clothes will keep going." Our old biker neighbors never turned you down when you asked for a hand.Now like I said we have good neighbors who have replaced the bikers so things are still good.These days our neighborhood is filling up with young families who were looking for a starter home.The houses are looking better,the crime rate is low and life is mellow.All without a HOA telling us how to go about things.Thank goodness.
 I really can't explain the culture shock I faced last night,it was strange.I know HOA's are out there and people willingly buy into those neighborhoods and find some sort of security in them.But WOW! All of those rules,HOA permits and boxes you have to live within.The rules are so tight there is no room for a family to have an emergency.So what if your spouse is in the hospital dieing of some horrid thing which means your lawn has gone uncut,you must keep your grass cut or be fined $17 a day for it.There was a whole discussion about if you had a red sofa on your porch.No can do,so what you like it,it's not allowed.The neighborhood must look a certain way and no other way.There are lists of what you can and can not plant and where. Green options are frowned upon.Craziness!
  I must confess I freaked out,called Chance and had him pick me up early,I just couldn't take it.I spoke to my friend working so hard to get chickens into the HOA ,she understood.I wish I had stayed because there was a glimmer of triumph later in the meeting.
  My friend Carrie who has worked and worked with the HOA over this chicken issue had decided that she had done enough talking and it was time to walk her talk,she ran for one of the openings on the HOA's board along with a couple of other progressively minded neighbors. In order to see real changes in the HOA they would need for all three of them to win and they did! Now their work can really get started to change bylaws that were written in the late 1940's.I must be fair here,at one point one of the board members did say that it was time to take a closer look at the bylaws.That when the laws were first written no one had any idea that some of the changes wanted would even be possible. And I add to that,I agree,no one knew where we would be environmentally or the technologies we would have come 2010.
  At this point in time the chickens are still on hold.Carrie is working on getting 500 signatures on a petition just so next spring a formal vote can be done about wither or not to allow the chickens.That's politics for ya,things move at a snails pace but the work is starting to make big changes in the suburban landscape of life. I am glad,it is about time.
 The interesting thing about all of this for me is the future.I have lived amongst these families for awhile now.The boys went to or still do go to school with the children of these families.Many of these families have shunned us all because of where and how we choose to live.This really stank for a long time and I worried about the impact it would have on the boys but I was worrying for nothing.I think because through it all Chance and I have stood our ground and stayed true to who we are, the boys have learned to be the amazing kids they are.True friends look at your insides not your outsides because that's where everything that counts lives.Chance and I have manged to weather this storm and gather around us a small community of families who understand the the true meaning of friendship.It has not been easy.I have had to learn not to shut people out for the same reasons people have shut us out.I have learned to give people an opportunity because you just never know what's hiding underneath it all.Maybe you will meet a lady who wants chickens so badly she is willing to walk her talk,knock on doors and hold her ground.
  Sometimes I am a bit bitter over it all. Few have taken the time to understand us, I am not asking that we always see eye to eye but I am asking here for others to find a common ground we can relate to each other with..Few have taken the time to learn the reasons why we live how and where we do.Few know that part of the reason as to why we do not live the typical suburban life is because we carry a huge amount of medical debit and the sorrows of it.Finally few understand that how we live is a moral stance,just like anyone's life it is a matter of what each of us finds to be the moral way to live,for better or worse that is what life is.
 So the future? We have already seen changes all around us and I am sure more are coming.In the mean time we as a family will be here at Hrafinstaad,our suburban homestead living as we see fit, always watching for opportunity. Opportunities to make new friends, learn new things,grow and lead by example.Hopefully our quiet kind of leadership will catch on and things will continue to change for the better.
 Rois

