Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's A Wonderful Life

Happy Holidays to one and all. I don't care if you decide to shop or not. Give gifts or not. Buy a real tree or a fake tree or no tree at all. Celebrate or not. Just be safe out there.

Hats off to football's Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh, who died today.

Excerpt from A Country Rag ( "I first met Logan when I lived in Arizona, at a poetry gathering on the Arizona/Mexico border. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him perform on several occasions. Logan is a passionate, intelligent, and well-educated man who graduated Northern Arizona University where he majored in Spanglish Linguistics. After college he lived in LA where he competed in the slam poetry movement. Recently he toured the world with his three-man group, Verbobala. More recently he spent the last few months in Costa Rico where he ran a youth hostel for the season. Prior to his hostel work he taught 4th graders in Mexico City, MX. An interesting guy."

What does a country girl living in the 'burbs do in the winter?
1. Stare longingly at the garden.
2. Play with the cats more.
3. Begin sewing projects.
4. Decant tinctures made this past summer.
5. Makes soaps, candles and potpourri from stored summer herbs.
6. Ride the stationary bike.
7. Read more.
8. Work on the annual taxes.
9. Paint.
10. Scrapbook.

With Christmas roaring up toward me, I've realized I still have work to do. A ham to buy. We have fireworks to set off on Christmas Eve. The kids and their kids will be here. We'll sing and dance to Holiday music we hear Sirrius Radio.

With the year closing out, I start thinking about what I want to accomplish next year...and what I've managed to accomplish this past year. I'm always surprised at how much I did in one year. So next year I'm setting my sights higher. Whatever I did this year that made me feel good about myself ~ that's what I'm going to do more of. More work to help other people, more work to increase my knowledge base, more painting and design, more writing, more encouragement to other artists. More.

And what do I want back out of 2009?


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Nectar of Life

· A person can live a month without food but only a few days without water.· The average person uses over 140 gallons of water each day for drinking, bathing, laundry, dishes and watering lawns.· According to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), in case of an emergency you should store at least one gallon of water per person per day and have at least a three-day supply. However, individual water needs vary per person, depending on age, physical condition, activity and climate. Children, nursing mothers and ill people need more water and very hot temperatures can double the amount of water needed.· If you have pets, allow a minimum of gallon per day for each dog or cat.· Contaminated water can cause such diseases as dysentery, typhoid and hepatitis.· The Center for Disease Control receives over 4,000 cases each year of illness due to drinking contaminated water. If unsure about water, bringing it to a rolling boil for 1 minute will kill most organisms.These stats come from Waterbob. Check them out for a cool way to save water in case of emergency.

Do The Right Thing!

“…95% of what is needed to resolve the coming crisis in energy depletion, or climate change, or whatever is what we should do anyway, and when in doubt about how to change, we should change our lives to reflect what we should be doing anyway. Living more simply, more frugally, using less, leaving reserves for others, reconnecting with our food and our community, these are things we should be doing because they are the right thing to do on many levels. That they also have the potential to save our lives is merely a side benefit (a big one, though).”

Monday, October 13, 2008

Check out this book for stories about NFL heroes who have done some GOOD things, unlike many players who are featured in the media.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Going Green: What can one person do?

1. Recycling is probably the easiest thing you can do to go green! It even cuts up to 1,000 pounds of annual carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming. Even though you do recycle, you can be even “greener” by choosing products with the least amount of packaging possible and by choosing easily recyclable packaging, like paper or glass; very few municipal recycling programs accept plastics other than those labeled #1 and #2. You can help reduce pollution just by putting that soda can in a different bin. If you're trying to choose between two products, pick the one with the least packaging. If an office building of 7,000 workers recycled all of its office paper waste for a year, it would be the equivalent of taking almost 400 cars off the road. The energy saved by recycling a can of Coke could run a TV for three hours.

2. Replacing just one 75-watt incandescent bulb with a 19-watt CFL cuts 75 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year and up to 750 for the life of the bulb, not to mention the money savings on your energy bill. (Yes, these bulbs contain mercury and must be recycled as do ALL fluorescent bulbs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) last 10 times longer than a standard bulb and use at least two-thirds less energy.

3. Take your own bags to the grocery store.

4. Set you’re a/c thermostat on 77 degrees F or higher. Or set the heat on 68 degrees—and wear a sweater. Lowering your thermostat one degree can save you 5% on your energy bill. Change the air filters so your system doesn't have to work overtime.

5. Underinflated tires decrease fuel economy by up to three percent and lead to increased pollution and higher greenhouse gas emissions. Low tire Pressure is no joke. Not only is it safer to regularly check your tire pressure, but if 11,973 people kept their tires properly inflated, we’d save enough gasoline to drive a hybrid car around the entire Earth!

6. Drink from reusable containers. Single-use plastic juice and water bottles add to the growing stream of solid waste and should be recycled. But a reusable #2, #4 or #5 plastic or stainless steel water bottle is a worthy, earth-easy replacement.

7. Hand washing dishes can actually use up to 50 percent more water than a water-saving, energy-efficient dishwasher. But before you celebrate, check the date on your dishwasher. Those made before 1994 use more water than current models, so it may be time for an upgrade to an Energy Star-rated model, which is 41% more efficient than the federal standard. Even if you have a brand-new, hyper-efficient model, you can still conserve water and energy. Only run full loads, and don’t waste time and water pre-rinsing dishes; new models are equipped to handle even the most stubborn gunk.

8. Using green cleaners all the time cuts down on your environmental impact, since conventional cleaners are filled with a host of chemicals that produce harmful byproducts during production and harm aquatic life when they wash down the drain. Green cleaners are also healthier; they have fewer volatile organic compounds that can trigger asthma and other respiratory problems, and rarely do they contain chemicals that can poison you or your children or cause serious skin reactions if spilled.

9. Compost. Think about how much trash you make in a year. Reducing the amount of solid waste you produce in a year means taking up less space in landfills, so your tax dollars can work somewhere else. Plus, compost makes a great natural fertilizer.

10. Turn off lights when you're not in the room.

11. Pay attention to how you use water. The little things can make a big difference. Every time you turn off the water while you're brushing your teeth, you're doing something good. Got a leaky toilet? You might be wasting 200 gallons of water a day. Try drinking tap water instead of bottled water, so you aren't wasting all that packaging as well. Wash your clothes in cold water when you can. When gardening instead of using the water that comes from your local city plant, use rain water. Faucet aerators in the sinks are inexpensive ways to save lots of money, because they cost little and cut water consumption by up to 6 percent.

12. Drive 55. Slow down — driving 60 miles per hour instead of 70 mph on the highway will save you up 4 miles per gallon. Accelerating and braking too hard can actually reduce your fuel economy, so take it easy on the brakes and gas pedal.


National Geographic website
Forbes Magazine
Tennessee Valley Authority
Body and Soul magazine
Consumer Guide Automotive

Butchart Gardens, Victoria, Canada

Computer Careers in Today’s Market by someone who wishes to be anonymous
Today most programming jobs, probably most computer-related jobs, can be (and many are) performed remotely, overseas. I don't see this trend stopping unless/until the USA passes legislation against it. And I cannot see that happening. The Indians have done very well with programming and computer-related jobs stemming from the USA, partly because they are educated in English from a very early age, and therefore have good English-language skills.When people can do these jobs, when they are happy to do these jobs, for $5/hour (as millions of Chinese would be ecstatic about, for example, or Vietnamese, although I don't think the Indians work for that low a rate now), it's really tough competition for Americans. The Chinese andVietnamese aren't that good in English yet, on the whole, but they will be, they will be, you can bank on it. (The Indians still work for lower than Americans at comparable jobs, however.) An American usually CANNOT work for $5/hour. His mortgage payments are too high, his gasoline costs are too high, his utility costs are too high, food costs are too high, etc. It is not that Americans are lazy; it's the cost of living here.Then there are also the H-1B workers (admitted on a visa called 'H-1B) who come to America, many of whom are programmers or work in other computer-related jobs. There are several hundred thousand H-1B workers admitted each year. I think it's safe to say that they too work for considerably lower salaries than Americans; mostly they are men who must leave their families behind, they are here for a year or so, many share apartments and so on. They are exploited by their employers.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Necessary List

As promised, here is my list of recommendations for Temporary Worst-Case Scenario compiled from FEMA and other emergency sites:

Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer
Army knife
Baby wipes for personal bathing (so you don't have to store water for bathing)
Can Opener
Duck tape
Dust masks
Emergency food bars or food rations
First-aid kit
Hand Tools
Plastic in sheets
Plastic Ziploc bags and trash bags
Silver thermal blankets
Solar, wind-up flashlight, radio and cell phone charger
Toilet Paper
Vinyl gloves
Vinyl poncho with hood
Water purification tablets
Water: A gallon of water per day per person for drinking only. You can use the water in the toilet tank or hot water heater also. Learn how.

It’s important to have a bolt bag…meaning if you have to bolt for safety, you have your necessities. A few changes of clothes, meds, toothbrushes, baby wipes…chocolate. And put in a pair of walking shoes, like hiking boots. You can change into them when you get somewhere, just have them handy (with extra socks), in case you are suddenly evacuated.
Bottled water
CASH and/or gold
Phone numbers and addresses
Identification/Proof of citizenship
Spare eyeglasses
Something to read
Note paper and pens
Knitting (the needles might come in handy)
Personal Hygiene Kits - toothbrushes/pastes, combs, bio-hazard bags, wet-wipes, razors, tissue packs, dental floss. Shaving cream, soap, deodorant, body/foot powder,
Sanitary Napkins
Spray Bottle Insect Repellent - With DEET
Sunscreen Lotion Packets - SPF 30+ protects skin

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Adapting in Place

Register to vote:

Adapting in Place
We’ve been living a new lifestyle for six months, so much so that the new lifestyle seems natural. We automatically buy foods on sale, we buy in bulk, we compost, we recycle, we garden, we preserve by canning foods, we learned to make butter, yogurt, candles, soap; we learned to dehydrate foods, how to store foods properly, how to prepare for hard times. And perfect timing, too, to finish storing foods just as the financial crisis hit. There are so many great blogs and sites with guidance for a new lifestyle. Rather than repeat what they are saying, I’m going to give you links to check out.

Sharon Astyk, a writer, started the group course that got us started:

Check out this great blog for canning butter!

Gas shortages and prices. Hurricane Ike brought with its destruction a deficit gas supply in Tennessee and parts of Georgia. Not since the 1970s have I seen regular gas lines and “out of gas” signs. We’ve saved a lot of gas with the new vehicle—better gas mileage and careful driving. Guess I’ll have to learn to Drive 55 again. Gas here in Columbia is 3.89/gal.

I made six pillar candles in different colors. I plan to use the beeswax I purchased to make the next batch. I’m also making glycerine soaps. Great printable instructions here:

For an excellent source on storing foods:

From West Wind Farms:
It's said that history repeats itself. Nearly a century after heat pasteurization of milk began, pasteurization by irradiation began for meat. Several years ago, the food safety division of USDA approved the euphemistic "cold pasteurization" of uncooked meat and poultry "to reduce levels of food-borne pathogens, as well as extending shelf-life". Sound familiar?
Attempting to stem the tide of consumer reaction to food-borne illness from contaminated meat and poultry, the meat industry has found in cold pasteurization by radiation a way to continue pushing tons of meat through their systems each hour without changing the procedures that actually cause the contamination. Irradiation provides a perk for the industry too - meat that would normally have to be moved to the quick-sale cooler compartment now stays unnaturally fresh for weeks, just like ultra-pasteurized milk!
Consumers have been concerned about irradiation of meat and have not accepted it. Currently irradiated meat must be labeled with the "radura" symbol so consumers have the information necessary to make their choice at the supermarket. However, on September 18, the American Meat Institute, an industry group representing meat packers and processors, petitioned USDA for approval to irradiate beef carcasses as a "processing aid". Because processing aids are not required to be labeled on products, no label would be required for meat from irradiated beef carcasses.
As usual, big industry lobbies for the regulations that put band-aids on their problems. Once implemented, those regulations apply to all members of the industry, including small meat processors who generally produce safe meat products. It is likely that mandatory irradiation is only a few years away, and clean meat from small, family-owned meat processors will have to be irradiated just as contaminated meat from large mega-packers will. Without any doubt, this will put small butcher houses out of business. Irradiation is not an affordable option. And worst of all, it's not needed.
Consumer outrage at the incidence of contaminated foods from the industry is justified. However, we, as consumers, can unintentionally fuel the passage of irresponsible and unnecessary regulation when we are not specific about the type of solution we want. Do we want the meat industry to continue practices that contaminate meat and then allow them to kill all the bacteria (both healthful and pathogenic bacteria) before it hits our table, or, do we want clean, healthy meat that is not contaminated to start with? Do we want meat irradiation to apply industry-wide, or just to those businesses that have indicated through testing that they have a problem? Should they be allowed to use it indefinitely or only temporarily until they can fix the source of their problem? Do we want a sterile food system, devoid of all the healthful bacteria that we need to thrive?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Golden Acre September

Golden Acre Update
Thanks, Verde, for the label (pictured above). To see all labels, visit Justice Desserts, my all-time fave blog.

Planted: Transplanted Thai and opal basil into big pots for wintering-over indoors.

Harvested: Tomatoes, okra, rainwater, grass cuttings for compost

Prepped: Continued to prep beds for next spring. My son Jacob brought us a frame for composting that I had sketched. I appreciate all he does for us.

Managed: Completely reorganized my kitchen. Cleaned out the garage. Put together a load for Goodwill. Sorted fabrics and craft items. Made bedroom drapes and kitchen curtains.