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Canning Jar Link Love

 The busiest time of year for canning is coming quicker than we think.It is time to take stock and inventory of what's left from last summers canning ,count and look over the jars and the other supplies needed for canning.
 I went out a week or so ago and looked through the jars that are still full of last summer/falls efforts,things are still looking pretty good.We have 2 jars of Strawberry Jam left which is fine since June/July the berries will be back in season.We have 6-8 jars of Apple Butter left,these will hold us until Apple season.Sadly we are out of the Applesauce.Last fall I peeled apples until my fingers were numb,this year it looks like I will need to up my volume and make sure I have help with the peeling.We also have plenty of Pickles and Kraut until we can these again in the fall.Overall I am happy.I think I have finally worked out the numbers to get enough canned for a years worth of things.20 pounds Strawberries, 40 some pounds of Apples will need to be increased,25 pounds Cabbage, 50 pounds Cucumbers plus whatever else I can come up with to can. We are also using the last jar of the Thai Sweet Chili Sauce Sol and I canned but that can be made year round, I just need to make some more soon.
  I have not gone through my jars yet to check them for chips or cracks.I am lazy and do this as I need them on canning days.But on the other hand I do need to look at how many smaller sized jars I have.I have it in my head I need more of them but when I look in the pantry it seems like I have a ton of boxes with empty jars.This year I would like to make up more smaller jars to have on hand for gifts or to send home with people.
 What really got me thinking about canning and supplies was Chris over at Lost Arts Kitchen posted (not on her blog) about Tattler's Reusable Canning Jar Lids, . I was really excited to see these because I have been wanting to find some and here they are no BPA and reusable! My excitement was short lived though,the prices are a bit steep for us right now mainly because I would need so many of them.The regular mouthed jar lids were $20.95 and the wide mouthed ones were $23.95 both come in boxes of 3 dozen. Over time the lids would pay for themselves and have the added bonus of no toxic crap in them but right now is not the time for this purchase.I have bookmarked the site and will try and buy one box at a time until I have enough.
  I really did not want to give up on reusable canning lids so I did a BUNCH of surfing around.You know how it can be,you start looking for one thing then something catches your eye and now you are over here.It's how I have found a few of my favorite blogs. Anyhow.... I started at Lehman's , canning supply page  and saw their Euro canning jars,Lehman's did not list the maker but I am pretty sure they are from Weck.
 Finally I have been looking at these jars at Sur La Table  for a while now and this summer I am adding a few of them to my stash of jars.
 Someday in the future I would like to try a few of the European type of canning jars that have the clamps that hold the lid ( which if I am remembering right are reusable.) in place.There's one more link covering how to get started with canning and in it there is an answer about using the euro type jars that I thought was clever. In the list of resources for this article are a few more links geared towards learning to can (I like Food In Jars.)
   Even though I was all over looking at "designer" canning jars my favorite way to buy them is used from thrift stores and yard sales.They can be pretty cheap and if it's an estate sale they can be abundant.When buying used jars be sure to check for cracks in the jar and check the rims for chips.Chips in the rim will not allow the jar to seal properly when you can with it.
  I never did find another source for reusable canning lids so if anyone out there knows of one please let me know.
 This evening I go to the HOA meeting.I have been trying to think of other questions people may ask and have a few in my head that were fairly common when I worked at Urban Farm.I think I am ready,I'll let all of you know how it went and the questions that were asked.

  Rois

Monday, May 10, 2010

I thank thee...

   I really enjoy writing this blog,it gives me much pleasure and I have learned so many new things in the past year through this blog and the other ones I follow.In the past year, I have cheered for a new baby, a new home and cried over woes, it is all pretty darn awesome.How many new things  have I learned? I don't really know but the list is long.One thing I do know is, on the list is the knowledge that there are other people out there who are working just as hard as we are to live a fuller life.And I say  thank you one and all for sharing  stories,information,ups,downs and the view from a different window.
 Everything I share here I give freely ,I want to do this.Everything I know was taught to me by someone else who freely shared what they knew with me.This blog is my way of giving honor to those people.I am a great believer in giving credit where credit is due and paying things forward, it's how I got where I am after all.
  Once long ago I knew a man who was brought forward to be given an award for his efforts in teaching others.As he stood before a crowd he declined the award because, like me, he did not teach for the glory of it, but because someone else had taken the time to teach him,he wanted to give back.That moment has stuck with me and made a bigger impression on me than his shining award ever could.I no longer know the man,he has traveled on but,  if I could stand before him I would doff my cap,bow my head and say "Thank you for inspiring me."
 I hope that my writings will inspire all of you to keep growing,learning and sharing.To pass it all along like a good book that changes hands over and over again until no one remembers who had the book first.But if you do remember where it began remember, Pay it Forward and Give Credit Where Credit is Due.
   Rois