Stored: Canned tuna and chicken salad, shrimp boil, canned cream soups, Alfredo sauce, tomato paste

Cooked something new: Sicilian meatballs using the recipe of my friend’s grandmother. We fed three family meals off the batch then froze the other six batches.

Local Food Systems: Continue to purchase produce and milk from local suppliers.

Herbs: Purchased 100 empty tea bags to bag herbs for foot soaks. I’m making potpourri from this summer’s fragrant herbs. I decanted the gingko biloba, saw palmetto, ginseng, and lavender oil. My husband was very happy with the Saw Palmetto and its effects. I love the foot soaks. I also started making holiday gifts out of herbs, oils and salves.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Photos of Paradise

These gorgeous photos were sent to me by my friend Jan Barker from Birmingham, England, UK. She took the pictures in Devon.

Golden Acre Update

After checking my blog, I see that I’ve only been at this challenge for eight weeks. Eight weeks that changed our lives. The difference between our early photos and NOW is amazing. Our courtyard garden is a paradise full of colorful birds, busy bees, noisy hummers and lots of flowers, herbs and greenery. We took down the two art-glass hummingbird feeders and hung up the old Big Lots version, and as quick as that we have non-stop hummers in the yard.
Harvested: The garden is producing, there are no weeds, so all there is to do is water, water, water. And harvest tomatoes, squash, cukes, okra, black beans.
Coop orders/ Storing: We picked up our Breadbeckers coop order. The Beckers are an excellent source for some bulk products, especially bread baking supplies. Since we had prepared the pantry ahead of time, putting up our Becker’s booty didn’t take long.

Local Food Systems: I arranged to meet a local beekeeper at the Columbia Farmer’s Market who sold me a pound of beeswax for $5. I’ll use the wax for many purposes, including salves and balms for the feet.
Managing: We put in some time tying up the tomatoes again. Staking tomatoes can work wonders and yield higher production. Our plants are huge; prolific producers. We’re enjoying lots of fresh blood-red tomatoes. We also put out strings for the peas to grow on, and used my recovered lumber to build a sort of arbor in the courtyard. On Thursday I took all the veggies and broths out of the freezer and made killer soup.
Herbals: I’m working on more tinctures, and also foot teas. Since the bottom of the foot is very absorbent, using teas in a foot soak is a way to ingest herbs. One of my favorite simple soaks is dried lavender flowers in warm water, a very relaxing practice. If you don’t know how absorbent your feet are, try soaking your feet in warm water into which you’ve put with a mashed garlic clove. After ten minutes, ask somebody to smell your breath.
Harvested: This week I harvested and dried a bushel of lime mint. My mint tinctures will be a refreshing addition to the foot soaks I’m making. As for the remaining mint in the yard, I’m going to allow it to flower, then I’ll cut the flowers to add to potpourri.
Cook something new: I cooked Carmela’s Eggplant Parm using the recipe from the official Sopranos cookbook. I used heirloom eggplant. Outstanding dish! Recipe available. Also, I made bread using a new recipe from Breadbecker’s cookbook. The recipe calls for flax seed and gluten as added ingredients. Very good bread.

I also sprouted organic alfalfa seed this past week. The spouts are so fresh, they’re hard to beat. I mentioned before that I’d bought two sprouting jar lids. The lids fit a wide-mouth canning jar. And last, I made jalapeno and garlic jelly with honey. We use this jelly on just about all meat or fish we grill. Recipe available.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Golden Acre Update

That's an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail...female...which have lots of blue on the hind wings. Some are black, but the yellow is more common. Only the females come in both yellow and black forms...the black is similar to, but bigger than the Black Swallowtail. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillars are dark green with two large eyespots. They eat various trees and shrubs especially Yellow Poplar, Wild Cherry, and Sweet Bay.

I spent the past two weeks studying and being tutored about herbs and herbal remedies. During this time I carefully made oils, vinegars and tinctures.

Here’s how I made the tinctures: I used dried herbs (flowers or roots according to use). I put about two cups of herb into a quart jar. Then I poured just enough very hot water (not boiling) on the herbs, just enough to soak them. Then I added different 80-proof alcohols, depending on what I already had on hand. So I ended up with tasty-sounding tinctures. These tinctures have to be shaken twice daily.
English plantain in Rum
Red Clover in vodka
Gingko Leaf in citron vodka
Cinnamon sticks in bourbon
Siberian Ginseng root in bourbon
Siberian Ginseng root in vodka

Infusion Oils:
I filled a small jar with dried lavender flowers and covered the flowers with sunflower oil. After removing the bubbles I floated two tablespoons of vodka on top. The alcohol helps to keep the oil from getting rancid and also aids in extracting the oils from the herbs. I covered the jar of oil with thick cheesecloth so the alcohol could escape and placed the jar in a sunny window. I check the jar every day for signs of spoilage then gently shake it.

Supplies: Small mortar and pestle, alcohol (vodka), bottles and jars, oils, beeswax for salves. I’m using different base oils according to how I’ll use the oil later on. Some oils are absorbed into the skin and some are not.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Golden Acre Update


I talked to the Tennessee Bee Inspector in our area yesterday. He is a veritable fount of information. He assures me there are bees in my area. He inquired about the kinds of flowers, herbs and veggies I was growing, whether I used pesticides (no), whether there was a tree line, all kinds of questions. He didn’t think it would be a good idea to keep bees here on our land because of the potential danger to my grandkids. He suggested I put hives on a friend’s farmland.

Among other things, we talked about colony collapse disorder. Not only are there mites to contend with, drought and warmer temps to withstand, but millions of bees are transported to different locations all over the U.S. to pollinate large crops. Recently in the news there was a story about a Canadian truck that overturned and released x million bees. The generation that comes after these transported bees are unable to find their way back to the hive.

The Beekeeper’s Society meeting is once a month so I’ve got that on my schedule for August. The first of the month a bee expert instructs on what a beekeeper should do for the bees that month. They offer mentors, so although I can’t have a hive in my neighborhood, I can still learn from somebody who keeps bees in the area.

In the “bird” category, I called the city manager’s office and found that a chicken coop has to be 1000 yards from any dwelling. Our home is within the city limits, and our lots aren’t big enough to make that happen.

Planted: Blackberry brambles along the back property line. Successive plantings of okra, Alaska No-Wilt peas, lima beans, peppers, zinnias, marigolds, cockscomb, Black Magic elephant ears, and more cukes, zukes and squash in case this group fails.

Harvested: I dug up several blackberry brambles on the nearby construction site [with the builder’s permission]. Some are a little worse for wear; they bear the imprint of heavy machinery tires on their backs. I read that wild blackberries are more soil and drought tolerant, and they produce more and better-tasting berries. We’ll cover them with bird net next year when the berries come in.
We harvested tomatoes and beans for Monday night dinner. Spotted cat’s eye for salad. Our water catch system is working well. In the past week we harvested more than 110 gallons of rainwater. Picked green beans and steamed them.

Prepped: Pre-ordered Sharon’s book! Cleaned out a crock to use for blackberry brandy. Hub built some a garden bed with lumber we got from the construction site. I ordered heirloom seed from Southern Seed Exchange: long-standing spinach, Buttercrunch lettuce, Deer Tongue lettuce, Yugoslavian Red Butterhead lettuce, Red Russian kale, Georgia Green collards, Red Giant mustard greens. The names alone sound good enough to eat. We’re going to plant tiny amounts of each for fall greens and save the remaining seeds for spring. I read that you keep the seeds in a jar or airtight container with an oxygen absorber out of light. Not in the refrigerator!

Stored: Scavenged more lumber from the construction site before they took the rest away to the landfill. Stored various canned goods, shelf stable milk, and more water. I was disappointed that my coop order from Breakbeckers isn’t coming in until July 30th. Still, lots of veggies are in season, and our own plants are beginning to put out.
I started a brandied fruit crock. When we got the gorgeous blackberries from Delvin Farms, I put them in the crock, covered the fruit with sugar, and about an hour later I covered the whole thing with brandy.

Managed: I started pollinating the pumpkins, squash, cantaloupe and cukes. I used a tiny artist’s brush. I’m finding that most of the blooms on the pumpkin are male, which explains why all the blooms drop. The high heat is also a factor. The following link gives a brief explanation and instructions on pollinating plants yourself.
This week we turned out the compost bin into a larger space, added string for beans to grow up to reach the lattice on our deck, started digging a hole for the apple tree. Cut and raked grass for the compost heap.

Recycled/Reused: We composted and recycled as usual. Shredded lots of white paper to use in the composter. Scavenged the construction site. We bought grapes and they went bad fast, so I spread them out for the butterflies.

Learn Something New: Bees get up earlier than I do. After the recent rainfall here we had a crop of sunflowers that bloomed. Suddenly our yard is filled with honey bees.

Local: Our collective neighbors tell us they have NO desire to garden. They want nice smooth lawns, every house uniform.
We bought produce from Delvin Farms, a local organic farm. The blackberries were huge…only half of them made it into the brandy crock.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Golden Acre Week 10 Update

Prepped: We’re still working on garden beds for the fall planting. I filled the compost bin full of dirt in anticipation of dumping it out soon. This time I won’t use beer! (see post below) Cleaned garage.

Planted: I’m doing successive plantings of lima beans, hot salsa peppers, sugar snaps, mammoth dill, mammoth sunflowers. While the garden percolates I’m going to turn my attention to herbs.

Harvested: Tons of plantain, basil, green beans, green tomato to use as a side dish.

No weeding necessary for the veggies so far, which is an incredible time saver. Not so lucky on the flower beds. We have horse nettle, nutgrass, and Johnson grass. I cleaned out the filter on the 110-gallon capacity water catch. We used control-top panty hose as a top filter on the water barrel and we put a knee-high stocking over the end of the downspout to filter it. After I struggled and sweated to get the permanent downspout to the cache Hub finally had mercy on me and fixed it up. In addition to the aforementioned panty hose, we used the other leg of the filter pair as a kind of gasket between the gutter opening and the downspout.

I have Pokeweed in my front flower bed. In the past I’ve eaten poke salat in early spring but it's highly toxic if you aren't careful. Now that I have grandkids running around I want to dump it, which will be a challenge.

We did a layout for the backyard homestead. We’re adding a fence, prepping garden space, planting fruit trees. With all the lumber I’m gathering we should be able to build a chicken coop for next to nothing. I’m planning to build a Dr Seuss type house that looks like a playhouse. No rooster.

More water. Canned mandarin oranges. I dried a lot of wild grass for fall décor. I’ve been waiting on a Walton Feed order for eight weeks. That seems nuts.

Reduced, Reused, Recycled:
Handed off a 4 ft. stack of magazines.
Took recycling to the center.
Went to see the construction foreman where the houses are being built near us. He let me go through and keep a massive pile of lumber in all shapes and sizes. I can go back every day to get discards. Not only can we build an arbor on the deck, but we can frame three more garden beds. And now I have giant beanpoles. I was amazed at the total waste of materials on the site.

I hit the Goodwill store this morning determined to find crocks. I found two good ones with lids, and a water-bath canner.

Cooked something new:

I cut back the basil plants so they’d keep putting out. Then I made pesto with basil, sun dried tomatoes, garlic, and Romano cheese. I froze the pesto in little capers jars, olive bottles, etc. Best pesto we ever tasted! Then I made basil vinegar. Next I’ll be making ba
sil oil, but I’d don’t know about using oils for eating. They go rancid so fast in the heat.

I made two tinctures. One is Red Clover flowers and citron Vodka. The other concoction is plantain leaves in rum. I put the tinctures in dark brown- glass vitamin bottles. I’ll use the plantain tincture to make salves. I’m using three books for identification, instructions, etc. Since so many plants look alike, I want to be cautious in gathering edibles and h
erbs in the wild. In the past we’ve relied on the state park head ranger to confirm the identity of herbs and edibles.

Learned: I’m using three books for identification purposes. I’ve learned how to recognize the wild thangs in my yard.
The Herbal Home Remedy Book by Joyce Wardwell
Wildflowers of Tennessee and the Southern Appalachians (Native Plant Society)
The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody

Drink Hatcher milk! We eat local produce.

The “Other” Book
The Fun Book is a glue-and-scissors project that I use to relieve stress and trigger my imagination. I took a copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise and used it for a collage book. I used Modge Podge to affix handmade paper, tissue paper—all those little bits and scraps I saved—to the pages as background. After the paper dries, I glue “things” on the pages.
There are no photos of family and friends; I use pictures and clippings and do-dads. Each two-page spread makes a statement. The topics deal with what is happening in our culture today—politics, the news media, disaster, icons of North American culture. There is poetry, and pages I sponge painted around the page gutters. I transferred images to scotch tape. That step creates a ghostly slightly transparent picture. When each page is finished, I Modge Podge over the whole thing and let it dry for a few days. That process creates thick pages with texture and weight. It also means I’ll have to cut some pages out of the book so the binding doesn’t burst. I’m experimenting with preserving wild edibles with silica gel or in some form that will kept them from wilting or changing color. I’d like to use them in the fun book.

Leave a comment! Take a minute to chat.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Planted: Mammoth Dill, Mammoth Sunflowers. Black Magic elephant ears, hostas and ferns in a shaded bed by the front door. Wisteria along the fence.
Harvested: Sugar Snap peas, chives, rosemary, basil for pesto
Prepped: Enlarged vegetable beds along the deck. Time to order more compost.
Managed: Added a soupcon of hot compost to the sides of the tomato plant. Weeded flower beds. Laid cardboard for paths then covered with shredded bark mulch. Shredded more white paper for use in compost #1 (the rawest compost).