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Rosemary Brac and HOA's

 Yesterday I had a visitor from the neighborhood next to ours,the neighborhood working towards having chickens allowed by their HOA. My visitor had emailed asking if she could take some photos of our coop for an up coming HOA meeting,sure why not anything to help their cause. We visited while I gave her a tour of our gardens,pictures were snapped and then a request was made,could I, would I mind manning a Q&A table at their HOA meeting? All I would have to do is answer people's questions about keeping chickens in the city.Ok I said,I thought at first I would have to stand in front of a partially unfriendly crowd to talk with mic in hand so standing at table seems easy enough,only a few folks at a time to talk to I can do that.
 The pro-chicken crowd had sent out a survey to their neighbors with questions to answer and a space for them to list any concerns.The three main concerns were very simple to answer and two are easy to solve.The other is a matter of tolerance.
  Many of the surveyed people were worried about smell and rats. I can understand both of those.A smelly yard is no joy to me so I got that one. I ran all of  my answers by my visitor to see what she thought. Keeping the smell down is simple, when your nose tells you that your coop is smelly,clean it.Your nose will know before your neighbors catch wind of it.This can be about bi-weekly in the summer because city chickens live in much smaller coops than farm chickens,like any other small space it needs cleaning more often.In the winter it can take longer because of the cooler weather. ( We don't clean our coop from November until March, the composting manure releases heat and helps keep the hens warm.)
  As for rats, I hate wild rats and do not want to see them in my yard at all. The best ways to keep rats from coming are easy, feed your hens in the morning and take their feed bin in at night.Rats are nocturnal if there is not anything there for them to eat at night they are not going to hang out. Also by keeping your feed stored indoors the rats won't be tempted to chew through your feed bags or buckets.Indoor storage also keeps your feed dry which is always good too.I had not thought of this until now but by designing your coop so it is up on "feet" you won't be building rat habitat,they love living under things.Finally, keep your coop clean.
 The third concern was how much noise chickens make.That has kind of a round about answer, yes they make noise but not all of the time.My visitor said she read somewhere the loudest hen ever recorded was 80 decibels the same volume as a dog barking.She asked me about the "I just laid an egg" chatter the hens do.So far I can find no rhyme or reason to this behavior.Sometimes my girls will go for weeks with out announcing they have laid an egg,then one day it is the biggest news since Obama won the Presidential race. But really my neighbors dog barks longer than the hens sing out about their egg laying habits.In my mind if you can ignore a reasonable amount of dog barking you can ignore a hens cackling.The only other time the hens make noise is when there is some threat in the yard and this is a good thing to tune into,there's trouble in the yard and it is your duty to A.keep your hens safe and B.fix the problem.
 So a HOA meeting is where I will be one evening next week,wearing my best Suburban Mom costume,no nose ring and a big patient smile.There's some conservative folks over there so I will need to blend in like G.I Joe in the jungles of Way Far Out.
   I have another recipe to share today.I know I always post some sort of baked thing it is because they are the only things I cook I have an actual recipe for.When I cook it is a dash,handfuls and a bit of this or that.Well I do follow the recipes for canning but that is different.
 Today's recipe is for Rosemary Brac,(Brac is an Irish term for tea cake.) I have no idea where I got this recipe, I have it written down in my book but the origins are lost.This makes one 9 inch round cake that is slightly sweet,savory and has it's own richness to it as well. The first step to making the Brac is steeping golden raisins and rosemary in warmed milk.This step is important,the warmth of the milk softens the raisins and allows the oils in the rosemary to infuse the milk. I know this may seem like an odd combo,sweet and savory but it works. I had a slice of it slathered with butter and apple butter yesterday,the apple butter sent it over the top! Yum.
   
    Rosemary Brac-
    Preheat oven to 350   remember if using a glass pan turn the oven down by 25 degrees.
   Grease a 9 inch round pan.

   1/2 Cup Golden Raisins
   1 Cup Milk
   1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh Rosemary or 1 1/2 teaspoon dried
        Heat these together in a pan until the milk just starts to boil.Set aside and cool to room temp.

  In a bowl -
  2 Eggs beaten until frothy
  4 Tablespoons of melted Butter
  3/4 Cups Sugar
   Add butter and sugar to eggs mix well.Now add-
  2 Cups Flour
  1/2 teaspoon salt
  1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
    Add dry ingredients to egg mixture beat until smooth then add in the milk,rosemary and raisins.Stir it all together and pour into your pan.
Bake for 30- 45 minutes. Somehow when I first wrote this recipe down I did not write down the temp or time, duh Rois. So I had to work it out for myself.Most cakes bake at 350 for 30 to 45 minutes so that is what I went with.My oven takes close to 45 minutes.
 The Brac reminds me a bit of scones, a bit sweet,rich and will go with lots of things.I hope you try this recipe out although it sounds odd it is really tasty.
  Enjoy your weekend and happy Mother's Day to one and all.
    Rois

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I Made this.1920's inspired clothespin bag.


I have been on a clothespin bag kick and now that I have given some away I thought it was time to make one for us. Having a project to work on is nice for me,in the evenings we keep things quiet for homework a project gives me something other than reading to do.


The process was pretty easy.For this bag I wanted  to use a different pattern than I had been using and I found this one that I was happy with. I ended up not printing out the template because the pattern seemed easy enough.
  I used 2 sheets of newspaper taped together for the pattern paper.Once I had drafted the pattern I cut out the pieces from a heavy cotton canvas I had.
 When I started this project I was going to just do some Crayon "Batik" .To do this you simply draw out your design on the pre-washed fabric.For the first drawing I used a pencil lightly knowing the lines would not show later.Once you have your design in place you will want to color in with crayons,the coloring needs to be done thickly and there should be a build up of crayon wax. I should add that when drawing you will need to make the spaces to be colored a size that will work with a crayon tip,fine lines can be tricky. I also recommend using bold colors because once you are done coloring you iron the drawing to set the colors,this washes out the colors a bit.

  When you are finished with the coloring you have a couple of choices to make.One being you could now simply trace around your drawing with a permanent marker,tip size is up to you as well as color.Although black will give your project a more traditional batik look.Or you can, like I did, stitch a simple running stitch  around the edges of your drawing.I used a double ply of thread to make it thick looking.A running stitch is super easy,just in and out spacing as evenly as you can.
Now that you have decided which type of outline you want you will need to set the wax.If you are going to do the stitching you will want to set the wax before you stitch.You will need an iron set on it's highest setting usually the linen one.Be sure there is no water in your iron if you have one that steams. Lay your batik out flat and place some clean paper over the design area, I recycled some printer paper but news paper or any clean paper will work.Now iron over your project,if you colored heavily enough you will start to see the wax bleeding through the paper.You can lift the paper and check on things too.You are done setting the color when the heavy wax build up is not there anymore.Your design should look like a printed fabric.Sometimes you may get a bit of bleeding of color,this is part of the batik look. And you are done or now is the time to work on your stitching.
 You can use this technique on lots of different things.I once made us a set of cloth napkins using this and T-shirts can be fun too.Use where ever your fancy takes you.

  I ended up really liking the look of the stitching.In the 1920's there were printed household textiles that looked very much like my clothespin bag. I am not talking about embroidery printed patterns.These had designs printed on the fabric that people then stitched around. I found this apron, a pillow, a flower and one more pillow much like one I own.If you scroll down on the last link this blogger also has posted a cute clothespin bag as well.
My second photo is a close up showing the vintage child's hanger I found for my bag.I felt darn lucky to find one with chickens as the main cut outs.The hanger also has 123 and ABC cut outs.
  I love it when I can use my skills to make something not only useful but creative for our homestead.Other than that....it's been cold and wet here, unseasonably so,it makes me worry about the seedlings and the seeds that have yet to sprout.Everyone I know locally, who are growing right now ,have the same worries. But our early greens are staying huddled close to the soil trying to hang on. Without sun and warmth it's a tough job for the seedlings,their growth is slow tho' I can't blame them.I really thought we would be eating salads and steamed greens out of our own garden by now.It is early and most of it can be replanted if the need comes up.
  Rois

Monday, May 3, 2010

The irony of it ..