Ordered these books:
Food Drying Techniques : Carol W. Costenbader
Making Cheese, Butter & Yogurt : Ricki Carroll
Making Natural Milk Soap : Casey Makela

Tomato Plants

Learned: Flowers in Ultra Violet
When I was researching the types of flowers to plant that would attract bees, I found out some interesting info about how flowers look to bees and birds. The ultraviolet rays form a bulls-eye pattern on the flower that not only attracts bees but warns caterpillars not to feed on certain plants. This link shows you photos of the flower in natural light and also in UV light.
This is an article about flower chemicals

  • Local: Hooked up with the local Beekeepers group, found a local source for fresh eggs, bought local farmer’s market peaches. I left messages with two local tree companies asking them to bring dump materials (tree trunks, branches, bark and sawdust) to my house. I heard from somebody in the biz that they’ll do that. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The Notebooks
    The Food Independence Days Challenge is an online class about food storage and self sufficiency. Certainly I’ve learned as much in the last eight weeks as I did in eight weeks of college. As I would with any course, I put together a notebook with suggestions and information about the topic. As I read and researched, I realized that I wanted to preserve some of the best info and pictures for future use, so I did step-by-step instructions with photographs for each of the following topics:

    Bees (still working on this one)
    Bread -How to make bread
    Candles - How to make candles
    Canning Guide - Complete USDA guide
    Chickens -How to find where your hen lays eggs, keep a clean henhouse, Henhouse designs Dairy - Cheesemaking instructions with how-to photos
    How to milk a goat w/ photos
    How to pour off cream and make butter w/ photos
    (Looking for actual photos of milking a cow)
    Gardening Guides
    How to compost
    How to take care of fruit trees
    How to make your own gardening tonics
    How to care for house plants
    Vegetable gardening
    Different gardening methods with drawings and illustrations
    Herbal remedies
    Buying Bulk herbs
    How to grow mushrooms on a log
    How to harvest
    How to store
    How to make
    How to make a solar generator
    How to make a solar dehydrator
    Using mirrors to enhance panel performance
    Different methods of growing
    How to rig your own rain catch system
    How to make a purifier
    Water storage guidelines including purification

Fun Stuff:
Beer for Compost
Compost pile #3 is about ready to filter and use. A couple of weeks ago I decided to give compost pile #2’s decomposition process a boost by adding ½ a bottle of beer to the several bushels of composting materials. The beer adds bacteria which speed up the process. It also makes the compost heap smell like what it is—a pile of rot. My neighbors were pretty pissed when they couldn’t use their pools for a couple of days because my compost pile smelled so bad.

Missing Umbrella
One day I had worked in the yard, cleaned everything up, put up the umbrellas including the beach umbrella we use sometimes on the deck. I went in to get Hub so he could check out the beauty, and we couldn’t find the beach umbrella anywhere. We went all over the neighborhood.

Caterpillars Love the Fennel
Every year we grow fennel so we can watch the caterpillars feed and hang…always hoping to see one of them emerge from the cocoon. This season we’ve had three egg-laying episodes on one fennel. By accident I closely planted three important foods for all butterfly stages: sunflowers, tickseed, butterfly bush, fennel.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Golden Acre Food Independence Days Week 8

Mulch Madness
After some much-needed KP in the yard we turned our eyes to the Big Daddy of gardening: mulch. Mulch is our friend. In the front yard where the flower and herb beds are located we’ve mulched twice a year. However, the side yard hasn’t had that luxury, so I spread thin layers of wet newspaper on the ground and covered every bed with a thick layer of peat moss. Then I mulched with pine straw.
Composting: Compost is one of the essential ingredients of gardening. Here at Golden Acre we compost almost everything. So far so good. When I turned compost pile #2 (the older one), it was steaming. I fenced the area with chicken wire to keep out the neighborhood dogs. That will be garden #2. Then we dumped out the rawer compost #1 (revolting) and covered it with manure and clay and dirt and peat moss and newspapers. I was surprised at how much composting had actually taken place in the garbage can (compost #1). Now we’ve started compost #3, which is going to be a second garden bed in the fall.

Birds at the Feeder: Besides the birds already reported, we have a gorgeous red-winged blackbird that lands on our feeder. Different populations and subspecies of Red-winged Blackbirds vary markedly in size and proportions. An experiment was conducted that moved nestlings between populations and found that the chicks grew up to resemble their foster parents. This study indicated that much of the difference seen between populations is the result of the different environments.
The Red-winged Blackbird is a highly polygynous species, with one male having up to 15 different females making nests in his territory. In some populations 90% of territorial males have more than one female. But, from one quarter to up to half of the young in "his" nests do not belong to the territorial male. Instead they have been sired by neighboring males.
The male Red-winged Blackbird fiercely defends his territory during the breeding season. He may spend more than a quarter of all the daylight hours in territory defense. He vigorously keeps all other males out of the territory and defends the nests from predators. He will attack much larger animals, including horses and people. The Red-winged Blackbird forms roosting congregations in all months of the year. In the summer it will roost in small numbers at night in the wetlands where it forages and breeds. In winter, it can form huge congregations of several million birds, which congregate in the evening and spread out each morning. Some may travel as far as 80 km (50 mi) between the roosting and feeding sites. It commonly shares its winter roost with other blackbird species and European Starlings.
Planted: Beans and flower seeds.

Harvested: Our back ½ acre was (once again) covered in the “hay” from cutting. I raked it up and added it to the compost heap. Also harvested basil, Greek oregano, and fennel.

Prepped: To keep the neighborhood dogs out of the compost #2, I fenced it with chicken wire. That’s our prep area for the next two garden beds.

Mulched like a crazy woman.
Staked and tied plants. I use panty hose to tie up plants because they stretch and also are full of static.
Turned out the compost from #1 to #2.
Suckered the tomato plants.
The following two sites offer information and diagrams about suckering your tomatoes. Please refer to both sites, since they offer differing opinions. “Knowing the growth habit of the variety you are growing is critical in determining whether a plant can be pruned and the level of pruning.” Plant Doctor
We bought two 9 ft. canvas umbrellas to provide much-needed shade in the garden.
Enlarged one of the garden beds.

Stored: Ordered an extra 90-day supply of medications from Canada (at extremely reduced savings). Stored two more gallons of drinking water, 6 quarts of lamp oil, and some canned tomatoes. Froze two quarts of fresh green beans.

Cooked Something New: Ate something new…fiddle head ferns!

Local Food Systems: I checked with the county website and found a recycling center that is very close to our home. I’ve already taken our recycling over there once. Also I located a nearby local farm that sells organic meats, eggs and produce.

Learned Something New: This time of year we’re infested with June bugs. “The beginning of summer is usually marked by the arrival of two noisy and clumsy beetles. Both are called June Bugs but it is easier to give them different names. The June Bug that's familiar to most is the big green kind that can be seen crashing into the side of the house during its uncontrolled flights on hot summer days. The other June Bug is really the May Beetle. This is the smaller brown beetle that is usually crashing into the lights at night during its uncontrolled flights on hot summer nights. They may look different and are active at opposite times but they have similar life cycles and one of them is actually so good to eat that it can "heal what ails ya." And if laughter is the best medicine then the other is useful too.”

Monday, June 16, 2008

Week 7 Food Independence Days

To hear the song about Golden Acre, winner of the 1945 U.S. Victory Garden of the Year award, please click:

This week I caught up on the things I neglected in the past six weeks. I spent the entire day with my 14 yo granddaughter; I cooked food for the week, cleaned house, caught up on laundry and email, read a Jodi Picoult novel. In six fast weeks Hub and I have stored enough food, water and emergency supplies to last six or more months, planted a small vegetable garden, cached enough water to irrigate the garden beds, started a composting system, cleared out space for storing supplies, and brought order to our lives in the process. Hub is interested, involved and engaged in the process—this is his first experience at gardening.
Reports from the field: Gas prices in middle Tennessee are at 3.999/10 for regular gas and up to 4.79 for diesel. We’ve saved receipts that reflect the drastic increases in the cost of gas and food. The liquor store owner tells me our favorite Riesling went up $3 per bottle this week. He’s also paying a new $25 delivery charge per order from his supplier due to gas price increases. [That apple jack is soundin’ mitey good.] Our electric usage was up $20 from last month, due to a/c use during this June hot spell. Our auto gas usage was down because we’re consciously making one trip for all errands and to Nashville.

For Food Independence Days course:
Planted: Cilantro, watermelon, transplanted sickly Early Girl tomatoes and sun-burnt ferns.
Harvested: basil, chives, Greek oregano
Prepped: I ordered three books from on making tinctures, salves and other herbal remedies. Kitchen Witchery: Marilyn F. Daniel, Spagyrics: Manfred M. Junius; and The Herbal Home Remedy Book: Joyce A. Wardwell. I plan to buy Everclear to use for tinctures before the prices skyrocket.
Stored: Sometimes it seems dumb to post the things we buy for food storage. Yet my experience has taught me that I can learn a lot from reading posts from other course members. For instance, isn’t it a great idea to store up a little WD40 and 3-in-1 Oil? Prices on those bubbies are bound to go up.
Beef Bouillon x 10 cans
Chicken Bouillon x 10 cans
Tuna packed in water x 25 cans
Canned pears w/o sugar x 10 cans
Canned peaches w/o sugar x 10 cans
Mandarin oranges x 10 cans
Cocoa Mix (commercial size) 5#
Baker’s High Protein Flour
Brownie Mix (commercial size) 6#
Soups for bases (celery, mushroom, consommé)
Buttermilk Pancake Mix (commercial size) 10#
Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup (commercial size) 1-gallon
Baking Soda x 8#
Bleach x 1½ gallons
Apple Juice x 4 gallons
Pinto Beans x 20#
Toothpaste x 4 giant tubes (be sure to buy toothpaste with the ADA symbol!)
As you can see, these supplies include comfort foods. Peggy Layton’s plan calls for storing comfort foods.
Water: Our new water catch did well in the rain we (finally) got this weekend. After one rain shower the 110-gallon container was 3/5 full, even though I lost a lot of rainfall because my setup leaked. I’ve since corrected the leak problem. I hope to gather enough water to carry the gardens through the season.
Recycled, Reused: Washed my plastic bags, Ziplocs, etc. in the small delicates tub I have for my washer. Then I hung the bags on my garage clothesline. [We have a clothesline strung in the garage. The clothes dry quickly in the heat and there’s no danger of bird flyovers.] This method worked better than hand washing or dishwasher washing the plastic bags. We have since strung additional clotheslines in our garage [we don’t store the cars in the garage.] I can hang an entire load of clothes on the garage line, still, not fearing bird flyover.
I also raked up grass cuttings. We purposely let our grass grow tall so we can harvest the grass for composting.
As always we composted everything.
Recycled our bottles and plastic to the recycling center.
Used metal cans for energizing in the garden.
Used milk cartons for short-term dry storage of 20# pinto beans.
Taking a cue from Touch the Earth Farms, I run the vacuum less. This cutback presents a difficult situation since we’re allergic to the Himalayan cats we adopted. We have carpets, and the cats are long-haired…that is an issue we aren’t sure how we’ll deal with in the future.

Learned something new
: We have carpenter bees in our deck rails, so I researched them. Keep in mind as you read that our deck is made of pre-treated lumber and we sealed it twice last year. “Carpenter bees tunnel into wood to lay their eggs. Bare, unpainted or weathered softwoods are preferred—especially redwood, cedar, cypress and pine. Painted or pressure-treated wood is much less susceptible to attack. Common nesting sites include eaves, window trim, siding, wooden shakes, decks and outdoor furniture. Carpenter bees overwinter as adults in wood within abandoned nest tunnels. They emerge in the spring, usually in April or May. After mating, the fertilized females excavate tunnels in wood and lay their eggs within a series of small cells. The cells are provisioned with a ball of pollen on which the larvae feed, emerging as adults in late summer. The entrance hole and tunnels are perfectly round and about the diameter of your finger. Coarse sawdust the color of fresh cut wood will often be present beneath the entry hole, and burrowing sounds may be heard from within the wood. Female carpenter bees may excavate new tunnels for egglaying, or enlarge and reuse old ones. The extent of damage to wood which has been utilized for nesting year after year may be considerable. Mechanical Measures. A non-insecticidal management approach is to deny carpenter bees access to their galleries by sealing each entrance hole. Thoroughly plug the hole with caulking compound, wood putty, or a wooden dowel affixed with wood glue. If possible, also fill the entire gallery system with a sealant. Carpenter bee galleries are a critical resource, since the bees spend much of their time inside a gallery, and they require its protective conditions to survive the winter. Bees that are trapped inside a caulked gallery typically will not chew out due to behavioral constraints. This barrier approach has promise for reducing future carpenter bee infestations.”
Local Systems: I found a local store that orders and sells bulk foods. I meet with them on Monday. We bought from them last year—their hens laid the greatest eggs—but the night before the county fair a critter got to the chickens and killed them all. Since then the store hasn’t had fresh eggs, so we shopped at Farmer’s Market instead. Also, taking Sharon’s sage advice [to mulch] to heart, I found a local supplier who delivers mulch for a reasonable price. I’m going to lay down heavy mulch on next year’s proposed garden plots. I’m also going to try to borrow my friend’s chickens for the day to grub the garden. If we had the back ½ fenced I’d get a few chickens just so they could prep for next year.
Birds at the feeders: Cardinal, Goldfinch, House finch, one bluebird, hummers, doves, grackles, chickadees.