 For quiet some time our Issac has been having migraine headaches,thanks to me,I passed that one on. Over the past two months they have been coming more often about every other week.Up until now over the counter meds have worked but the peds doctor said when they stop working to come back to see her.Last night the meds stopped working so we went back to the doctors.Issac now has a new prescription for his migraines to take when he feels one coming on.
 But before we went I being the mother I am looked somethings up online about migraines and food.I always start with food when there is something going wrong,when you live with Crohn's it becomes a habit. And what did I find? A list of assorted foods we don't eat but there was one that caught my attention,homemade breads.Homemade bread!?It has something to do with the yeasts in homemade breads,I am still digging around for the exact reasoning behind this because I want to understand it wholly.   Here I am baking our bread and it could be making Issac unwell.I ran it by the doctor but she had no idea but thought if we wanted to try an experiment on our own she would be interested in what I came up with.
  This morning when I was reading I started to think back on when Issac's headaches started and what was different.I have been baking most of our bread since his headaches started so over the next few weeks I am not baking our bread.I am hoping it works.I would much rather spend money on bread than have Issac taking one more pill.
 I won't be surprised if the bread ends up being the factor,with Crohn's life is full of these little mysteries that the doctors don't always get or understand.My theory is people with Crohn's have sensitive systems that are easily over loaded by environmental stuff that other peoples bodies ignore.Crohn's is an Autoimmune disorder so your immune system is always in over drive,give it less to freak out over and things can balance out.That's how I see it always consult with some sort of doctor,they don't always get it but they mostly try.
 If anyone out there has any clues about bread and migraines I'd love to hear your input.Issac is an awesome kid who does not use his Crohn's as an excuse ever and keeps his head up even when things are tough.
 Rois 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Community

                                      .

In our neighborhood we have a great Google group set up for swapping.Most of the time it is geared towards gardening,extra starts,plants and surplus produce or fruits. I recently posted the Strawberry plants I had thinned and they were snatched right up.This is also where I post when I have eggs for sale. This group has proven useful and a great community builder.So far everything posted has been either free or for trade,except me and my eggs which no one minds paying for.
  Today a neighbor posted that they had some Cabbage starts free for the taking. Chance and I replied to the email and zipped across the neighborhood to pick some up. I do not personally know all of the families on the list but do know a fair number of them.Today's family was one I had met before and just had not put two and two together so it was nice when a familiar face answered the door.
   Chance and I were led around to their back yard and holy cow they had food growing every where just like here at Hrafinstaad. We were so excited to see another family so close by growing so much of their own. While visiting we found out that the brother to the family lives right around our corner and the two households were growing food together.The brother has tilled up their whole yard to grow food.Now that is some good thinking! Rumor is there are a couple of other families doing this as well. Homegrown food,feeding families that's what is all about.And it rocks!
   Although the cabbage starts were posted as a freebie I did not think that was too fair,so I brought what extra eggs we had on hand to make it a swap. Even though there were only 7 eggs the family was happy to have them and informed us they were jealous of our chickens. This family lives at the other end of our neighborhood where there is a HOA that does not allow chickens.The families are working really hard to get that changed.Even though it has been an up hill battle they have stuck to it like chicken poo on an egg, they want more control over where their food is coming from so the battle goes on. Let's all cross our fingers for them!
  I have been re-reading "Food not Lawns by H.C Flores"  (don't worry Farmer that's not the book I am mailing you though I could,just ask.)  and I have realized some great things about what has been going on lately around here.We are growing our own Paradise Garden,building community,educating others through example and feeding ourselves and others.We are doing it! If you have not read "Food Not Lawns" I recommend it.It is one of the books I can say I agree with on many levels though there are a few ideas I don't think we will use such as some of her suggestions for water but everything else is spot on in my personal book.Well and she's not a fan of chickens but that's alright to each their own right?

The rest of the day we spent in the yard planting and doing a bit of this and that.The photo of the flowers is the bouquet I picked the other day,I think it came out gorgeous. I wish I had some nifty project to share but community building is my offering for this post
A topic I am happy about especially since like our garden our community of like minded folks is growing.
   Rois