Food Prices: (This is a good time to have a garden!)
In 2007 and early 2008, prices of wheat, corn, rice and soybeans, among other crops, have escalated along with energy and other natural resources. Since the start of 2007, wheat futures are up 69%, soybeans have risen 92%, corn is up 49% and rice is up 131% on the Chicago Board of Trade. Freedom Foxfire Notebooks: I have two [so far] three-ring notebooks I started for the Food Independence Days course that includes classes on how to make cheese, candles, grow mushrooms, make soaps, yogurt and salves. I’m now on Book Two of my series. [Verde, thank you for that most excellent cheese course site!] The great thing about internet is the illustrations, so I have compiled an illustrated guide to a simpler life.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Week 6 Golden Acre Update

This past week has been non-stop work. With temps in the 90s and a blazing sun, I feel I’ve gotten a thorough workout. Most days I spent in the garden and did very little housework or cooking. Hub has been a champ. Although he’s on the IR, he patiently stood at the sink and washed dishes every day. All hail the Hub!

Total Success!I have one itty bitty green tomato. It may never make it to maturity, but I’m happy to see its little face. This is one of four Early Girl tomatoes I rescued from the burnt up and dead plant section.

This week I built a “Square Foot Garden.” Mine is 8'x3'. I covered the ground with thick cardboard, then weed cloth. I layered the bed with compost, vermiculite, peat moss, compost. I put the soaker hose between layers. I’ve used white wooden fence for grids and support. The peas are covered with shade cloth because our temps are still in the 90s. I’ve had to cover several plants, including the pumpkins. We lost a couple of flowers on the pumpkin vines due to the heat.

The clover patch. We don’t have a lot of bees in our area, so this year we let a 5’x5’ section of back yard, formerly a meadow, grow wild and free. We wanted to use the naturally occurring clover to attract honey bees. I read that bee larvae feed on clover. Now that the clover is full of blooms we have bees every day. We’ll let a few more trimmed clover patches grow wild. That will cut down on mowing and provide habitat for insects and food for bees and butterflies. We haven’t mapped out the lower ½ acre yet, and that’s going to have to go high on the list so we end up with a plan.

Harvested: We finally cut the chives. Next time I’ll cut them sooner; some of the stems are tough. I read in Wikipedia that: “Albeit repulsive to insects in general, due to its sulfur compounds, its flowers are attractive to bees, and it is sometimes kept to increase desired insect life.”

25 lbs white sugar
2 bottles Excedrin Migraine
6 bottles of propane for the camping equipment
4 gallons of water (I use baking soda and water to clean the bottles and lids, and then pour in filtered water and a few drops of bleach according to instructions. These containers are stored indoors in an air conditioned dark closet for maximum mileage.)
Froze a quart of cherries and two quarts of raspberries.

Water Storage: In an article on the Walton Feed site, Vicki Tate writes, “Fourteen gallons of water per person is the suggested amount to store for a two-week emergency situation.” That’s a gallon a day minimum per person for simple existence. Hub and I have stored, so far, only 11 gallons of water. That’s enough for five days each. We’ve started purifying and storing two or three two-liter bottles of water per week. Our new water catch tank is a 110 gallon capacity recycled container which we had professionally cleaned. The tank is safe for human drinking water; still, our current plan is to use it to water the gardens. If we get sufficient rainfall to fill the tank, this system could also store bath and laundry water for us to use in case of emergency.
· Cleaned out my bedroom closet and recycled shoes to the mission, made room to store the winter coats. My sister, Kathy, says hang lavender sachets in the closets to repel moths. I’ve found that small #2 cones coffee filters work well as sachets, and that helps me use up the coffee filters I bought in the wrong size.
· Recycled all cardboard by using it to build more square foot beds in the side yard. Recycled juice and soda bottles for water storage.
· Composted almost everything (no kitty litter)
· Took reusable bags with us everywhere
· Saved cans for candle making
· One of my sons moved Hub’s book samples to my bedroom closet so we could have another closet for storage.

Prepped: I used my car to dry the chives. I put parchment paper on a baking tin, put the chives on the paper, and covered them with a cotton tea towel. Then I put the whole contraption in Hub’s car. The chives dried fast, and got to ride around with my husband who had no idea why I had put onions in his car.

Cooked something new: I found a brand new Terra Cotta Baker on ebay for less than half price. I baked two loaves of no-knead bread. The crust is crackly, the crumb is loose and the taste is delicious. Very yeasty smell and flavor. I didn’t get the lift I wanted because I’m using cheap flour, not bread flour. Cheap flour doesn’t have much protein so it doesn’t give good rise. I also could’ve given the yeast another few hours to ferment but the dough looked great. I don’t use the bread machine to make this bread so we’ve cut out another small appliance.
Recipe #1 was 2c white flour, 1 c organic whole wheat flour, 1 ½ c water, ¼ tsp ACTIVE DRY YEAST (I didn’t have any instant yeast), 2 ½ tsp salt.
Recipe #2 was a no-go.
Recipe #3 was 3c white flour, I cup beer, 1/2c water, 1 ¼ Tbl white vinegar, 2 ½ Tbl sugar,1 ¾ tsp salt.

Contribute to local systems: We bought Hatcher Dairy milk.


Sprouts Jar Method
I ordered two sprouting lids from Wheatgrass
Sprout Jar Lids "Jar Method" Sprouting Instructions
· For a quart-sized jar, start with 1 1/2 tablespoons seeds inside the jar, screw on the fine mesh sprouting lid and partially fill the jar through the sprout jar lids with warm water, not hot. Swirl it around to clean the seeds, then pour out. Refill with warm water to cover at about 3 times their depth & let soak overnight, away from light. This gets the germination process started.

· Pour off the soak water. Find a location that is not exposed to direct sunlight. Place drained jar propped at an angle to allow any extra water to drain out. Turn the jar to spread out the seed. Cover the jar with the sprout jar lids and a dishtowel and leave for 3 to 4 hours.

· Rinse sprouts with cool, fresh water 2 or 3 times each day until they are ready to eat or refrigerate. When they begin to throw off the seed hulls, let the jar with sprout jar lids installed overflow with the water and the hulls will float out the top through the sprouting lid screen. Turn the jar to spread out the seed each time you rinse.

· Pour the sprouts into a pan or sink of clean water. Skim off any remaining hulls that float to the surface. Other hulls will fall to the bottom of the container. Pull out the sprouts, gently shake off excess moisture and drain in a colander.

· Clean the jar and sprout jar lid. Place sprouts for greening back into the jar. Place in indirect sunlight. Near a kitchen window is fine. After the sprouts have greened with chlorophyll and carotene for a day or so, rinse, drain with sprouting lids & eat or refrigerate.
· Sprouts will stay fresh & hearty for a week or more when refrigerated, if you rinse them every day or two. You can even give the green sprouts an extra hour of sunlight after rinsing to keep them at their nutritional peak. Caution: Since sprouts are frost sensitive, don't place sprouts near the freezer compartment.

Bean Recipes
Hoppin John
1 cup small dried beans such as cowpeas or black-eyes5 to 6 cups water1 dried hot pepper (optional) 1 smoked ham hock1 medium onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup) 1 cup long-grain white rice
Wash and sort the peas. Place them in a saucepan, add the water, and discard any peas that float. Gently boil the peas with the pepper, ham hock, and onion, uncovered, until tender but not mushy — about 1 1/2 hours — or until 2 cups of liquid remain. Add the rice to the pot, cover, and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes, never lifting the lid.
Remove from the heat and allow to steam, still covered, for another 10 minutes. Remove the cover, fluff with a fork, and serve immediately.
In Cuba, this versatile side dish is known as congrí. Louisiana has its own version of red beans and rice, of course, but in that one you won’t find the oregano, cumin or cilantro.
Servings: Makes 6 servings.

Red Beans and Rice
Beans1 cup dried small red kidney beans2 quarts water1/2 small onion1 2-inch square of red bell pepper2 garlic cloves, peeled2 fresh cilantro sprigs1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Rice1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice, rinsed in cold water 5 times
3 tablespoons olive oil2 cups chopped onions1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper2 garlic cloves, minced1/2 teaspoon ground cumin1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
For beans: Soak kidney beans in large bowl with enough cold water to cover by 3 inches, at least 4 hours or overnight. Drain in a colander and keep wet until the bean hulls crack open (or even sprout). Place 2 quarts water, beans and next 5 ingredients in large pot. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until beans are tender, stirring occasionally, about 50 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Drain, reserving beans and bean cooking liquid separately. Discard vegetables and cilantro.
For rice: Bring 3 cups bean cooking liquid to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Add rice; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Uncover; fluff with fork.
Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, cumin and oregano and sauté until onions are beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in beans and rice; cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Cuban Black Beans and Rice
This is also a great vegetarian entrée.
Servings: Serves 4 to 6.
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained1/2 large red onion, very thinly sliced2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar*
1 tablespoon olive oil1 white onion, finely chopped4 large garlic cloves, chopped1 cup Arborio rice*3 1/2 cups canned unsalted chicken broth1/2 cup dry white wine2 large bay leaves1/2 teaspoon turmeric1/8 teaspoon (or more) cayenne pepper
* Balsamic vinegar and Arborio rice are available at specialty foods stores, Italian markets and some supermarkets.
Combine first 3 ingredients in medium bowl. Let stand 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, heat oil in heavy medium saucepan over high heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add rice and stir 1 minute to coat with onion mixture. Add broth, wine, bay leaves, turmeric and cayenne pepper and blend well. Bring mixture to boil; stir well. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until rice is tender and mixture is creamy, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne.
Spoon rice onto platter. Arrange beans and onion garnish alongside.
Suitable accompaniments to this risotto-like dish are crusty bread, an avocado and orange salad with a cilantro vinaigrette and, to top it off, coconut pie.
Servings: Serves 2.

West Indian Rice and Beans
2 1/2 cups (about) canned vegetable broth1 15- to 16-ounce can kidney beans, drained1 cup canned unsweetened regular or light coconut milk1 tablespoon minced seeded jalapeño chili1 teaspoon dried thyme1/4 teaspoon ground allspice3/4 cup medium-grain white rice
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
Combine 2 cups vegetable broth, kidney beans, coconut milk, minced jalapeño chili, thyme and allspice in heavy large saucepan. Bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat. Stir in rice. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer mixture uncovered until most of liquid is absorbed and rice is almost tender, stirring often, about 20 minutes.
Mix 3/4 cup green onions into rice. Continue to simmer until rice is very tender and mixture is creamy, adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls if mixture seems dry, about 5 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving bowl. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup green onions and serve.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Food Challenge Week 5

Our Golden Acre Update

· Red clay gardening is the pits. While the clay is full of nutrients (and wiggler worms), getting the soil to release the goods is the trick. In our courtyard we dug up the weeds along the path we wanted to create, then we put down a thick layer of coarse sand. After we spent some time walking on it and the rain beat on it, the sand and clay hardened into a nice little woodland path. We’ve tilled and amended the courtyard soil along the ugly fence and planted peas, mammoth sunflowers, morning glories and two hills of pumpkins and zucchini. Most of the peas are weak looking, yet the morning glories seem to thrive in the soil. I planted a bush tomato in a giant tub, along with some purple basil.

“Attraction” Dwarf Butterfly Bush

· The chive blooms are fading and I was going to harvest the chives, but I saw tiny bees on the flowers and thought I might just let them go another few days. Some of the women in my group dry herbs and foods in their cars. I live in the humid south in the US. I’ll give it a shot.

· Finished (YEA!) cleaning out, repackaging, bay-leafing, and labeling the pantry. Setting up a place to keep your stored foods is the first step. I composted the old pantry stuff. Then I made a handwritten inventory, and I have to say I was shocked at how little we have. I have two large coop orders placed, but I don’t expect them for another month or more, due to backlog. Still, the pantry space is ready and labeled and waiting…and empty. Although you can’t see the top of the pantry, you get the idea. It’s a big dark closet with the door cut shorter for ventilation. On the right and left sides are deep storage spaces. I’ve mapped the layout, which we’ll post to the inside door. There’s plenty of room for storing food.

· Water storage: We bought a 300-gallon agricultural water tank in a cage. We’ve been waiting all weekend for the guy to deliver it to us. Can’t complain when he’s doing the driving, but it’s been raining all weekend, and I keep thinking of the water I’d be catching if I had the storage in place. Since we live in a drought zone there’s no way can I have a garden without big water catch in place.

· Composting: I added another three buckets of compost to the teeny tiny garden. Since we have red clay soil and our compost is aged well, we can add as much compost as we want without fear of burning the plants. Also we’re planning for a fall garden, and because of the red clay a lot of prep has to happen. We’re prepping two areas for blackberries using the lasagna method in raised beds.

Pumpkin and Cantaloupe Hills

· I put everything that passed inspection into the pantry in jars with basil leaves. I finished drying the bushel of mint for winter tea, and I explained how to dry herbs to one of my sons. I stored a 1-1/2 gallons of bleach. Meanwhile I’m been freezing the rice in Pepsi 2-liter bottles. Rice doesn’t keep well, according to Peggy Layton.

· It takes a lot more food and water than I expected to feed two people for three months. With my coop order I’ll still be short 3 gallons of fruits and 3 gallons of vegetables. And that’s only for a three-month supply!
· There are so many great videos on YouTube. Here are a few videos on homesteading that I got hints from.

Cooked Something New: Mixed up a batch of the No Knead bread (recipe below).

Local Systems:
· We got to Farmer’s Market in our small town but the farmers had gone home. They’d sold out. So we plan to drive up to Mamushi Farms to pick some produce. They even have worms…for the soil, not canning.